all is still and warm.
slowly the darkness begins to fall. the cool of night sets in and with evening comes our cue to rest. rest for another day.
time always moves us forward. days always begin and end.
we can’t go back and re-live our best days or erase the terrible ones. i can’t hold onto those last beautiful moments of a sunset, as hard as i might want to, it sets just the same. and i can’t go back and re-arrange the painful, not so beautiful moments either…hoping to produce a different outcome.
the blissful and hard days are all ordained by God…i know it deep down to be true. and i know in time, both are good.
for me today is one of those days i wish i could re-write. but as it is, the calendar now marks a reminder of grief. and a reminder of when the cold winds of winter blew in the deepest sorrow that my flesh and bones had ever borne. it hangs around my heart like a weight that has grown permanent. even though years have passed.
the pale skies and chilling air symbolize the remembrance of when our world grew dark and tears flowed in the most profound loss known to the human soul and the blackest nightmare to any parent.
the day you lay your baby in a grave.
and say goodbye to life as you once knew it, because all the color is instantly drained. flat, grey pervades and seeps into every single pore. the warmth of day slips from your grasp and a gnawing, jarring bleakness consumes.
the grief that followed the day we buried our baby grand-daughter was like a tidal wave. the kind that pounds the shore, then digs and pulls into the solid ground, taking it out to sea with a surge.
i felt taken out to sea. i felt the downward pull of grief as i tried to keep my head above the waves, desperately gulping for air. the very fiber of my soul was being torn to shreds and i felt ravaged by the brutal force.
we often hear deep grief and sorrow being described like that and i think it has something to do with the fact that it comes on with such power and demand. it never waits to be invited or asked to come back at a more convenient time…it just sweeps in unannounced. there is no pretending to be brave, because loss strips the soul of any capacity to strive or put on airs.
instead God invites us to camp on the unstable but sacred ground that He , Himself ordains for us. He knows that during our times of mourning we are hemmed in on all sides…. there is no holding back the pain and no escaping it.
just as there is no keeping the sun from setting, the night keeps coming. nature demands it’s way and there is just no thwarting it.
in those weeks and months of our despair, i so badly wanted to chase the warm remnant of each day but in the end it was futile. i was stuck in reality and forced to face the trauma and emptiness of loss…even if it took me into the darkest of night.
so there i stayed. and groped. and ached. and there i encountered Jesus in the sweetest and realest way.
because somehow , someway in our darkest hours, He meets us. in tenderness and mystery He whispers comfort to our broken hearts. His mercy becomes the balm that our injured flesh craves and it becomes our daily sustenance.
and so it was that in our family’s deepest pain, we had been given a gift of the strangest sort. we had tasted from the most bitter cup, turned sweet. we knew our legs couldn’t run and our hearts were in pieces…so our only choice was to sit in the dark with God. letting His presence wash over our broken bits and letting His voice speak comfort into the deepest cracks.
so, this i know to be true. loss has a way of cutting through. all excess is carved away in the swath that grief cuts. life becomes boiled down somehow to the very most basic and raw place. and this, this is where the most beautiful and profound dependence takes root. it’s the sustaining gift of grief. and it comes at the greatest cost a soul can pay.
to be laid bare. to be stricken with inconsolable, desolate and heartsick pain. pain that needs the kind of mending only Jesus , Emmanuel, God With Us can tend to. and against all odds, He plants the smallest seed of hope in that hard winter’s ground of sorrow. it’s not a seed that promises to “make it all better” or as” we used to be”…but He sows a new seed. one that yields fullness from emptiness and joy from sorrow.
just as He did for me on that cold, bitter and holy december day. and He knew the warm sun would rise again to melt the ground and sprout the seed, all in due time.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126 :5,6
we buried a piece of our hearts the day we laid you in the ground…beneath which the sweet and bitter seed of hope was planted in the soil of our losing you Campbell. you left our hearts changed and forever expanded. we remember you now with tears on this your 5th birthday knowing that in heaven we will sow with laughter. you are still my very dearest and favorite Christmas gift. for Campbell Joye 12/1/09-12/7/09
resources and recommended reading: A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser , Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen, A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, A Symphony in the Dark by Barbara Rainey