Rejoicing and loss

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This past weekend has been monumental for my family as we celebrated the marriage of my youngest son. The wedding was greatly anticipated and lovingly planned. Many friends and family from both the bride and groom’s side were in attendance and enjoyed the festivities of the day. As I now sit in a quiet, empty house, I reflect upon what this new phase of life will hold. It is becoming evident that both rejoicing and loss intermingle in my heart and mind at times like this.

There is so much to rejoice in: young love built upon years of dating and relying upon the strong support of Christ as the cornerstone of their relationship; two families coming together and becoming one couple; the promise of a positive future and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams. At the same time, there are moments when loss is felt even in the happy times: nothing will be the same; the unknown territory rears its ugly head again; the absence of someone to whom you have spent a lifetime watching grow and mature. Even in happy events such as this, rejoicing and loss are both experienced.

Those who journey through grief learn to both process rejoicing and loss as well. The loss part is easier to comprehend. Your loved one is no longer by your side. Concern for your future and handling all the details encountered by death can be taxing and bring about a loss of energy and hope. Heaviness of heart, mind, and spirit can descend upon you quickly and suddenly cause a momentary loss of joy and happiness. Loss is very real and very pungent at times as you walk with grief.

However, let us explore how rejoicing can enter into your grief journey. Perhaps your loved one was very ill and suffering terribly. I recently watched as a relative dealt with the decline of health in a loved one as cancer viciously attacked. Dealing with the actual pain of the disease and seeing the toll it took on the body was difficult. Relief was one emotion felt by the family as this woman finally passed away, leaving the agony of her physical battle behind. While rejoicing may be a strong word here, her loved ones were certainly glad that she was no longer suffering in her hospital bed.

When you know your loved one had a personal relationship with Jesus, there can be assurance in knowing that leaving life here on earth means immediately entering a life in Heaven. That is cause for rejoicing and comfort. While you miss them terribly and long for just one more day, the gift of knowing where they now reside can help you in the daily journey of grief.

I am thrilled with the marriage of my son to my beautiful, new daughter-in-law. There is gladness in my heart, a smile on my face, and a light in my eyes as I recall how they looked at each other in the ceremony. That emotion is coupled with just a tiny bit of loss and a few tears as I realize my journey is taking yet another little jog and turn. I am confident though, that I will learn to maneuver this part of the journey as well. There is comfort in truly understanding that it is natural for rejoicing and loss to go hand-in-hand at times.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Unexpected Interruptions

 a and K at ballgame

“Who’s Susan and Dan?” They represent an interruption of a special day long ago. Yet those words are ones I will remember with a smile on my face and a sweet memory in my heart.

Alan and I had been dating only a short while when I invited him to attend the wedding of friends of mine. The ceremony would be in Kansas City, an hour’s drive from where we both attended college. He arranged to take off a bit early from his part-time job that Saturday morning to give ourselves plenty of time to find the church since we were  unfamiliar with the location.

Upon our arrival, we parked the car and walked into the church. As I went to place the gift on a decorated table in the large church foyer, Alan went to a podium holding a basket of cute, little scrolls tied with ribbons. He untied and opened one and then said, “Who’s Susan and Dan?” I hurried to his side, took the paper, and read it with horror.

Without a word, I slinked back to the gift table, excusing myself to another couple standing there, retrieved our gift and practically ran for the door, urging Alan to hurry up. Poor guy did not have a clue as to what had happened. 

Back in the car, I read the invitation and realized that I had the date wrong. We were at the right church, just one week early! I was so embarrassed. How could I have been so stupid? We had not been dating long enough for me to know what Alan’s reaction would be. To my utter amazement and relief, he laughed! We ended up going to a Kansas City Royals baseball game while we were in town. I called home and told my parents the change in plans and I remember Mom’s remark, “He’s not mad? Wow, he’s a keeper!” 

My point in sharing this funny and embarrassing experience is to impress upon you that each day we have a choice of how we will handle the unexpected interruptions and incidents of life. While we cannot control life itself, we can choose to approach and accept the unexpected turns with grace, humility and humor.

You may not feel that you have much to laugh at or smile about right now. I want to encourage you to treasure each day though. Whether the next twenty-four hours turn out exactly as you have planned or you find yourself scrambling to adjust to an interruption in your schedule, today is a gift.

Relish the present and live it to the best of your ability, tucking the memories away for the future. Who knows, you may have a “Susan and Dan” experience that you will be able to laugh about years from now.

(The picture for this post is from a Colorado Rockies game in 2010. We kept the tradition of occasionally attending ball games. This was five short months before Alan passed away.)

Until next time –

Karen

Chosen

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As I awoke this morning, I found myself silently recalling the words of a song. Not just any song, but the one I sang to Alan at our wedding. “What an odd thing to remember,” I wondered. The more I contemplated those words, the more I realized I was not so much thinking about that wedding day as I was the promise that the words of that tune still hold for me even today.

Perhaps it will help if I quote a few lines to you from the song He Has Chosen You For Me by Pat Terry.

“We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.

Knowing this we’ll live above the world and all its sorrows.

I have prayed for all my life that we would be together.

Serving Him together seems so right.”

When I sang those words in our wedding over thirty years ago, I never would have guessed that they would hold such power and truth still today! This realization gives me encouragement and hope as I move forward to face each of my tomorrows.

None of us really know what the future holds. If we are honest, we would admit that even today is filled with a few surprises! We make plans for tomorrow, next week and a year from now. Dreams are formed, plans are built and hopes are hung – but all those are so temporary and dependent upon factors over which we have no control. For instance, what will the weather be like, what does the stock market do, how do the choices of other people affect us? In the midst of having dreams, plans and hopes, we must not lose sight of the fact that even though we look forward to the future, we cannot control it.

God alone knows what tomorrow will hold. He knew thirty years ago that I would be walking a difficult journey of grief today. He wasn’t surprised by the turn of events nearly four years ago. The same is true in your circumstance as well. God is not unaware. He cares what you are going through and knows what you need.

Realizing this truth and trusting Him, we can learn to live a good and happy life in spite of sadness, surprises and the unknowns that are continually placed in our way. As we journey through loss, we learn to discern and understand that smiling, laughing and finding joy is a gift that our loved ones would want us to accept and possess.

Just as God had chosen Alan for me all those years ago, He is showing me other gifts He has prepared and is giving me today. As you move forward in your journey, look and see all that you do still have in the midst of your pain and loss. Will you trust and take the new opportunities for joy and happiness He has chosen for you today?

Until next time –

Karen