This is awkward.

For a year now, I’ve been writing—journaling, processing, and rambling. I’ve been writing about my journey into facing loss, and now I’m about to share it publicly.

So why is that so awkward? Because in an ironic twist I’m stepping into Kim’s arena of expertise. She was the gifted writer; I was her loyal admirer.

Absurd.

However, I am stepping into this new realm of writing for several reasons:

  • I was compelled to write to process my loss personally. My son-in-law, Michael, and daughter, Emily, gave me a journal the week Kim died. I have journaled to heal. I have rambled to pour out my heart’s pain. I’ve pressed into the truth of the gospel. I read a lot of books about grief. However, now in writing, I put my own flesh on grief.
  • Trusted counselors encouraged me to capture my insights and lessons learned. My writing—originally for my own healing—is a collision of journaling, rambling, insights, experiences, and lessons that poured forth into and from me as I walked this difficult journey.
  • I met a counselor at a work event who asked to see my ramblings. After he read a few entries, he said I should share them and not worry about polishing the content. Sooner rather than later. Get it out there. My experience, in its painful raw form in the context of hope, could help others.
  • I don’t want to waste my journey of loss. It’s been too high a price to pay to waste the lessons and keep them to myself. I want to encourage others to face loss and not to be tempted to sidestep, diminish, or minimize their loss. I need to comfort others with the comfort with which I’ve been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
  • We overcome by the word of our testimony according to Revelation 12:11. A testimony is a bright spot in a dark world. A testimony is a picture of the gospel in a person’s life. A testimony delivers ancient truths in a contemporary life. I share my testimony of facing loss to testify to God’s goodness through the eternal gospel of Jesus in my temporal, singular experience.
  • I value openness—transparency. We, in the church, don’t talk a lot about grief. I want to share my journey to prepare others for what inevitably will come to every person. Loss is universal, multifaceted, and pervasive. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens to us. So, let’s talk about it openly. I choose to steward my experience (1 Corinthians 4:2).
  • While Peter referred to those times when we suffer for the sake of righteousness, his admonition to be prepared to give an answer is valid for me during grief, as well. As my son, Paul, stated after reading some of my entries, “We wondered what was going on inside your mind. It’s good to know how you were really doing.” Sometimes, things go without saying, but I decided this is not one of those times. I need to share about the hope in me while facing loss (1 Peter 2:15).
  • I also want to shine a light on the answer to the question, “Is Jesus enough, even during loss?” I want to communicate the rich nature of such a journey in the very real and relentless pain.
  • Lastly, I realized I could not honor Kim P. Davis, the writer, in any better manner than to take up a pen and write about what her life—and now her absence—has taught me. My children—Paul (and Brennan), Emily (and Michael), and Trevor (and Emily)—have encouraged me to honor her in this manner.

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.” Isaiah 50:4

And with that introduction, I welcome you to walk with me on my unwanted journey, Facing Loss. It’s a journey filled with lessons of pain and loss coupled with faith and hope. I aspire to answer the question, “What does it look like to face loss, mourn well, and stand on the hope of the gospel.” At least in one life.

Mark Vroegop, in Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, explains that, “Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” I want to face loss and press into the promise of God’s goodness. Lament leads us to God and not away from him.

“Sorrow is a school, and we meet it as we should only when we learn the lessons and go out fitted for being a richer blessing in the world.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort

A South African proverb states, “Some hardships teach.” Indeed. God has taken me into an intense schoolhouse this past year. As I approach and pass the first anniversary of Kim’s death, I desire to steward the journey that has been entrusted to me. I desire to pass these lessons on for others who may be weary from the pain of loss.

“…if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…” Colossians 1:23

“We don’t have to like the process of being ‘schooled,’ but if we want to be joyful, it’s essential that we keep ourselves open to what God has to teach us.” Boyd Bailey, The Spiritual Life of a Leader

“Thou hast taught me to say, it is well…” Horatio G. Spafford, “It is Well With My Soul”

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    D. Ray, Thank you for sharing your heart. I don’t follow many blogs but you can be sure I will follow you. What you are writing will help many who have gone through these terrible losses that the Father turns into joy in Him. It will also prepare many of us who are in the later years of our lives as we face these deep loses in the future. Bless you, dear brother -Bill Morgan

    • D. Ray

      Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your comment. You’ve been a mentor for me in my career. You blazed a trail for us.

  2. Anonymous

    “It’s been too high a price to pay to waste the lessons and keep them to myself.” This resounded with me tremendously. I have endeavored to do the same since my sister died 19 years ago. Thank you for stepping out there to help others grieve. As Elbert would say, It is very “rich” to live out God’s word. We prayed for you when we heard she went to meet Jesus so suddenly. I see the Lord has been busy answering prayers in the rawest of ways. May Jesus continue to comfort you as each day passes. Brandi Johnson, wife of Lew

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, so much, Johnsons. I have been prayed for, and I am so grateful.

  3. Anonymous

    D. Ray, it is a blessing and a gift to share your story with others in a similar circumstance. I, too lost my wife of 33 years in 2002 a year after I retired from the IMB. Fortunately we had some time together before God called her home at age 53 and almost 33 years of marriage. Yes, those next six months or so were very difficult, but then I stopped feeling sorry for myself. You see, her journey through a rare, aggressive cancer became a ministry to others who saw how she handled it as a Christian. So God used her trials and ultimate death as a Christian witness that stands to this day. Once I realized that, I decided that I would use my loss experience to help others with their loss. I’m not a trained grief counselor, but I found out that by sharing my grief journey with other men, I was able to help them get through their grief.
    I was fortunate that God gave me another chance to love, and we were married four years after my first wife’s death. I pray that God will give you that chance to love again. It is refreshing to know that God is allowing you to use your experience to help others.
    Blessings,
    Carl Monfalcone

    • D. Ray

      Carl, it is good to hear from you. I am sorry for that journey you walked with your wife, but I’m encouraged that you are investing your loss to comfort others. I’m convinced hearing other stories and sharing your story is a part of healing.

  4. Anonymous

    D. Ray, I began walking the same road five years ago next month. My bedrock was my faith in God and the memories of sharing my life with Nancy for nearly 57 years. I also found encouragement in writing our story of faith and ministry. Your Kim gave me good advice about preparing my efforts for publication. My process was slow but :A Long Safari” was published in 2018.

    A major help for me was attending our missionary reunion a few months after God called Nancy home. I hope you will consider joining us this September so your mission family can encourage and show our love to you.

    Tom Jones

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Tom. I appreciate those, like you, who have gone before me. I would love to join you all if my schedule allows.

  5. Sylvia Williamson

    D Ray, I am just beginning to read through your journey based on Kim’s absence and I admire you so much for sharing this with your family and friends! I know what a great minister/missionary you are and have been having worked pretty closely with you at the IMB. I am so proud of you in the way you are choosing to honor Kim. She was such a lovely friend, wife, mother and grandmother. I can certainly sympathize with you how difficult it is to lose a loved one, whether it be a spouse, child, grandchild, mother or father! But God walks with us through this storm and in most cases brings us out better for the journey! It is through these storms that we can grow closer to GOD, family and friends. May God continue to wrap his arms around you and give you the peace he has bestowed on me that passeth all understanding! God bless you and your beautiful family which he will continue to add to!

  6. Anonymous

    Jan Beaty invited me to your blog. My husband was a strapping man 30 days ago, but died of Covid pneumonia on Oct 26. I’m searching for how to handle it all.

    • D. Ray

      I am so sorry. It’s a difficult journey, but I invite you to read through some of my entries. This blog came about because a counselor asked how I was processing and he asked to read my journal. I repurposed it and began to share just after the one year mark of my loss. So, how do you handle it? First, by facing it head on. That’s my first lesson I learned. But, I am so sorry for your loss. If you click the Blog tab at the top you can go back to the beginning and let my journey help you process yours.

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