Both at the same time.
One thing I can’t help but notice as I walk through this time of being grief’s handmaiden is the joy that walks alongside the grief at one and the same time.
I first encountered this idea in a significant way through my friend Kirsten, who wrote her way through the carrying of her son, Ewan, with his unknown future and his too-few days with an honesty, depth, grace, truth, and dignity that left those of us bearing witness to the journey with our mouths hanging open in awe and respect, shaking our heads in amazement at the fullness of all she held and chose to share with us.
She wrote about the tension of her experience — of loving Ewan so fierce and firm and yet holding that joy and love and hope for his future alongside heartbreak: his difficult, difficult road ahead. After Ewan died, she shared more about the both/and journey of grief, how it includes laughter alongside sadness. And then she wrote about her continued journey through this tension as she experiences the joy of being Austen’s mama and the ongoing loss of Ewan she holds every single day.
Like I said: awe and respect.
I’m experiencing this holding of light and dark together in a different way, namely through an awareness that as those I love walk through dark hallways right now, light and life also crop up elsewhere and invite acknowledgment, too, alongside celebration.
Within a few minutes of learning a beloved pastor and pastor’s son in our town died, a close friend of ours shared the rejoicing news that her son had come through a surgical procedure with flying colors. Light and dark together.
As Kirk and I walk through the loss of his mother this Christmas season, we’re also celebrating some great strides. We’ve marked some financial milestones that have been a long time coming and are moving in lockstep motion toward some more. It’s a time of great celebration for us, even as he’s holding his fresh grief. Light and dark together.
My heart is holding the losses of those I love every single day, and it’s a heart that’s tender and often tired. And yet I’m also watching in amazement and with deep joy and satisfaction as my work with Still Forming seems to bubble over with activity all at once — the long-worked-for launch of the Look at Jesus course this month, the enthusiastic signups for the beta version of a new discernment offering I’ll be sharing in the new year, the invitations to offer my giftings and/or speak in several different venues in the first half of 2014. Things are moving, and I am thrilled, even as I’m sad and confused and weary from all the loss in this season. Light and dark together.
As I scroll through my Facebook feed every day, I see it all: the heartbreak and the joy. And I want to honor and hold every single piece of it. To dignify each person’s real experience, whether it’s high or low. This, too, is what it means to be a handmaiden of grief.
“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.”
—Romans 12:15, MSG