In Grief’s Waiting Room

a memorial

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 small
Ayden in His Daddy’s Helmet. January, 2011.

Those are the facts.

At 0800, Rich raised the flag smartly, then slowly lowered it to half-mast. At 1200 he 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.

Dad and Sean

rabbit conga

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)

This post first appeared on May 30, 2011.


  1. Stepping inside the waiting room for a moment to pray for all of you, Sheila. {We did the same thing – raising, lowering, then raising the flag again at noon. We also spent some time at the cemetery this morning, as we do every Memorial Day – placing flowers at the grave of a young man we never knew, but who was a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor after risking his life to save others and dying at the age of 23 in Vietnam. Somewhere, we know not where, there is a family that misses him.}

  2. Miss Sheila – I, too, lost someone (my dad) because of the ravaging impacts of war. It’s a hard place to be on this day, having lost a loved one, a soldier — although not “on-duty” when he died, but still, the war took him.

    I’m glad your husband has you, your love, and prayers.


    • Oh, Darlene, and you have mine. Those ravages have a terribly long reach. I’m so sorry they grabbed your family, too. xoxo

  3. Oh, Sheila….what a bittersweet story. For all those who didn’t make it home–a hole in your hearts, indeed. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. This so perfectly speaks to my heart Sheila. Our daughter lost her husband of two years last July. It has been so difficult to watch her grieve and not really know how to help. Your words minister.

  5. I’m a day late, but I’m here! I miss Sean for Rich, too, if that makes any sense. I don’t miss him with you – a servant who did not need to know me to serve for me – but I miss him for you, Rich. Sheila, I’ll keep you company in the waiting room any time you need me.


  6. I’m in the waiting room while a loved one grieves right now, and it requires a new kind of trust, a belief that the Spirit will comfort when we can’t. I’m so glad you shared this post again. I needed to read it.

    • Kimberly,
      I’m so sorry you are in that place and so honored that you found a bit of encouragement here. Blessings.

  7. I too, had these words speak to me. I lost my son last year, to a senseless accident while he was in training. His wife widowed at the age of 23, my grandson only 4. I as well have people in grief’s waiting room, as I grieve hard on the 21st of every month. Those that wait do not know what to say nor do, and I try hard to explain that there is really nothing they can do, other than accept me for who I am now. Hugs to you…

  8. Sean was a beautiful child and a wonderful man, son, and father. I had the privilege of knowing him as a newborn, a child, and an adult. He will forever be in the hearts of those who loved him. Your piece is a wonderful tribute to him. I will always be his “Auntie Kim”

  9. Sheila, well written, as always. Rich is fortunate to have you “in the waiting room”. My best to Rich, you, and your family.

  10. I am a Gold Star mom my son spc.Bradley Shane Coleman oct. 2008. I thank your son for his sacrific and the family also. This is the hardest thing i have ever gone through seems like yesterday still to me. I will have you in my prayers and I know your son is happy for what you done. From one Gold star parent to another Thank you

    • Dianne,
      I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Hollow words, I know, but I haven’t figured out yet how to post a hug on the interwebs. You are in our prayers.

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