A couple months ago I felt like I was living on an emotional roller coaster. Funny, for this year, 2016, my word is “rest”. Since January, I’ve found that it’s a become a trendy word…along with “Being Present, Simplicity…keeping your peace…maintaining balance”… you get the idea. But you know what?…it’s hard to rest on a roller coaster.
Those are wonderful notions and it is absolutely worth doing your best to remain in rest… (Hebrews 4:1-11). My struggle is, how do you remain in rest when the hard things of real life, that you have no control over, happen – smack in the middle of wonderful and good things?
Let me explain…
In the span of 4 short weeks we battled a strange illness that took out the entire family one by one for 24 hours, we attended wedding events for my sister, a baby shower, a commencement for our boys, a 40th wedding anniversary for dear friends, received a diagnosis four our daughter, Mother’s Day, our own anniversary, Father’s Day and three funerals. That’s right, three. Three people we cared about, passed into eternity. The often jarring ups and downs of celebration and mourning has taken me two months to recover from…and I still can’t quite wrap my heart around it all.
Sometimes, you can’t “opt out” of the things that take place in your life…you just have to roll with the punches and take really deep breaths as often as possible.
Eventually things slowed down for us…a little. The rhythms of daily life returned and the liturgy of living filled our days. Yet I’m haunted by the three goodbyes… All three people had full lives, loving families with all that family entails. All three were taken out by disease and all three had to deal with severe disappointments. The kind that rob years from a life. But, the caveat in this is that all three had beautiful stories of redemption in the final years. In the first, a life was robbed of 20 or more years of spiritual fulfillment, because of the destructive words of religion without grace. In the second, an artist was stifled by family responsibilities and many years with a partner who didn’t truly see them…and the third, a hard, hard life – of addiction, near poverty, violence and ultimately the terrible grief in the loss of child and spouse. Sorrow and almost constant hardship.
And yet, redemption came.
Redemption came to the first, the one destroyed by the words of religion, through the grace filled words of God through a son-in-law. Redemption came in the second through a humbled partner, and the flower of the artist began to bloom again. Redemption came to the third, not through one act, but through the realization that every eulogy, every memory, every story shared… revolved around laughter. Her ability to find and hold onto joy right in the middle of what would have been a living hell to anyone else, filled out the lines of darkness with the most beautiful colours to make a masterpiece of a life.
Because of the celebratory moments that punctuated the days in between each funeral, I was forced to immediately choose joy as well. Joy in shared love, in creating new memories, in the glory of summer nights, good friends, good food and music. Laughter, tears, frustration, hard work and whispered prayer…
The thrill of kids at the beach, cliff jumping into the lake, a dog eager to go for a walk, a canoe trip down a slow river with a toddler who spies a family of turtles for the first time. The thrills of slow rising ups, surprising twists and turns, crazy drops and loop-d-loops… and I remind myself that at least my roller coaster didn’t do this…