Tuesday, May 02, 2017

It's not about what's supposed to be. It's about what is.

Note: I wrote a version of this for our church newsletter. I've edited it for the blog, and included the photos. My friend Greg edited it for me, and said "this is so wonderfully written, and your words are so kind, I wish it had a bigger audience." So, to that end, I'm sharing it here with all five of my readers to expand said audience.

Some of you don't believe in God or Jesus or anything like that, but perhaps you can take something away from what I'm trying to get at here that is true to your own heart and place.

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On Saturday afternoon, I was having a long talk with my mom. She turns 74 next week. She was commenting on the loss of one of my sister’s high school friends who died that morning.

“It isn’t supposed to be like this,” my mom said. “You kids shouldn’t be dying before me. I’m supposed to be gone before all of you.”  The sense of the unfairness of this fact was deeply reflected by the sadness and disappointment in her voice.

Thinking on that a little bit I offered the only consolation I could come up with. “Mom, it’s not about what’s supposed to be. It’s about what is.” She agreed sadly.

This time of year, thoughts turn to resurrection and rebirth: flowers escape their winter prisons; birds commute back from far off places; flip-flops escape from closets.

But this time of year I’m also reminded of death.
Chris P (aka Chrispy) on the left. Wayne on the right.
Conquered the "mountain" above Gloucester one fine late spring day
and shone victorious.
The death that is on my mind most this year is that of Wayne Hyde. Wayne died unexpectedly on April 13, 2015. Unlike my sister’s friend, he made it to the other side of 50. He left behind six fantastic children and a wife who showed more strength and grace in that private moment than I think I could ever imagine.

Several college friends were having a big discussion about our giant shared loss a few days after his passing. One friend said something to the effect of “Why are we sad? We know Wayne loved Jesus, lived his life for Jesus, and raised his children to love Jesus. We shouldn’t weep, but instead rejoice!”

Oh, but we did weep. And rejoicing was very hard, and still is very hard. I’m sure if you’ve lost someone whose life was so intertwined with yours, you understand that.

The discussion continued, and some were hurt by this sentiment that because we believe in the Resurrection and the Life that we should just turn our frowns upside down! But I think I understood where he was coming from. I explained that we weep for what he will miss, and will miss doing with us.

We weep for the “supposed tos” that are suddenly not going to be “it is.”

We’re arriving at one of those “it is” moments in this circle of friends. A few short weeks from now Wayne’s daughter Natalie will marry her college sweetheart, Caleb. Everyone looking at her, and I’m sure she will feel the same, will be aware of that twinge of the “supposed to” that my mom hearkened to this morning.

Wayne was “supposed to” be there to walk Natalie down the aisle. But instead there is the “it is” of her mom Marcia filling in, fancy dress and all.

When someone dies, all of those “supposed tos” are lost. We know we’ll be together again in glory when we meet our own homegoing, but the absence of the friend, father, husband is felt most powerfully. For some it is every day, for others it is in a church where a wedding is taking place.

This fact, this human fact, keeps us in mourning. No platitudes, self-help books, or good-hearted Christian friend telling you that you should rejoice will help you with this.

I look at the memorial garden that our church just dedicated to Steve Cunningham, and realize that if he had never passed, that would never be. It is a beautiful manifestation of the new reality of life without Steve.

The efforts of the congregation to dig in the dirt, lay wonderfully level stones, place the beautiful cross and welcoming bench in this spring garden remind us not just of our Steve, but of Jesus and His presence in our lives.

We look at the escaped daffodils and tulips springing from gardens. We look at those flip-flops contemplating pedicures going into the summer months. We hear the bird songs in the morning. We are reminded that there is life, life goes on, life returns, and life wins.  Things always happen in the wake of what was supposed to be, and those things become what is.

If you find yourself this spring feeling deep loss, and the veil of the sadness of memory of what was supposed to be, I wish you love and strength in connecting with the “it is” that is now with you.  I will not tell you to turn your frown upside down and cease your weeping or mourning. You will do what you need to do. You will handle your “it is” the way you see fit. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in that journey. Go sit on the memorial bench, take a walk in the woods, volunteer, and smile at a wedding.

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