In my family, we are counting down the days until the end of 2018. By any account, it has been a grueling year. We’ve said heart breaking goodbyes, faced life shattering diagnoses, and found that there is still time for another curve ball to be thrown. As the hits have kept coming, we’ve lived through two new cancer diagnosis in the last month… We just keep moving forward. We simply don’t know what else to do.
When I think about all that this year has brought, it is easy to focus on the negatives. There are so many. The grief is sharp, breathtaking at times. As we move toward Thanksgiving it is hard to imagine that so many of the familiar faces I shared the meal with last year will not be here to pass the gravy. Now, too many of those who are still here are struggling as well. The sheer number and pace of change has been staggering.
In my own life, 2018 has been a year of letting go… of my health, my dad, two grandparents, as well as any illusion of control. We’ve watched the long slow progression of time shroud my grandmother’s mind as she has been overtaken by dementia. I’ve wrestled with new realities as I stepped across the threshold into my 50th year, and realized that there are now more days behind me than in front of me. The world looks very different today than it did last year.
But this isn’t the only story. The darkness and loss have been real and powerful, but there are other stories here as well. Love has not left us to navigate these dark shores alone. Under the pressing weight of loss and the devastating swirl of grief, we have found kindness and compassion. Coworkers, cousins, church ladies, as well as friends and family near and far have brought love and light through the gloom. We have been cared for in practical ways and carried along in prayer.
Difficulty can be a refining fire for relationships and ours have never been perfect. In the midst of grief and loss old grudges and wounded hearts can lash out. It is simply true that hurting people hurt people. And yet, we have found that this year has strengthened bonds and reminded us of who we want to be as a family. We aren’t pretending that love is easy. We are acknowledging that it isn’t and then doing it anyway. Across the country, across the state, and across town we have committed to being there for one another.
When death walks through a family like it has ours, you can’t help but notice life a little differently. This perspective can open you up to beauty and ordinary grace in powerful ways. I am all in for noticing, for attending to, and for showing up in my life. From the way the mist hangs like a vail across the green field on a late August morning to the fir boughs laid thick with the first wet snow of the year, I am here for it. I don’t want to miss a thing.
The other day, as we were planning the bonfire that will mark the end of this difficult year, Brian reminded me that 2018 was also the year that they conceived a child. That’s the thing, I think. This year is marred by loss but it has also been the space for new life. It’s the year the doctor was able to get the cancer, I healed from kidney surgery, my 6 month scan was fine, and life could go on for 6 months more. It’s the year that Teddy grew from a baby to a boy. It’s the year when my ordinary life became even more precious to me.
If you had asked us in February, we would have told you that the year had already offered up too much grief and loss to handle. We had no idea what lay ahead on the path. It is probably best that we did not know. It has been enough, most days, to allow life to unfold in its own way. Today, I am most grateful that even in the sweeping darkness glimmers of light, of love, and hope have been there to help us through.