Sometimes when you mentally prepare to face something hard, the reality of that experience is not as difficult as you thought it would be. That's how grief has been for me. The days in the aftermath of Clay's death were terrible, but certain days weren't as hard as I thought.
I thought that receiving friends a few days after his passing and Clay's Celebration of Life would be very, very difficult. Logically, I was mentally preparing for those days to be horrible. But I believe that somehow God covered me in grace. He filled me with an unexplainable joy.
And then another day wasn't what I thought it would be. I didn't prepare myself for the day of Clay's cremation because I thought it would be an in-and-out thing - something not so emotional. But I got to see Clay one last time and I watched them put him into the furnace. It was one of the very worst days.
Two months later, I was on a plane to Bora Bora with my mom. I planned to spread Clay's ashes, find rest, and get some closure. Clay and I thought of Bora Bora as "our place." We'd dreamed about going there while we were dating (7 years) and never thought it would be possible. We were excited beyond belief when Clay's parents made the trip happen for us for our honeymoon. While there, we fell in love with the island and the people there. Clay and I had a beautiful wedding in Greenville, SC, but we had our own private wedding ceremony in Bora Bora together.
In the years that followed, Clay dreamed about selling everything we owned and moving to Bora Bora. He joked that we'd set up a popsicle stand together and have kids and raise them there. The people there believe in family and loving each other. There's not a lot of distraction, and material things aren't so important. We appreciated their way of life. And so after I lost Clay, I knew with everything in me that Bora Bora was the place I needed to spread his ashes.
I thought that the anniversary of our wedding ceremony in Greenville would be really difficult, and I mentally prepared myself to face a hard day. But it turned out that the anniversary of our wedding ceremony in Bora Bora would be much, much more difficult.
The morning of our 4th Bora Bora anniversary, my mom and I had breakfast. Afterward, I went up to the top of the mountain on the island and sat on the edge of a wooden railing. As I looked around in awe of the view, I thought, I can't believe I'm back here. I knew Clay and I would come back, but I didn't know it would be like this.
All around the island there was rain coming down, but not where I sat. The rain wasn't falling on me. For a few hours I sat there crying my eyes out. I listened to worship music, sang along as best I could, and spent time talking with God. I didn't feel anger toward him, I just wanted his comfort.
I listened to Lauren Daigle sing, "O let this be where I die / My Lord with thee crucified / Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall / Once and for all."
I thought about how this was the final step. For Clay's earthly body, this was it. This day would bring some closure.
Later that day, we did a ceremony honoring Clay's life. Everything seemed to come full circle, as the same guy that officiated our Bora Bora wedding played Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the ukulele. I spread Clay's ashes as my mom dropped flower petals into the water.
Bora Bora was and is a place that Clay and I both loved. I got the chance to lay him to rest in our paradise this side of heaven.
It was a full circle thing. Clay and I started dating around Valentine's Day and he went home after Valentine's Day. Bora Bora was our first trip married and technically, in my mind, it was like our last trip married.
I have a hard time being vulnerable and letting other people see my pain. And this video represents a very emotional, painful, and healing day. It also shows my mom's love for me - how she really was there for me.
It's hard for me to show people what hurts. I want to be strong. I don't want to be weak. But I'm trying to be transparent. There are so many crazy God stories involved in the making of this video, but I'll save them for another time.
I hope that if you're going through a painful time in your life that you would choose joy. Pain is a gift, and God can use that pain for good. This has been so true in my life for the last 8 months. And I believe that he creates beauty from ashes.
"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." - Isaiah 61:3