by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Within the months following my husband’s death in 2011, I told my pastor that one extremely comforting thing was that the grief was just pure grief. I didn’t have regrets or remorse, I didn’t feel there were things I wished I’d done, or had left undone, or done better. I knew that, before God, I had done the very best I knew to do, taken care of him up to and beyond my ability, by the grace of God. I had made it through the Valley, and now had only recovery to face. It seemed possible.
When, only nine months later, my young, quite healthy mother suddenly died, I felt machine-gunned off at the knees. It took me months to even consider that it might be true, let alone begin to deal with it. Only, now it was complicated grief. Guilt and remorse dogged me. Every single thing I’d ever done or left undone or done “wrong” since I was five years old roared up into my face and stoned me and beat me and broke my heart.
Last Thursday, in counseling, I realized I was now the one doing the shaming and blaming that used to come to me from the outside. I was judge, executioner, and victim all at once. Life imprisonment, torture—no punishment seemed great enough for my sin.
Then I went to the Maundy Thursday service. As I listened to the Bible readings of Jesus’ last supper, betrayal, and trial, it dawned on me—I’d lost sight of the cross! Jesus had already served a life sentence on a penal colony called earth. He’d already accepted the torture and the death penalty. My sins, which were many, were nailed to the cross forever.
The next day, I took part in the community Good Friday service. I was asked to pray the dramatic Prayer of Lament that ended in tears at the foot of our small cross, nothing like the horrible instrument of torture that had killed my God.
Sabbath, I did my own little memorial service for my mother, in the woods she loved so much. I hung a birdhouse she’d made, sang one of the 200+ songs she wrote, and scattered some of her ashes. I cried. I told God I knew my sins were all burned up like those ashes, and that I would let the burden go and give God my sins and my remorse and guilt with them.
Sunday morning, the clouds were heavy. You couldn’t see if the sun had risen or not. But the Son did—with healing in His wings. And I rose with Him in newness of life. My grief is pure grief now. It still hurts. But, because He lives, Les and Mama will, too. And every day is one day closer.
I still have work to do—work God created me for—and God can make me strong to do it. I can be touched by sorrow and loss, I can weep, I can be broken. But I can’t be chained down by the demons of guilt and shame. They have no power here. The tears can run clear.
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!!