Wow. I have to admit that when I saw Lisa-Jo's topic for this week - and read her own heart-rending story - I was stunned. At our house, I have multiple generations sleeping under our roof in preparation for a wonderful weekend of celebration. Our eldest daughter is getting married on Saturday and we're hosting the rehearsal dinner here tomorrow. We're printing programs and slicing bread and wrapping silverware in colorful napkins and getting ready to mark this milestone event in a lovely and unique way. But this day...this day comes after several years of pain, grief, chronic illness and heartbreak. This day is a gift of grace for our girl after so much suffering, suffering that is, quite literally, indescribable. So...five minutes on this topic just about makes me twist in a knot. I have no idea how it will play out in five minutes - just five minutes - no editing, no rewriting.
But Lisa-Jo has given us grace this week- grace to take as long as we need. Let's see how long that is.
It has been a long season of loss in our family. About eight years of death, illness, devastating natural events, and personal heartache.
Loss has shown up in lots of ways:
- from things that seem inconsequential in the larger scheme of things (like having a tooth pulled!);
- to terrifying natural disasters (like two wildfires, requiring evacuation both times);
- to startling, gut-wrenching medical diagnoses (like prostate cancer, pulmonary emboli, Parkinson's disease, alcohol-induced heart damage, Asperger's syndrome, 5 days in the NICU, a 4-year-old's broken femur, Alzheimer's disease);
- to the long, slow, slogging kind of ultimate loss, the kind that happens when you are losing someone dear - bit by bit by bit, one agonizing piece at a time.
And we've been down every one of those roads during these years, some of them multiple times. Every single one.
Perhaps I should not be surprised by the sad fact that in the midst of preparing for the festivities of the weekend ahead, I said out loud, "I hope I can remember how to 'do' happy."
Which is not to say that we haven't experienced grace, respite, laughter, gratitude, redemption and Presence in and around each experience of loss.
It is to say that these years have formed in us all, maybe most especially in me, a posture of leaning, leaning into God certainly - and that is a good thing. But also, a pattern of leaning into the stiffness of the wild wind - finding in myself an almost ingrained pattern of 'bucking up,' of standing tall and facing into whatever the heck comes. Because a lot of crap has come down the pike and that's what I've learned to do - to stand here, as steadily as my weak knees and trembling heart will allow - and say, "By the grace of God, I will survive. We will survive."
So (and believe me, this is taking one heckuva lot longer than 5 minutes to formulate!!) ...this weekend, I hope we discover that we have not lost the capacity to truly celebrate.
That we will be able to look at two people who are deeply in love, who are grateful every minute of every day that God has given them to each other and that we will find ourselves smiling from somewhere deep inside, saying: "Oh YES, God is good - all the time. All the time, God is good."
And to really, really mean it, from our toes right on up.
After so many years of enduring, of bracing for yet another blow, another reminder that life is delicate, fragile and so SO easily lost, I am praying that during these days we can let loose the fears, the tears and the sadness that we all carry in our hearts and even in our bodies. That we can release that 'waiting for the other shoe to drop' feeling and just plain revel in the truth that something beautiful is right here in front of us. Something full of life, not death. Something full of promise, not loss. Something full of grace and beauty and wonder.
We will experience loss again - this much I know. There is no escape. It is part of our story as human creatures on planet earth. But right now, right here - in the middle of this particular part of our family journey...there is the gift of celebration. Let the party begin!
This actually took about an hour to hammer out but I didn't edit much - just tried to write. Each word hurt. But each word also began to break through that self-protective wall I too often hide behind. Maybe as I sleep this night and as I work around our house and yard tomorrow, and take 'the girls' for mani-pedis, and do my small piece in the wedding itself, and work with my husband and my kids and my grandkids to clean things up after the reception on Saturday - maybe that wall will just plain crumble on down.
Oh, and pray for our kids as they try to get outta Dodge for a honeymoon - carmageddon is happening between their house and the airport and they need a miracle to get them to their flight! How many of you had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to try and make a 9:00 o'clock flight the morning after your wedding??
Their engagement picture, Easter time.