And so begins a series of “firsts” in the grieving process. Today is Ron’s birthday – the first since his death on March 11th (my birthday). I am teary. Not surprising.  At first I was tempted to give in, to begin this day filled with reflection on my loss.

However, Facebook popped up a “year-iago-today picture” for me this morning. The image caught me by surprise, fluttered briefly on my screen, and then disappeared into my news feed before I could decide whether I wanted to repost it. The photo was from Ron’s birthday party at Summertrace rehab center on Sunday, July 13, 2014. We were all wearing mustaches. Ron was trying to play “Drop-the-Ring-on-the-Birthday cake.”

Of course the picture brought tears to my eyes, but it also reminded me of the burden Ron bore every day – his paralysis and pain, his cough (he tried to eat rice pudding Dean made for him, but couldn’t), his tired smile (he wanted to enjoy the children, but needed to go back to his room to rest).  So much weariness and struggle – for both of us. How could I wish him back for another birthday like that?

And so I choose to celebrate his re-birthday today.  I rejoice that he no longer has to compromise with physical life, a dynamic spirit trapped in an uncooperative body.  He did his best.  He stayed as long as he could.  The tears are for me, not for him.  Yet I should not weep.  This is a day for the first celebration of his legacy – to be glad that in this life he did more than exist, he lived by faith, he made a difference, and he loved me.  How fortunate we both were. How fortunate we both still are.

So I will dry my tears today – again and again, if necessary.  I will embrace the day and its gifts  I will remember that the longings I feel are reminders of the eternal nature of love.

The only defense against grief is life.  To live in sorrow is a selfish indulgence of my own needs that helps no one and has no power to transform.  That attitude is the antithesis of Ron’s legacy, a disservice to his memory.  So today remember with me what Ron stood for in his life:  letting the needs of others set our daily agenda, understanding that our gifts are meant to be shared, holding ourselves to a standard of excellence, but knowing God’s grace holds us secure in our striving.

May every “first” celebration remind me of Ron’s approach to living.  This year will give me lots of opportunities to practice.  In fact, this coming July 18th would have been our 34th wedding anniversary.  So now I can just reread this post to regain my focus.  I’m sure I will need to.  The process of grief is not linear, but recursive.  That’s why the “firsts” really never become seconds or thirds.  Time does not dull grief; we must let time change our use of grief.




Holy Saturday

Everything is made more meaningful in this world by pause. Think of it. Mark Twain wrote a whole essay about the importance of the pause in story telling. And then he practiced it in his writing. We use the phrase “great comic timing” to praise a comedian who puts in an effective pause at just the right moment. “Joy to the World” is just the notes down the scale without the holds and pauses. Pausing makes whatever we have to wait for seem more important. Of course we also chirp platitudes like “S/he who hesitates is lost” as well. Sometimes life demands immediacy. Split seconds determine medals. A pause to reflect is not in an Olympian’s training schedule. And, for the most part, we resist pausing in our daily lives, too. It seems to me that pausing is more the stuff of artists – poets, musicians, writers, and the like. Photographers have to be quick, but they are trying to capture just the right pause.

I wonder are there pauses in the universe? Do the orbits of the planets have built in pauses? Or do they rumble inexorably on? I wish I had been more interested in learning physics than I was fearful of taking a hard class in which I might get a bad grade. But I was too young to be wise. Of course, the scriptural view of the stars and planets is that pausing is perfectly possible. The sun is stopped in her course. Even God rested (or created the pause) on thje seventh day.

Maybe one of the important lessons to learn this side of eternity (the pauseless existence?) is how and when to pause, to get our holy timing right, to learn how to create meaningful pause.

Those are my thoughts this Holy Saturday morning. The day we remember Jesus didn’t just leap up – like from a magic trick – and shout “Ta da!” There was a respectful pause after death, a time in an unneeded tomb, a moment in which the Universe herself seemed to say, “Wait for it, wait for it!”

And maybe that’s the purpose of this inner hold of grief on my heart. The energy of life is heightened by the hiatus. Like the bulbs that rest and wait. Like the quiet of Holy Saturday before the celebration of new life rushes in on Easter morning. Too soon and we’d take life for granted. Too late and we would give up the wait.

Jesus, did you really know how it was going to go? Or, like me, did you have to hold on to faith in the darkness? I like to think you had to wait. Just like us. So that you know the tension that pause creates — the “already, but not yet” existence of human beings. We wait with you. Ready to be flung into joy. Help us hold the pause just long enough to make your joke work for the crowd. Amen.