Christianity, Grief, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Family dinners…

Spring is in full bloom here in North Texas. Bluebonnets, One-Eyed Susan’s, and Indian Paintbrush make driving, even during rush hour, a beautiful experience. The pink blooms of the Morning Glories are so thick on the freeway medians there’s hardly a trace of green. The Arizona Ash and Pecan trees are vibrant greens and offer shade from the late afternoon sun. We’ve had frequent visits from the Woodpeckers, with their bright red crowns, as well as Cardinals and other species that were absent in the past few years. Blooms are making their appearance in the garden and my mouth is watering in anticipation of homegrown veggies…

I haven’t written as much the last few days. I’ve had several projects going at once, alternating between the office and the outdoors, which I enjoy. I have what my friend calls “First World” problems today: work, home, recovery, and so forth. Busy, busy, busy. So, it was nice to have Sunday to slow down, relax, and stay home. I didn’t write or work on any projects. I read, piddled around the house, and worked in the garden. Sitting here this morning and looking back at the last week, I’m truly grateful for the Sabbath rest, even if it was on Sunday…

One of my regular routes through the city takes me by the Mount Olivet Cemetery. I always look at it as I drive by: my Grandfather’s grave is slightly visible from the road. For the last couple of months something else has caught my eye (and my heart!). The area of the cemetery next to my Grandfather’s is called” Babyland” and, as the name implies, it’s dedicated to the little ones. Rows and rows of tiny headstones line that section of the cemetery. The rows are much closer together and the dates on the headstones range from one day to a couple of years. Balloons, flowers, and crosses adorn many of the graves giving an almost festive, yet somber, atmosphere.

Death is part of life. I know that. Yet, it makes me sad that “Babyland” has grown large enough to expand to an adjoining section of the cemetery. It was there I saw the young couple for the first time that touched me so deeply. I’ve never met them; I don’t know their story except for the little part they’ve unknowingly allowed me to see. And I see it often…

I have experienced the loss of parents, a wife, as well as close friends. I’ve known grief, but I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child, especially a young one. Parents aren’t meant to bury their children. I’ve watched friends go through that experience and I’m amazed by the amount of courage, strength, and grace it takes just to make it through the day. I also know there’s no time limit on grief.

That’s why I’m so touched by the young couple I frequently see at Mount Olivet. I have no idea how fresh their loss is, but now that Spring’s here, they’re out there almost every day. There’s always balloons and fresh flowers at the grave and they sit on a blanket sharing dinner, holding hands, until the sun begins to set, and Mount Olivet starts to close the gates. I’m sad for their loss and touched by their spirit…

I have no answers to offer, no words of wisdom. I don’t know why some parents experience the loss of their children and others don’t. What I do know is that by unknowingly sharing their loss and grief, they have shown me what it is to love. I’m more aware of just how precious the people in my life are. I want to hug my kids and grandkids. I become a little more present in the lives of the people who have so wonderfully touched mine. Ultimately, through the simple grief and love of two people I don’t even know, I’m reminded to cherish my family and friends more, love a little better and live each day to the fullest.

I’m always amazed at how God uses our grief, our loss, and our pain for good. Several years ago, my friend Rusty lost his mother. I never had the opportunity to know her. By the time Rusty and I met, she was already in a memory care center, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I attended her viewing to pay my respects to the family since I couldn’t be at the funeral the following day. Rusty showed me a picture of his dad, Dale, feeding her dinner one night. I found out that Dale spent everyday for several years visiting the center, helping feed the love of his life, and spending time with her even when Alzheimer’s robbed her of their life together. Rusty explained how everyone at the center knew and loved Dale. I can only imagine that his cheerfulness and his love for his bride was contagious.

Several weeks later, Rusty and I were having lunch and his Mom came up in conversation. He asked the question we all ask while grieving: why. Why did his mom have to suffer such a horrific illness for so long? I certainly didn’t have an answer. Until I remembered the picture he had shown me. Maybe her caregivers saw the love she shared with Dale and maybe they went home and were a little more loving? Maybe, just maybe, they had a little more patience, tolerance and gratitude for the people in their lives? Maybe his parents were simply busy sharing the Good News: preaching by example of just how much God loves us.

I’m so grateful for seeing a couple in a cemetery and a picture in a wallet. Sometimes the greatest joys come from the most unlikely places. I’m grateful for the ability to see that sometimes even grief can be Good News…

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