Beginnings & Endings

Our son, Jake married his beloved on September 2nd.  It was a wonderful day full of beauty, laughter and celebration.  It was a new beginning with the welcome of his beloved into our family (legally), and the beginning of their new life together as a married couple.  It was a beautiful day... even with the shadow.

We had travelled to the Maritimes for the wedding a week and a half ahead of time.  It was Andrea’s (my beloved), and my youngest son's first adventure exploring Canada’s eastern provinces. We were certainly excited for lots of reasons.

The first day, we were wandering around downtown Halifax when Andrea’s phone rang.  On a busy street and straining to hear, she learned it was the police from our hometown.

Andrea has her unique experience of what transpired next, and I can only speak of my experience as I watched my beloved collapse to her knees in shock, followed by deep, heaving sobs of pain.  There on the crowded street, my son and I wrapped her up in our arms, as we waited with bated breath to find out what had happened.  

Andrea’s mom had died suddenly, found in her home just a short time before the call. A devastating end.  A sudden good-bye. The shadow of grief fell hard.

There is a lot that transpired in the hours and days that followed - shock, disbelief, sadness, solace from a recent special time with her mom just two weeks before, some regrets; and repeat.  Surreal. A profound sense that our world had changed and will never be the same.

Acutely aware that Andrea’s mom was to be with us at the wedding, but now she wasn’t, and the reality of her death became more strikingly real. Her picture, prominently with us during the wedding service and dinner was a terribly anemic substitute - a strange combination of comfort and a present reminder of the sting of the very fresh loss and a wake of broken hearts.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of new beginnings and endings.  Celebration and grief inhabiting the same space in time, in the lives of my family, and in my own heart.  

Love is both tender and robust.  The unbearable wholeness of Love is capable of holding both our greatest joys and deepest sense of loss - even simultaneously. Love sustains us, holds us and is ever-present - flooding into our deepest places of despair.   

With a deep co-suffering, Love holds us in the shock, horror and sadness. At times, it has felt that the immensity of the pain would consume me.  Still, my experience reminds me that Love holds both tenderly and securely like a hug.   Maybe the Psalmist was speaking of this when they wrote: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, you comfort me, I am safe.

Love journeys alongside us, moment by moment as we begin to untangle all the messy emotions, along with those things we wished we had said or done... or those things we wished we hadn’t said or done.  Those things we wish had been different or better.

Love gently reminds us, in time, that nothing beautiful is ever truly lost.  Love reminds us of an enduring hope where, in time, endings become new beginnings - but yes, different.  In time, with good support, the dawn will break and the nighttime of our grief will give way.  The pain and sadness will relent, making space where we can find joy in the memories of those we’ve lost - even in the “complicated” relationships, we can come to a sense of peace.

Death is as much a part of life as being born but wow, can it frickin’ hurt!

I have worked with folks for years who have experienced loss of many kinds and have experienced the pain and worked through my own losses. I’ve witnessed and experienced Love at work in my life and others.  I possess a good understanding of the ins and outs of grief,  along with some really helpful ways to complete relationships with loss. I am grateful for these tools, especially now, but having this insight doesn’t make the journey any easier, or any less painful. Each loss is unique, mostly because our relationship to our loss is unique. I am reminded afresh that the pain of grief is not a lack of information rather from a broken heart. 

I will close, for now, with a lovely insight from my friend Patricia Adams-Farmer, and the rich hope that death doesn’t have the last word. Love never fails.

“My present adventure, this journey in grief—chock full of ever-changing emotions—is just beginning, but I know it will continue to transform me and teach me about love and life and eternity.  Just as heaven, in my mind, enlarges the contours of our souls in relational healing, so grief will stretch my earthly soul with its new landscapes carved out of sorrow and beauty.  And I will learn something of my own mortality, too, and of savouring wildflowers and sunny days.  Perhaps, then, I can snatch glimpses of heaven, and of that Great Love that embraces us in life and death.”1

P.S. - I am confident as we move through our grief and as our hearts begin to heal that the fullness of joy and beauty of my sons wedding, and the welcome of his beloved will find fresh vibrancy. Nothing beautiful is ever truly lost because of the way Love holds us.

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