The Unwelcome (But Treasured) Guest Michael R. Burcham

Posted on June 15, 2018 by BrentSmithFH under Uncategorized
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Every holiday since my son Ryan died, I hope the uninvited guest doesn’t show. I think, “Maybe this will be the holiday that he won’t make an appearance.”

The season begins and at first things go well. I can feel quite fine for a while, even unexpectedly happy as the memory of the holidays catches me by surprise – and I slowly let my guard down. I actually begin to fully consent to the joy of the season.

I fool myself into believing I won’t have to contend with my unwelcome guest  this year, and all he brings with him when he barges in, unannounced and uninvited – the mess he so recklessly creates of my emotions. For a while, I begin to feel like I’ve been given an annual reprieve – and I exhale.

And then it happens: A song on the radio, a smell coming from the kitchen, a photo on my timeline, a keepsake unwrapped for the first time in twelve months – and there he is sitting close beside me again: this grief visitor that doesn’t ever take a holiday.

At first I’m devastated by his intrusion, knowing that grief has once again broken open those locked away rooms in my heart that I try to fortify. I feel the lump in my throat, the tears streaking down my cheeks, the ache from deep within my heart, and the void I’m feeling again because he’s here – grief is back.

I don’t want this right now. I don’t want him in this house. I want grief to let me be for one freakin’ holiday so that I can receive those tidings of comfort and joy that I’m supposedly entitled to but never seem to get my arms around. I want grief to leave. Where is my “peace on earth!”

But then I realize that he hasn’t come here uninvited to do me harm. He’s come here to surprise me with a gift that I hadn’t asked for, wouldn’t say I wanted, but I know I so desperately need.

The gift he gives me is this terrible, painful bittersweetness that reminds me just how much I loved my son Ryan – and how much he loved me – and that is the reason to be feeling such sadness now. This heartbreak is a monument to my son, these tears are a tribute to his life and our love.

That’s why grief is here. Grief is the price of deeply loving someone. Grief’s presence is a testament to the endless love I felt for my son – and that love has to have somewhere to go – it didn’t  end when his life ended. The fact that I am feeling such a deficit in grief’s presence is a celebration of how blessed I’ve been, to have someone for whom I grieve so fully. The love for a lost son pouring out of my soul with nowhere to go – so it materializes in tears and deep sadness.

Grief is here right now to give me the gift of feeling it all again freshly, so that I never forget how beautiful those past holidays were, how easy gratitude was then, how kind and beautiful my boy was, and how effortless singing a song of joy could be when I held him in my arms.

And yeah, maybe this is all much more difficult now, and maybe I’ll never have a holiday quite like those again because of the loss that’s taken place – but this uninvited, unannounced grief reminds me that just as Ryan left a legacy of love with me, so I’m given these days to do the same with those around me today I hold dear.

I have this season and these holidays and this moment to be present with those I treasure; to make memories and create traditions and appreciate the beauty of life – because that is what Ryan did with me while he was with me – and while he could. This is what love does.

Sunlight thru the clouds.


Brent Hill; born in Oklahoma, raised in Missouri and moved here from Louisville, Ky. My parents were in the ministry so I'm a proud preachers kid "PK" and have worked and been around the funeral business all my life. Family: God has blessed me with my beautiful wife Connie, five daughters, one son, six grandkids, two dogs and one grand dog. I am licensed Arkansas Funeral Director, certified Crematory operator, and Arkansas Life and Health insurance agent. Smith Family Funeral Homes one of our values and purpose is to "share the love of Christ through our actions with those we serve. In 2000 I started worked for the Smith family and have been so blessed to have made so many relationships with families and pastors we have served down through the years. Working funerals I also take care of all the websites, facebook , instagram, and twitter accounts for the funeral home.


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