In Grief’s Waiting Room

Our Entryway: 
Memorial to Sergeant Sean Michael Lagrand
Third Marine Air Wing, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting.
July 13, 1981-September 25, 2006
Remembering Sean 
This Memorial Day morning, I hear my husband sniffle. I look over, sure I know…but I ask, anyway, as I wrap my arms around him and his blue terry robe:
“What is it?”
He swallows. “It’s Memorial Day,” he says, the words thick. I hold him a moment more, then step away, leaving him space to sip his coffee and drink deeply of his grief. 

I grieve with my husband, on Memorial Day, on Sean’s birthday, every time we gather for a family photo.

Each photo bears a sacred hole. We’re missing one.
But Sergeant Sean Michael Lagrand was his son, not our son. He died in September, 2006, a year before we married. I can go with my husband to his grieving place, but I am confined to the waiting room. 
Rich goes without me into the inner chamber of his grief. I wait for him, pray for the Spirit to accompany him to this painful, holy place.
I know the facts: Sean had completed eight years in the Marine Corps when he died; he was on terminal leave the day of the accident that took him. “Terminal leave” is the military expression for using up all of one’s accrued leave time at the very end of one’s enlistment in the service. It’s not meant to be fatal.
Sean survived two tours of Iraq, including the Battle of Fallujah. War can be ugly and noble at the same time; Sean’s memories of the ugliness he saw in Iraq, the things he was called to do in service to his country–in service to us–tormented him, fueling an anger that led to an impetuous, fatal motorcycle ride. 
His wife Rachael was widowed on her twenty-fourth birthday. Son Ayden had just turned two.
Ayden in His Daddy’s Helmet. January, 2011.

Those are the facts.

At 0800–in just a few minutes–we will raise the flag smartly, then slowly lower it to half-mast. At 1200 we will raise the flag again to the top of its pole. Because that’s what one does on Memorial Day.

I sit in the waiting room while my husband grieves. I grieve with him as best I can. I pray for peace in his broken heart, lift him up to the One who heals the most searing wounds. And I am comforted. While I can’t go with him into the holy place, he does not go there alone.

As I pray for my husband, I pray for everyone else who spends today in an inner chamber, and for everyone who waits in grief’s waiting room.

 Sean and Rich, Celebrating Sean’s Return from his Second Tour in Iraq.

16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NASB)

I’m linking up today with L.L. Barkat’s In, On, and Around Mondays from my place in the waiting room. Won’t you visit there, too?


  1. Thank you for understanding dear.

    "Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic." — General Logan – May 5, 1868

  2. I do my best. You deserve that from me.

  3. We also signal three-three-three on the ships bell by our entry door. This is the firefighters bell signal for "Return to Station". And so Sean has.

  4. Yes, he has.

    And we will see him again, one day.

    For now, you're welcome to use this space for anything else you want to share.

  5. Matt Reynolds

    Sheila, Amazing post today! Thanks so much for sharing your family's loss with us. This country will be strong and free as long as we have brave men and women like Sean there to defend us.

  6. Matt,
    Thank you for your kind words. I hope you'll agree with me in prayers for comfort….beauty from ashes.

  7. Rich, thank you for sharing Sean with me. Thank you for letting me see your son grow up to be that special man he was! It was great to hear about his military experiences, his challenges as a young man and his accomplishments as he was seeking God's direction! Thank you Sean for your service to this country and thank you Rich for yours as well! God Bless you and your family!

  8. Oh, Sheila. May God comfort Rich and your family as you wait to see his boy again. Bless you, bless you, bless you. Yes, today we remember. And we look forward to that day of reunion.

  9. Laura,
    Thank you.

    As it happens, we spent the morning mourning, then we went out to lighten our hearts in the afternoon. We began with my first-ever (really!) round of miniature golf, then we went on a photographic treasure hunt of Newport Harbor's Balboa Island. I'd only visited the harbor by boat before, never afoot.

    I do believe I will have a post and some photos to share for the next playdate. 🙂

  10. Thanks Kelley, and thanks for being a part of that day in Oct '06.

  11. Diana Trautwein

    Such a bittersweet story. I am so sorry for your husband's loss but so grateful he has found such a wise and sensitive life partner! Thank you for these gentle words – many blessings of peace be yours.

    And Newport Beach was my family's vacation place of choice when I was growing up! My husband and I now live in Santa Barbara and love this coastal CA life.

  12. Diana,
    Thank you for your kind words and your blessings.

    Santa Barbara is beautiful. Enjoy.


    This is a heart wrenching story. But important to hear, to know, as you say that "these are the facts." Thanks for sharing.

  14. Thanks, Bradley.

    It's strange. The hole Sean left behind…some days it's not so big. Other days it could swallow us.

    His sister's wedding comes in October. It will be a beautiful day—and the hole will gape.

  15. Sheila,

    I read this post and wept. Words fall miserably short of what is in my heart right now for your husband and for you. Today I will pray for God's grace to touch that raw place that continues for such a very long time. I felt such grief when my cousin was killed. Your gift of grace and words deeply touched me.

  16. JoDee,

    Thank you. We are grateful for your prayers. His grace–this place is one where His grace is all we can cling to.

    And it's enough.

  17. I'm with JoDee — I read your words and my heart gaped wide for you and for Rich and for Sean and his wife and little boy. I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for reminding me of the grave importance of Memorial Day. I am praying for you all, that you may find peace, despite the gaping hole.

  18. Our peace may escape us, but His peace never will…and so we cling to Him.

  19. In other words, and I mean this with full reverence, His holiness stands in the gap….or fills in our gaping holes, if you will.

  20. Thank you for this, for telling Sean's story, honoring his service, and giving voice to your husband's grief.

  21. Thank you, Nancy.