“Jesus wept.” -John 11:35
I’m speaking from my heart tonight. I receive messages from people who lost loved ones and they struggle with grief. I never could identify with them before. I felt sympathy for them, but I didn’t have empathy.
You see, there’s a huge difference between the two. Empathy is when you actually share those same feelings. You understand their pain. You can identify what they are feeling. Because you feel the exact hurt in your heart.
Well, I have news for everyone! “Jesus wept!” He cried because He shared the same feelings as that of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary, and Martha. So, I can’t help but to ask myself, “Jesus knew He was about to resurrect Lazarus from the dead. In just a few minutes, that dead man was going to come forth from his tomb. So why cry? I believe because Jesus was showing His humanity here. He saw the hurt of Martha who was there. He was connecting with her. Lazarus was Jesus’ great friend. Imagine with me. Finally, Jesus arrives in Bethany, and there He sees Martha. They lock eyes. Martha was still mourning. As that ever happened to you, locking eyes with someone? Many times with me. I walk in a funeral home and those in the receiving line and I lock eyes. I go over to the casket to pay my respect to the person who, “crossed over” I’m bracing myself because I already saw the eyes of my friends, and they started crying the moment our eyes met. It was the same case here.
A few weeks ago, I received a call from one of my best friends, Pamela. As soon as heard her voice, we both began to cry. Why? Because, Pam lost her amazing dad a few years ago. She knew exactly how I felt. Her dad was a great man. A minister who traveled the world preaching the Word of God. Africa, India, and the rest of the world. She asked. “Teresa, let me ask you something. Do you want to punch people in the face when they say don’t cry your dad is now in Heaven. He’s no more in pain and you will see him again?” I answered back, in between the crying, “Pam, Yes! It makes me feel like I’m ungodly and even worse I am somehow sinning because I can’t stop my tears from flowing. She understood. She said, “As if we don’t know this already.”
That question was liberating for me. I didn’t have to keep a stiff upper lip, and pretend. I didn’t have to give that political response. I could just tell her exactly how I felt without being judged. So, how did I feel? I’m going to share it with you. God has been dealing with me about this. Too, many are hurting. God wants to free people from the bondage of sorrow and pain. He wants to liberate and break the isolation people feel about grieving. Let me share how my life as changed drastically.
I woke up every single morning singing a little song to my parents. Sometimes, my brothers would be visiting and sitting at the kitchen table. They laughed at my terrible singing voice. But, I didn’t care. I sang that song to my parents for the last 9 years of returning home. My dad sat there every morning and watched me eat my two pieces of cheese, while gulping down 16 ounces of water. Then taken a little cookie and cutting it in half. My dad and I shared that cookie. I made us coffee to go with that half a cookie. This morning, I ate a donut. If my dad was here he would have eaten 3/4 of that, but he wasn’t. I ate the whole thing. Then came the late afternoon snack -an orange. I peeled the orange, and he ate a few pieces; I ate the rest. It’s fig season now. We had a little tree. My dad would give me the first. Now, I just bought them. I sat there and ate them with my dad. And then there were the chestnuts. I can never peel those things. My dad, up to last year, helped me.
Every night, I checked on my dad before going to bed. Many times I stood before him, while he slept, to make sure he was breathing. That Parkinson’s is a terrible disease. Sometimes, he woke up. My face was literally on his cause my dad breathed so faintly. I had to make sure I could feel his breath. I sometimes scared him. LOL…he muttered something. I laughed and said, “Papa. I have to make sure you’re breathing! Ok? So, please, don’t annoy me.” LOL, not a sign of disrespect.
My dad watched me leave in the morning. “Don’t speed. Why can’t you wake up 30 minutes earlier? God be with you.” My dad was right there in the window when I came back. He made sure the door was opened before I even arrived. He watched me walking up the driveway. “There’s ice on the steps. Be careful. Why can’t you wear low heel shoes? Can’t you see the weather is bad? Mamma Mia, you never listen.” I don’t understand why you can’t wear boots or sneakers.”
I heard him say to my mom every single day, referring to me, “Leave her alone. Don’t force her to eat the bread and the pasta. Let her eat what she wants.” My Mom would say “She drives me insane with this food thing. I can’t cook anything.” My dad always stood up for me. “This what her head tells her. It’s ok. Let her cook what she wants. You relax.” LOL.
Mostly, I miss my dad because he knew how to talk to me. My dad could calm me down. He calmly asked me questions and helped me figure things out. He never accused me or yelled at me. If I had a bad day, “Papa, I’m really mad today, very mad. Let me tell you what happened. You think this right?” My dad would not just say, yes or no. He gave the answer with his thoughts. My dad was never ever wrong. He really did everything right and perfect. You can ask anyone. A few weeks ago, I finally went to the bank. The Vice President came out, “Ms. Teresa, I’m so, so sorry. Our hearts are hurting with you. Your dad was a great man. This is the very truth Ms. Teresa. I really want to hug you but because of COVID-19 we not allowed to touch anyone.” I started crying right there on the spot. He cried, too. I was glad for that bandana I was wearing on my face. Customers, and rest of the employees stopped talking. This was my dad. He was awesome.
Now do you understand my sorrow? I can’t eat an orange, a cookie, a donut, or anything without thinking of him. I don’t wake up in the morning singing my song. I don’t have my dad saying goodbye every single morning or having that door opened when I return at night. I don’t say goodnight, or check on him anymore. I don’t get to discuss anything with him when I’m mad. He’s not there to stop my mom from making that bread or pasta or whatever. My dad just left, suddenly, and every single thing I used to do, I’m no longer doing it. My life changed.
I don’t know who this is touching tonight or today. But, I want you to know I feel you. I hear you; I understand you. I’m here to let you know that it’s ok to be sad. It’s normal. Just don’t stay there. Things have changed it’s true, but now we have to figure out new ways of doing things. It’s ok. No pressure. When you feel like crying, go ahead. Don’t let it go on and on, but shed those tears. Jesus did, too. Just don’t make it be a norm. I’m very honest with you. Friday nights are very rough for me. It’s the last night I saw my dad alive. Friday nights came and I felt sad. It took me a few weeks to make the connection. Now, I plan fun things to do on Friday nights. It’s a way to help myself recover.
My message is clear. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Rather, ask God to help you during the grieving process. Tonight, I went down to my office, and on my desk, someone left me these pictures. For the first time, I was able to keep my tears back. I reminded myself it’s ok to feel sad my dad isn’t here anymore, but I know I’ll see him again. Somehow tonight was a breakthrough for me. I remembered I was blessed to have an amazing and godly dad, who loved me, and up to his last breath was concerned about me, sending me to bed so I wouldn’t see him die. Who knew 45 minutes later he would leave? He made sure that my mom, the kids, and I went to sleep so we wouldn’t have to remember him taking his last breath.
For those who are grieving. My heart is with you. I empathize with you. I understand, and I hear you. Let me gently tell you that it’s going to be ok. It takes a little bit of time to deal with the loss. Today, marks three months. It’s still a bit too fresh. But I tell myself I’m ok, and I’m going to be fine. His memory is engraved in my mind, and my heart will always love him. Tell yourself, “The days of sorrow are coming to an end,” (Isaiah 60:20).
I’m sharing some pictures with you. Just because they were left on my desk. Rejoice in your sorrow. How? Because you were blessed with the gift of love. Not many have that. That love is the greatest legacy anyone could leave behind. Love keeps on giving. Love is the greatest of gifts. Our job is to find more people to love. Let’s open our hearts and love. Love never dies. In doing so we find sorrow is replaced by the joy that love brings. Just don’t feel like it’s shameful to mourn because even “Jesus wept.”
Rev. Dr. Teresa Allissa Citro
Founder and President of Thread of Hope, Inc.