Swept Away

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15)

Thirteen years ago today, my oldest nephew was born. One year ago today, the mother of a good friend and a neighbor of mine passed away.

Thirteen years ago as K made his entrance into the world, I breathed a sigh of relief. My sister and I were both pregnant at the same time and both due in August of 2004 – along with another lady at our church. According to our due dates, my sister should have gone first… but K was in no rush to leave the security of the womb.

When the other mom, who was due in the middle, had her baby first, my sister was not amused and I said a little prayer that my own baby would not be born first. She wasn’t, and so on the day K arrived, I rejoiced not only for the healthy new addition to our family but also because I had been spared the wrath of a pregnant woman long past her due date.

Thirteen years ago, I was also making final preparations for my own little one who eventually attempted to enter the world on August 30 feet-first, putting an end to my aspirations of having a natural, drug-free birth. She continues to forge ahead in her own, quirky way to this very day. C’est la vie…

One year ago, my heart broke for my friend and for her dad. I had been blessed with the opportunity of visiting Mrs. T twice since her cancer relapse, but when the end approached, things spiraled down rather quickly. How I hate to watch cancer suck the life out of a person; how I loved Mrs. T’s joy despite it all. When we talked, she was always cheerful. On her livingroom couches, we chatted and laughed, defying death to rob the joy from life.

A year ago, I was also preparing to deliver Mrs. T’s eulogy – an experience that left this short little introvert feeling simultaneously honored and immensely terrified. However, she had asked me on one of our last chats and there was no chance I would let my fear cause me to decline a dying woman’s wish – particularly one that had always shown my kids and I such kindness and acceptance. I prayed that the Lord would give me words to comfort and encourage, and I trust that He did.

So it is that today, my thoughts are consumed with the crazy dichotomy of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure that makes up human life.  I rejoice at my nephew’s thirteen years, at watching him grow from the plumpness of infancy to the stringy musculature of budding manhood.

Yet I weep for my friend; for the pain of grief and the hateful reality of disease and death. Even for those whose hope extends beyond the grave, Death is still a merciless and irreconcilable thief. My fervent prayer today is that, if she has not already, my friend will come to know the peace of my Lord in the midst of her loss, and that His presence will bring the light of joy to banish the gloom of loss.

And I am thankful. Thankful to be a part of every bit of it – the joy and the pain. Thankful that Mrs. T had made her peace with God and was unafraid to walk into the unknown of death, knowing that she was known on the other side. Grateful to watch all my own children, nieces, nephews, and innumerable young friends grow and change, experience both failure and victory, hurt and be comforted, mourn and laugh and live and love and be.

I rejoice at their smiles and laughter. I weep for their anguish and suffering. I love them all.  And suddenly, I am struck that our Lord prayed His very last prayer on earth for unity – unity with Him, with the Father, and with each other. He knows our great need, the tragedy and frailty of humanity warped by sin, the awful beauty of both mirth and tears.

To endure the overwhelming tide of emotion, the dizzy heights and the horrible depths, we need each other to help bear the weight of it all. And most of all, we need Him, the Rock of Ages, the great Foundation to provide meaning and purpose so that we are not swept away by the wild and unpredictable tides of life.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
(John 17:20-21)