Surreal. Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.
Surreal. Bizarre, is this really happening?
This word sums up the emotion of this week for me. But it wasn’t until a dear friend used this word that I fully realized what I was feeling inside, and why I felt as though I was walking in a gray cloud.
“It’s all surreal,” Brad said, as he gestured to the room we were all sitting in. The room was quite beautiful; the flowers had been arranged nicely. There were pockets of people all over, getting caught up on the latest news in each other’s lives, asking how life had treated them since last they saw each other. We have all changed in the past 10 years. Single. Engaged. Married. Kids. Jobs. Cars. Mortgages. Older.
But as pleasant as the conversations were, as much as we all liked seeing each other again, no one could escape the reason why we had all come together after all this time. All conversations turned back to the common factor in all our lives in that moment. Mark Norris.
He was there, but he wasn’t there.
His physical body was there in the room with us. But Mark wasn’t. He wasn’t cracking jokes, wasn’t flashing his million-dollar smile, wasn’t telling someone to “hold his foot” for comfort. His body was in the coffin, over which laid a beautiful spread of flowers. In front of his casket stood his parents and his brother, hugging, greeting, and crying with those who came to pay respect to Mark.
Everything about Mark’s death, funeral, absence.....it’s all surreal. Like a bad dream that won’t end. Not a scary one, but one that really....well, sucks. Don’t get me wrong, the funeral was beautiful and sweet. There was the video montage of Mark’s life, put together by the guys in the film production company Mark started. Mark’s dad, Dennis, shared some sweet thoughts about his son. And the preacher gave a beautiful eulogy. And everyone sitting and standing in that chapel was touched by Mark. Yes, standing – it was standing room only. But I didn’t like being there. I didn’t like hearing the sniffles, I didn’t like asking for tissues, I didn’t like seeing someone reach over to comfort another. I didn’t like knowing that people were really hurting.
I’ve come to the conclusion through this experience that I’m not ready to grow up. Sure, there are the perks of being an adult: you can legally get married, buy alcohol, you don’t have to order from the kids menu. But there are painful things you have to go through. You have to watch as people you love depart this earth.
As I watched Mark’s casket being carried to his grave, I was struck by this thought: I don’t know what is sadder for me. Watching my friend being carried to his grave, or watching my friends carry my friend to his grave. There were 6 main pall bearers, and 6 honorary ones. Most of them I grew up with, and just like Mark, I considered them as my brothers. And now I watched as these boys, these men, whom I have known since childhood, who are some of the toughest guys I know, weeping at the loss of their brother.
Another thing I realized in all this is the loss I feel towards my childhood friends. I know we all grew up and started living our own lives. But there was a friendship that began all those years ago, and the test of those relationships came out today, when all of us who could showed up for the funeral. Faces I hadn’t seen in a decade suddenly were in the same room as me, and we were talking and catching up....and while it was under terrible circumstances, I was glad for it.
Grief....it’s a beautiful, terrible thing. Right now, we are all grieving Mark’s loss, some more than others. Is there hope? Is there relief from the sadness? Yes, absolutely. But for now, there is grief.
On the drive home from Memphis to Selmer, a song popped into my mind. It’s a Casting Crowns song, “Praise You in This Storm”. More specifically, the chorus rang through my ears over and over.
“And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm”
The line in bold really struck me. “Every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand.” But wait! Doesn’t that mean that He holds ALL the tears cried? So, He – God, the creator of the Universe, the Lord of the Heavens, and our loving Father – He holds my tears, and Mr. Dennis’s tears, and Ms. Janice’s tears, and Michael’s tears, and Brad’s tears, and Wil’s tears, and Josh’s tears, and Aaron’s tears, and Andrew’s tears, and....if I knew everyone in that room, I would list them.
As I thought more about that song, I realized how hard it was for me to really praise God in the middle of this storm, or in any storm for that matter. I can’t wrap my brain around the concept of “praising through a storm”. Praise is a happy thing, right? I want everyone to be happy. I don’t like things being messy. I like life to be cheery and rosy and beautiful and happy all the time. I don’t like the feelings of sadness, pain, or suffering. And I especially don’t like seeing people I care about having feelings of sadness, pain, or suffering.
What is God’s plan in all of this? I don’t know, I have no stinking clue. And, frankly, I don’t really care. I don’t care about a timeline for this to “be used for his purposes”. I mean, I know He will, I have every faith that He will. But I don’t care about it right now. What I DO know and care very much about is that I have a God, and that He’s REAL and that His promises are TRUE. I believe with all my heart that His Son, Jesus, the Great Comforter, can heal any hurt, any time, any day of the week. He is the Prince of Peace, peace that surpasses all understanding. Peace in the midst of Grief. Realness in the midst of Surreal-ness.
Anyway, these are my semi-raw thoughts. But it’s still all....surreal.