Spring has sprung and I feel like a new person. Even though I adore the fall and am quick to proclaim it’s my favourite season of all, spring rejuvenates my soul. I’m pretty sure a lot of us feel that way. After a few months of rationed sunlight, cold temperatures, grey skies and rain, it’s like we come to life again when spring shows it’s pretty face. It’s been raining on and off today, but here in Metro Vancouver, we’ve had some lovely weather lately. I’m a bit of a light-junkie and the longer days, blue skies and sun shining right in my eyes makes my heart sing. Every spring, I rethink my “favourite” season.
I’m never sad to say goodbye to winter. In fact, “Good riddance!” Our winters are rarely the gently-falling-snowflakes and bright-skies kind. They are mostly the damp, darkish, often rainy, sometimes slushy kind. Grief is like our winter. But like grief and every Vancouver winter, sooner or later, you see the light of day at the end of the grey tunnel.
Spring break recently came and went. I scurried home the last day of school, with my list of things to do (in no particular order): finish writing my book, go to my friend Donna’s wedding, babysit my granddaughter Leah and granddog Glen, hang out with family and friends, get together with brother-in-law Gary (who was in town on business) and go away for a few days with my husband, Chris. Halfway through the two weeks of bliss and my amazing list, I was caught off guard by some major grief. I kept thinking this isn’t suppose to be happening, it’s spring! But like I learned long ago, grief can come from out of nowhere, and it’s impartial to day of the week and season.
This interruption was a reminder that at any given time, I could easily be just one sad story away from the ugliest crying you’ve ever seen (some might call it a full-on breakdown, others might say it could have something to do with perimenopause). The sermon at church included a few sad stories and that’s what did it for me.
Chris and I had been at our friends’ wedding just the day before and those tears had ‘joy’ written all over them. I was so happy for these two – my good friend Donna, who was married for 43 years to her high school sweetheart, Neil, who had ALS and passed away in April, 2016, and Jory, (who Chris and I were so blessed to meet just a few weeks before), was married for 38 years to Robin who recently passed away due to Alzheimers Disease.
It was the most beautiful outdoor service in False Creek and during the equally beautiful indoor reception, I caught a glimpse of the memorial table for the bride and groom’s late spouses. The picture of Neil, my friend who was like a brother, grabbed my attention and melted my heart, and reminded me of how much I missed him. I thought a lot about the two families coming together – the two daughters of D and the two daughters of J, in particular. I could only imagine how bittersweet the occasion might have been for them. They honoured their mom and dad (and new stepdad and stepmom) so beautifully. You could already see how blessed they all are going to be to share their journeys of grief and love with each other.
Anyway, the next day, after church when Chris and I were getting ready to go away, I lost it (I’m talking really lost it). I felt the tears just below the surface earlier as I was already feeling something brewing and then when Pastor Ezra shared a few troubling stories about people he knew in his home country of Kenya, the tears surfaced. At the end, he shared his own sad story; the grief and the pastor’s vulnerability was overwhelming for me. A couple of hours later, the tears were streaming. Chris and I had to postpone our getaway.
The next day, when I tried to explain, I told Chris it was a variety of things. I told him the sermon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are so many sad things happening in this world – near and far – and some of those things had been weighing on my heart. Of course, missing people is always a catalyst to deeper sadness – in this case, Neil, my mom (I fell asleep looking at her picture the night before) and always Mike. I also explained I was a little anxious about leaving certain people (including a certain dog) even for a few days, which seemed crazy.
Chris and I did manage to get away. They were pretty quiet days; peaceful and low-key. AND, drum roll please, I finished my book while we were gone! I’ll be going over it a few more times though, fine tuning until it’s truly done and I’m ready to let it go.
My cousin Julie recently said something that has stuck with me (not that I didn’t know this about myself already). Casually in conversation, she mentioned how I like to keep my cards close (which comes from the saying, “keeping your cards close to your chest” like in a card game, so people can’t see them). She is perceptive and smart and can read people well, but mostly she just knows me, and that’s how I roll. Everyone has a story and I love hearing people’s stories. I really admire and appreciate vulnerability, authenticity, when a person shows who they are and shares from the heart without fear of being judged. I still have a tendency to hold back. So as I go over my book from beginning to end again and again, I’m constantly asking God and myself, am I being vulnerable enough? Am I being a window? Am I fully trusting Him?
Moving on to the next Sunday, I got up and started getting ready for church. Chris asked if I’d like to go down town to see the cherry blossom trees instead. As much as I was looking forward to Ezra’s next sermon on the Book of Ruth part two, I replied with a definite, “Yes!” Chris mentioned it was the only time we could see these particular cherry blossom trees before he left on his upcoming trip to Malawi. I later saw he had a list of all the best cherry blossom trees in the Lower Mainland – where they are, when they bloom etc. I was so touched. His thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me.
Earlier I said that grief was like winter, here’s why – winter might not be as lovely as spring, summer or fall, but it’s not a complete write off when it comes to beauty—you might just have to look harder. It’s not colourful or fragrant or warm, but there are certain aspects of it that are exceedingly lovely – and that’s like grief. Grief has a way of drawing us nearer to the the Lord. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8). In this closeness, we experience the depths of His mercy, His extravagant love and His healing touch.
What grief and cherry blossom trees have in common is that they both draw us closer to God. Sorrowful things and beautiful things have a way of revealing His tender heart. So even though it’s spring and cherry blossom season, it might also be a season of grieving for you. If so, I hope you can embrace both. And I hope you know that God is with you wherever you are and wherever you go – including deep valleys of despair – He will surely be your Refuge there.
Chris and Dad are in Malawi again. They are drilling another three wells, including my Uncle John’s memorial well. Chris has now gone to Malawi five times – that’s one more time than I’ve been. That’s amazing! I am so proud of him and of course my dad, who at eighty-one keeps serving the Lord by taking care of widows and orphans.
Uncle John’s memorial well. Dad at the pump and Chris taking pics with his drone.
It was Leah’s tenth birthday yesterday (April 7), and it’s my nephew Luke’s eighteenth birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday to these two outstanding young people I’m so blessed to know and get to watch grow. The following verse is for them – it’s for all our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, young people and older, and everyone:
“…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from the vast, massive, incomparable, unconditional, high and wide, King-sized, love of God!” from Romans 8:38 (NLT) **I added the words in bold.
The more I learn about God’s high and wide, King-sized love, the less I can fathom the expanse of it. The margins just keep getting moved out farther and farther.
All glory, praise and honour be to Him! Amen!
Leah with Leo and Glen
Donna and Jory – an exquisite love story and a beautiful wedding day!
Jory says, “Her perspective on life revealed a woman of quiet peace and grace. Her heart reflects our heavenly Father’s heart.” Donna says, ” I came across a verse on the back of a bathroom stall door, Ecc 4:9, ‘Two are better than one for if one falls the other can help them up…’ I felt that God was speaking to me. He began working in my heart and I began falling in love with Jory through his eloquence and devotion to God…” Congratulations D and J!