Blending

I vividly remember sitting alongside the shore of the St. Lawrence, listening to the church bells signify the noon. I was wondering if anyone else remembered that day – July 25th – the day the two came together as one and promised a lifetime of love.

Did anyone else notice? Did anyone else, as tears slipped down, offer a prayer of thanks for the beginning to an ending?

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When she first left, I prayed for days, for months, even years. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and I’d lift weary heart and hands to the only Holder of my pain.

Months turned into years. Temporary turned into permanent. And you start to forget what it used to be like. You start to forget what it used to be to use the word parents in the same sentence.

There is a tree outside my window, and at the top, half of it blooms gloriously against the blue sky. The other half a stark contrast, is brown – grey, almost, as leaves no longer bloom.

It’s the visual reminder to me that a part of me has died and a part of me still lives. I don’t always experience the death – but there are moments, days, when the ache in my heart bleeds into my bones and my body remembers in a way my memory fails.

There will be a day soon, when people will gather to celebrate that ending and rejoice in a new beginning. And surely, there is much to rejoice over. Yet I cannot hold one without holding the other. As much as I will rejoice on that day, there will be a part of me that will grieve and weep, too.

And maybe that is okay.

Perhaps there is a way to experience both death and life together, like the tree, and hold them both close. Perhaps there is a way to hold the parts of me – the dead, grey limbs and the long, bushy branches – as parts of the whole,

as brokenness that blends and makes one what was deemed irredeemable.

 

 

 

Three

 

 

This Good Friday, I was painfully aware of the lack of good in me. Harsh words. Cynicism instead of hope. Frustration instead of patience. Maybe I’m alone in having these days. But, frustrated, I found myself at the end of my day, with the moon and my God, reaching for the only Good that I know.

The Good that hung on that cross.

I have a feeling we simplify the days in between. We gather to remember the suffering, and the cost, and we slip through the weekend until we gather again to celebrate. We know what will happen: we know that there will be a resurrection, and death will be defeated, and the darkness that hung will now be replaced with light.

But I think of the ones who stood by as He died and did not know.

The lack of good in their hearts –

had no solution.

For three days – darkness remained – and I wonder, what did they do? Did they sink in despair? Did they weep? Were they able to sleep? How did they grapple

with the lack of good in their hearts? How did they understand the loss of the One who hung on the cross?

I think that we do not spend enough time reflecting on those three days – 

just like the three days Abraham spent on the mountain going to sacrifice his beloved son. Or the three days Jesus’ waited to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Because those three days, waiting – 

sums up so much of life. Waiting for God to show up. Waiting for God to answer. Waiting for God to redeem.

Waiting.

And because we know the ending to the story, we skip over the part that talks about waiting. We skip over the darkness that hung in the air, and the lack of breath in His lungs. But when we do, I think we do a disservice to the God who teaches us to wait. Who builds into our lives and our stories seasons of three.

Seasons of waiting.

And so, as the minutes bring us closer to the moment of celebration – I rest in the waiting, too. I savour the minutes – the loneliness, the heaviness –

knowing the celebration will be that much sweeter because of the season that was before it. 

Triumph.

When she entered the world, she entered it with potential. Newness stretched across her taught, reddened skin, eyes offended by the bright lights. Her voice had never been heard before, her fingers untouched, her smile undiscovered. She held the whole world in her tiny, curled up hands.

When her mother wrapped her hands around her, the beginning of life formed as skin touched skin. Cries mixed in with tears and words and prayers created a masterpiece far more beautiful than any her mother had ever laid eyes on. Life was breathed into that hospital room; it was heard, it was felt, it was a Presence all on its own. It was tangible; life in human form.

Her mother admired the way her hair pressed against her chest, the way the  breathing of the child in her arms mimicked her own. She was there, fully present. Not imagining the day before as it used to be; not imagining a tomorrow. There was just a today, a today that delivered a family of three that moments before had not existed.

Life begins in triumph. It emerges in a cacophony of sounds and smells and in a way that will never be repeated. It will never be felt that way again. It will never be revealed with the same cry, nor felt with the same touch. The clock that ticks as life enters will never tick by those seconds again. It is an extraordinary moment, etched in memory but never to be felt in its beauty again.

In the same way, just as her life began in triumph, so too did it end. Her body, wrinkled and weathered, no longer was new. Her skin had been touched tenderly by her love; it had been stretched taught as life grew within her. It held the scars of a life lived well and at times, foolishly. Her eyes, so long ago white in their newness, were gray, but still held the light that had always danced when her lips turned up into a smile.

Her voice, once unheard of, had been heard of and never forgotten by those she passed by. She built up with that voice, she whispered love even when tears fell. She also hurt with that voice, sometimes intentionally and other times with deep regret. She clung to her words though. She adored them. Not only her own, but those around her, and conversation – words mixing with others, creating that beautiful sound every other noise paled in comparison to – was her favourite sound.

Her fingers no longer remained untouched. They had been tugged by little ones she had bore and ones she had loved as if they were her own. They had gathered her own tears; they had curled themselves around her in the moments she felt most alone. They had caressed, and they had held. That was what she was most proud of. That those plump, reddened fingers had been instruments of life in the broken places.

When she smiled, she was open and most herself. They were never dishonest smiles; they were the kind that revealed the heart behind them. If she was broken, the smile curled just the slightest up towards her eyes. If she felt the joy down to the tips of her toes, her smile was a doorway that let it all out so that it was no longer just hers. That smile, oh how it pointed to the one who gave it to her. It was always a mirror: of the one across from her, or the One above her.

The moment she entered the world, in that hospital room, she was merely a beginning. The day that she left this world, she was everything in between. She once was the one who held the world in her hand, but when she left, the world held her. It held her in the lives that she had been a part of, and it held her in the echoes of her laughter that wouldn’t be forgotten. It held her in the lives she had formed inside of her, and it held her with the words that filled journals and conversations and letters and cards. In the beginning she held; in the end, as breath left her lungs and Life left her side, the final brushstroke was completed.

A masterpiece, a life both beginning and ending in triumph.

Sprinkles of Hope

We are sitting in the living room, she in the oversized chair, and I in the fur-covered couch. There’s a joke about the amount of fur floating in the living room, and then there’s grief. Just grief. It’s heavy in the living room, and in between the conversation, in the silence, there is the sound of children laughing outside.

Life goes on, the laughter reminds me. When we want to sit and stay in the moment, cry, grieve, life simply goes on. What has been stolen from us is not noticed in the laughter and in the cars driving by. We are broken but they keep moving.

I remember the day after I found out my Mom was moving out, and as I walked, empty, through the hallways of school, I wondered, did I look different? Did I look as wounded as I was on the inside? Did people know that the person I was yesterday no longer inhibited this body?

I felt the same way two weeks ago when I received the news of Karin’s passing. I couldn’t be alone, just yet, so I wandered through Winner’s, moving the shirts one by one by one but really I was focussed on the strangers around me. Did they know a hole had been created that wouldn’t be filled – nor, perhaps did I want it to be?

I am not quite sure how to handle change – it’s like the moment I think I have myself figured out, something shakes me and I’m different again. I think that’s really the hard part about change. It’s not the change itself … but it’s leaving behind who you used to be. You have to figure out how to be again.

And the new you is different, and it’s strange. There’s new feelings of sadness, or a wound that is tender, or a heart that feels deeper than it did before. It’s not all bad. It’s just you have to figure out how it’s good, too. And that’s the journey. Finding the hope sprinkled in the pain.

It’s there. It just takes a little while to figure out where.

But it’s there.

 

 

I Don’t Either.

“I don’t want her to go.” She looks at me, tears in her eyes, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to see her daughter laying in the hospital bed before her.

My heart is breaking as my hand reaches for her shoulder. “I don’t either.” I don’t even know if my words feel as broken as I do, but I look at my sweet friend lying on the bed, her body struggling with every breath, and I feel the weight of my words. I don’t either.

I haven’t had enough time with you. I haven’t had enough walks along the river, and I haven’t talked to you about all my questions I wrestle with. I haven’t heard enough of your stories of the crazy people you have to chase down the hallways at work. I haven’t held enough warm drinks with you across the Starbucks table from me.

Mostly I am afraid I haven’t memorized your smile enough. Mostly I am afraid I will forget what it’s like to hear your laugh or see you greet me as I walk in the doors.

But what I won’t forget is the way you love, sweet friend. With arms open wide, just like Jesus, welcome and open and no shred of judgment. You just get it, the messy, dark places and the rays of joy. You’ve understood what it means to reach for joy and it to be out of reach. You got my darkness, friend, which is so much more than most people. And you let me know, over, and over, and over again that I wasn’t alone. I wish I could convey to you what that has meant to me.

I haven’t gotten to be your friend long enough, sweet friend. You are a gem. You’ve taught me more of what it means to brave scars and tattoos and be who you are because that’s enough. Jesus makes it enough.

And it’s because of Him that we get to laugh together again. I can’t wait for that day, when you will be free of this horrible disease and life will glow from your eyes to the tips of your toes. Until that day, sweet friend, I will remember you when I paint and crochet and wander into places we visited. Thank you for walking with me through my dark places and thank you for encouraging me to be brave and hope and love who I am. I will buy flowers for myself and each time I will remember you telling me to just do it. Just buy the flowers because we may be single, but we will rock it. And we will love who we are.

I am honoured to know you, sweet friend. Thank you for making me a better person. I will keep loving you, keep praying for you on this side of heaven as long as God graces us with more days with you. And I will keep telling Him that I don’t want you to go, either.

A Story Bigger Than Me

I visited their graves today.

Stirling and Daryl.

Sometimes I stumble over their names because they aren’t used very often. I don’t even know how to refer to them, really. Do I refer to them as my grandparents? As my Dad’s parents?

Stories of their lives are few and far between, I assume because the memories are blanketed by sorrow. We will most likely watch our parents die, but not when we are sixteen. I grew up knowing that they had died, knowing there were a few pictures of them scattered about the house, and knowing where they had lived and what they had done.

But I didn’t know what made them laugh. I didn’t know what recipes my Grandmother made for Thanksgiving dinner, or if my Grandfather smoked a pipe on the steps of his store.

It was my first experience of feeling another’s loss: of being desperately sad for my Dad and the loss of his parents. And then, as I grew older, it was my first taste of grieving what wouldn’t be.

There would be no second set of grandparents at school assemblies.

There would be a couple missing at every wedding, at every funeral.

There would be no conversations that began with, “When your dad was young …”

It’s a loss that I wonder about. Even though they passed away long before I was born, they are still a part of me. And I wonder about that part. I wonder what of them I carry with me.

But what they’ve taught me in their absence is to live well. To live between the beginning and the end as fervently as I can. To love deeply, to remember that my life, no matter how short or how long, impacts the next generation. I am a part of a story bigger than me.

Just as Stirling and Daryl were.