It was Sunday morning and my husband’s birthday. Only four months earlier he had left me for heaven. In the first stages of grief, I remained seated while the congregation sang. The dark cloud of heaviness had pushed aside my joy in worship–or in much else. Head down, I stared at the floor. Soon another person stood beside me. Immediately I recognized my daughter’s feet. Knowing it would be a difficult day for me, Joy and Aaron had decided to join me.
It was Joy’s birthday too. She had arrived on her father’s fortieth birthday–a can’t-be-topped gift, I told my husband. Comforted by Joy’s presence, my thoughts somehow shifted gears from thinking about my loss to remembering what I still had left. Encouraged, I stood to sing, as the Holy Spirit’s breeze began to fill the languid sails of my ship.
My grief walk wasn’t over that day; it was five more years before I felt whole person, rather than like a half-couple. But slowly, imperfectly, I more often focused on what remained instead of what had been swept out to sea, proving the value of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” (CEV)
As I chose gratitude, my glimpses of not only what remained grew, but also what I had gained through my losses. (I don’t mean I rejoiced over having the sole control of the TV’s remote or the car keys. Up until his cancer diagnosis my husband drove us everywhere, releasing me to enjoy the scenery, nap, or read a book on long roads with no turning.)
Neither did my improved perspective magically erase my weariness. After helping my husband battle cancer for twenty months, not only was my body worn down, but my soul and spirit were frayed. True, my calendar was no longer crowded with four day stays in the hospital every month for a year. I stopped being a regular visitor to the pharmacy. I returned the borrowed wheelchair to its owner. Slowly I gave away Milt’s clothes.
The lifting of the long season of sickness didn’t erase my loneliness either. But, as the dark clouds lessened, I began to enjoy sunnier days. I flew to California to visit my youngest son and his family. I invited my older grandkids to travel with me for summers of service and sightseeing in Japan. I started a monthly breakfast meeting in my home for a few seniors.
What have you lost? An intimate friendship? The glow of good health? A large portion of your savings account? Your beloved parent to death or dementia? A child dies, or decides to ignore you, plunging you into despair? The list of possible losses is endless.
Take another look! Sift through the ashes and find what remains. Don’t surrender to sorrow. Fight for your faith! Hold onto hope! Let love triumph!