The Grace of Community in Walking through Grief

January 15, 2024

{Pictured is Lilah with her husband Ron}

The past few years have been challenging ones, but God has met me powerfully through the grace of community. Here is my story. 

My path led me to Covenant Fellowship in 1986 where I have attended since then, with a brief detour to the Chester, PA church plant. At the 2005 Christmas concert, I met a man named Ron who was helping direct the drama portion of the concert. After three conversations over nine months and a second date, Ron and I knew God had ambushed us (Ron’s words). Our marriage was a huge blessing to both of us, and we found ourselves cramming in as much of life as we could, knowing that I would most likely outlive Ron since he was 28-plus years older than me.

Fast forward to 2020 when Ron forgot my name, forgot words to mealtime and bedtime prayers, and soon forgot people at church with whom we served, traveled, or spent much time over the years. When the Covid-related shutdowns were implemented, Ron became less and less of the man I married. With God’s help in this new reality, I cared for and loved Ron into the next life. 

Being tossed and thrown emotionally through that season of late-onset Alzheimer’s and Frontal Lobe Dementia was no picnic. I took care of him at home until I had to put him in memory care, which was an incredibly heart-wrenching experience. After two months, he was hospitalized at the Christiana Care Hospital and moved to hospice within the hospital where he died seven days later.

The Sykora Community Group is my local family since my siblings and natural family mostly live in the Great Plains and on the West Coast. Their prayers, CG events, meals, “hymn sings” at my house, Ron-sittings, and practical help served us so greatly; I remain in awe of how God used them.

Additionally, I received countless words of wisdom from Alan Redrup and Andy Farmer. Praise God for the church! God continues to use these folks to minister in my life as I come out of the grief fog. He brings people in my path during church services with words of encouragement and reminders that they are praying for me. Other widows and retirees share lunches to get me out of the house. I found proper grief navigation through the GriefShare classes, too. 

God also used non-church members. Daily, I call my sister, Kathy, who had lost her husband. I receive texts throughout the week from all five of my siblings. Concerned parents of my piano students have brought flowers and meals. Students draw pictures in sketch books so much that I have turned Ron’s former office into a little art gallery. Neighbors who lost their first spouses to death have invited me for holiday meals and have walked the dog with me. Museum and law library friends check in on me from time to time. (They all have lost family members and shared what they could during Ron’s illness and afterward.) A piano teacher friend and other colleagues at the music store offer hugs and check in on my general well-being. 

Each one of these human touches feels like a touch from God, ministering to my soul and comforting me in my grief. Each is costly to the giver, requiring effort and time. But the grace of community has held me up and shown me how important it is to reach out to others. Those of us who are Christians get the additional privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus as we share his love with others.  

A friend shared with me that she imagines her husband worshiping in heaven which I find particularly helpful on Sunday mornings during worship. I am most comforted by the fact that Ron is not completely gone; he is in heaven with Jesus!

So, how has God worked in my life since Ron went home to the Lord? The same as he always has. Through quiet times, prayer, worship, journaling, godly books, but especially through all the people he placed in my life: Nebraska family, church family, librarians, musicians, students and their families, and neighbors. I wake up every day knowing there are fresh mercies; “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22b-23). 

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