Posted on July 01, 2021

Stop! Don’t touch that! You’ll get hurt!” 

     But it was too late. Color and curiosity already captured me as Mom and I walked the shores of Lake Michigan. As a girl, I loved collecting anything, rocks, butterflies, bugs, shells. And now, glass pieces: sharp sparkly shards  scattered along the shore. Blues, greens peppered with browns. 

   “It hurts!” I cried. Even before Mom’s warning, I had sliced my hand. Mom wrapped it in a towel and wiped my eyes.  “You’ll be fine. It will heal.” She held me close.

    In the weeks that followed Mom did allow my sister Teri and me to return to the beach and watch the progress of our glass. Our Beach Glass. We would stand there mesmerized as the glass tumbled in a swirl of sand and foam with each wave, forward, backward till they rested on the shore, etched and smooth. The same, but different. I held the glass in my palm, a warm peaceful feeling instead of shock and pain. I slipped it in my pocket.

    As I take on the role of Continuous Care Coordinator, this memory returns again and again as it has over years of ministry with people in so many painful situations, offering the hope that the sharp edges of grief can be washed and etched with love, forgiveness, time, and gratitude.

    “When will I get over this?” a widow asks. “Will I ever feel normal again?” a mother cries. “They just don’t understand! My brother tells me I need to move on, get over it, but I can’t,” another shares. 

    “Do you want the truth?” A surprised look always greets me, a mixture of hope and futility with a slight tenuous nod. “The truth is you love deeply. This person means more than anyone can know. You don’t leave relationships behind. You grieve because you love and you miss not only the person, but the life you created together.

    I watch a tear roll down a cheek. “The truth is that the pain will soften and you will feel happy again, even though you’ll  feel sad sometimes. You will always miss him. You will always remember the good and the bad. But the grief morphs, if you embrace it. It’s up to you to intentionally decide to choose hope and work through your grief, creating a positive future.”

    “Everyone tells me to move on. What if I can’t move on?” There’s a desperate nagging fear in her voice. “I can’t get anything done. I can’t even give away his shirts!”

   “Let me offer you grace. Just accept where you are right now. You’re still in shock. Your mind doesn’t work the same. It may take months, but you will heal.” I stop. Let that sink in. “I want you to listen carefully as we think about what it means to move on.” She nods and I lean in, softening my voice.  “What if you stop telling yourself to move on? That’s not a helpful phrase. Moving on feels like you are leaving all those good memories, and that treasured relationship behind. 

“What if instead of ‘moving on,’ you decide to ‘carry on,’ to ‘move forward’ taking all you have loved and learned with you as you journey on your next steps of life?” 

    She gives me a quizzical look. “You mean I don’t have to move on?”

    “Consider making your mantra: I AM CARRYING ON. I AM MOVING FORWARD. When people tell you to move on, or you tell yourself to move on, it’s because the grieving process is so uncomfortable. People put expectations on you because they just want the whole thing to be over. They want “closure.” But it’s not that way.  The pathway of grief takes time. A lot of time. And it weaves in and out.  Just when you think you’re “normal,” the tiniest thing will happen and emotions well up. And that’s ok. Be generous with yourself.”

    This is when I tell the Beach Glass Story. “That piece of glass is like the grief of your loved one. At first it’s sharp, but with time, the edges soften. You carry it with you. You move forward honoring the memory of your loved one. You walk with hope treasuring all the lessons, all the love. You take him/her into new relationships, onto new paths. You feel the beach glass in your pocket. As you rub it between your fingers? You decide in the midst of grief to choose hope.”

    Hello, I’m VickiJolene Reece, the new Continuous Care Coordinator at Locke Funeral Services. I come from a large family, the eldest of five girls. I am married and have two young adult daughters. I am also a long term caregiver and know the grief and worry caregivers feel. As a United Methodist pastor, I’ve helped hundreds of people deal with just about every form of loss, at  homes, farms, workplace, ICU, ER, nursing homes, and even accident sites.

    My circle of  family and friends includes Christians, atheists, races, and different beliefs. I respect and love them, and it’s mutual. So it will be with anyone who needs support. 

    I want you to know that I am here for you if you  need a caring person to help you on your journey, be it a phone call, a cup of coffee, or our Thursday Grief Group. Let’s journey together as you deal with the sharp edges of grief.  (319) 505-3048

    And just to remind you that there is healing and hope in the midst of grief, I have a piece of beach glass for you. (VickiJolene Reece) 



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