This day. It’s a weird one for me. It’s a day that marks the beginning of walking alongside the bright light of joy for us we named Abram, and the beginning of walking in the shadowy place that is coming home with cancer in tow.
All Abe really wanted last year for his birthday was to celebrate in his own place with his own people, and the Lord so tenderly allowed him to have that moment. I think about this meshing-of-worlds moment a good bit. The kids only saw us in person twice before Jesse’s surgery. They watched me carry their daddy out of the house and put him in the van one September evening, fully expecting to see us within a few hours…and the next time he crossed that threshold, he neither looked nor sounded like the vibrant man they call “dad”. They have suffered more grief than any of us, I’m certain. And yet…
They have such overflowing, constant joy. Eventhough they hurt. When Jesse was first diagnosed and family and friends were rushing in to pick up the many pieces of our lives and keep them fastened together, my mom and I spent a lot of time texting and talking about the kids. What do we tell them? How many details do they need? What if he doesn’t survive the night? Do we let them see him hooked up to machines while unresponsive? Which memory of him do we want to be their last?
I’m not sure what the specific circumstances were leading up to this moment. I can only remember that the grief was coming in tsunami-sized waves from everyone, our little ones included; and I said to Mom, whether in text or voice form I can’t recall, a phrase that has been spilling out of my mouth for years:
“Remind them that tears are just sadness escaping the body to make room for joy.”
Tears are just sadness escaping the body to make room for joy.
Some of our children struggle to be emotionally vulnerable. -They must get that from their daddy. 😉 – The above phrase is one I have used countless times to validate weeping, to help them see they can let go of the fear and embarrassment so many seem to associate with tears, and embrace weeping as a natural and necessary part of life, instead.
Today, as our newly 8 year old gazed up at me with his cherub face now sprinkled with freckles, I felt the weight of the day come rushing forward, unbeckoned tears filling my eyes. He tilted his head as though he understood rather fully how I felt and smiled his adorable smile, “But I’m 8 today, mommy! It’s my birthday! It’s going to be a GREAT day!” So I let the sorrow flood out of my soul and trickle down my cheeks, and flashed an excited smile back toward his expectant gaze. “I know it, bud! It’s already a good day!”
It’s fitting that the Lord orchestrated everything so that these two significant days collided with one another. This day, with its thrilling beginning of the new, vibrant life of our Abe 8 years ago and its daunting beginning of a new, cancer-laden life last year, is a unique reminder of the grace of God in our lives. I feel both deep, abiding grief and unquenchable joy on this day. I suspect that will be an always. Grief does not leave, after all, it only changes as your understanding of its pain and purpose does. This day is both painful and lovely, darkness and light. Sweet Abram does not fully understand the significance of today, but I look forward to the day when I can tell him all about it. Sometimes, God gives you something (or someone), and it is years before you know just how sovereign He was in that moment. Abram’s birth being on this day is a sovereign gift of uncontainable happy that makes a difficult day a delightful one.
God is in this life, friends. You need only look backward and then forward again to see Him there.
My oldest brother passed away on my niece’s birthday. Joy & grief. I love ‘Grief does not leave, after all, it only changes as your understanding of its’ pain and purpose does.’ Thank you for sharing your story!
Another beautiful piece of literature you have composed. You have been given the “gift of writing” to share with others. I thank you for your written words, so that others can read and be touched by your thoughts,
I have a passion for reading words on paper (not on electronic devices!) which has me “talking back” to the author, by highlighting, underlining (with colorful ink) and writing next to their handcrafted words on the pages, That is my way of honoring the author.
Ashley, you craft your words in such a flowing, meaningful, heartfelt way, where I visualize you sitting next to me reading your words back, ever so sweetly. And me, intently listening to your message and hanging on to your every word.
I miss seeing your beautiful face and hearing you sing songs of praise to the Creator of All.
For that, I am thankful that God placed you on my life path.
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Thank you so much for sharing…I am touched by your honesty and openness on your journey. And thank you for allowing God to use you doing these difficult days. It is a blessing to me.
I Love reading your passages. They open the doors for me to see the circumstances we are facing. Tell Abe Happy Birthday, I love that picture.
Thank you for your thoughts on grief and joy. I would like to share them with several ladies who have been recently widowed. May God continue to strengthen you in this journey. May you be blessed and filled with His peace and joy. Dorothy Cook