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Joy and Grief

January 17, 2012

Two families. Two stories. Two journeys.

One has been waiting, and praying, and grieving, and hoping for their child to arrive. A desperately wanted, long-awaited, baby. They have endured extraordinary loss, heartbreaking setbacks, scary, inexplicable complications. Week by week we counted with them. They passed 25. They passed 28. They passed 30 and we all rejoiced. He’s still inside. He’s going to make it.

The other is waiting, and praying, and grieving and keeping vigil, as their little boy succumbs to the ravages of leukemia. They’ve fought the good fight, but the end is nigh and so they wait. Days have turned to weeks, and they wait to say goodbye. Christmas has come and gone, and thank God they have memories of him there instead of not there. He’s not going to make it.

A beginning and an end. It’s hard for the world to feel upright when these catastrophic earthquakes rock the very core of our soul. How can the sun still shine and the moon still rise when life and death hang in the balance of day and night?

Yet it does and we wipe our eyes and go on. Grief and joy, joy and grief, are they really so different? Each brings us into the palm, the embrace of God.

Souls laid bare by the essence of what makes us human – the fragile thread that holds us here, instead of there.

One goes home. One finally arrives. Do we weep for his departure? Do we weep to bring him into a world that is so broken? One returns to the arms of a loving God, and one arrives to the arms of his loving parents.

Joy and grief. Grief and joy.

Colton peered earnestly up into Harold’s face and said; “It’s going to be okay. The first person you’re going to see is Jesus.” …By then I was used to hearing Colton talk about heaven. But now he had become a messenger, a tiny tour guide for a departing heavenly traveler.

Heaven is For Real  byTodd Burpo, with Lynn Vincent

Also on the subject of grief:

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2012 7:36 pm

    “Grief and joy, joy and grief, are they really so different? Each brings us into the palm, the embrace of God.”

    A poignant question. I believe they are inextricably intertwined, at least on earth for now.

    The verse God laid on my heart last year was Romans 15:13:

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    And just yesterday, I found Neh. 8:10:

    “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

    Hope, grief, joy, peace.

    Not sure what it all means. But like you, I’m learning!

  2. Bethany Fitelson permalink
    January 17, 2012 10:10 pm

    I’m speechless. That was beautiful and tragic at the same time – just like you said.

  3. Kari permalink
    January 18, 2012 1:37 am

    Ah you write on a duo I feel close to. Grief and joy aren’t necessarily opposite sides of the same coin but they do have that effect of one informing the other. Grief being more painful because it points to the joys that will no longer be. Joy being more brilliant because the dark part of grief has lifted. Yet, joy and grief so often seem to be holding hands instead of holding different sides of a coin.

    Some of the most joyful moments in my life have been tucked away in deeply grief ridden stories.

    Some of my favorite moments with my dad are from when he was dying. We would sing to him, listen to his stories, pray together. And there was great joy.

    My cousin and I gave birth to babies on the same day in 2003. Her pregnancy full term and then some, mine only halfway complete. Days later we shared our birth stories, as women do. But in my case, the story brought grief of a baby too little to live. In her case, there was a sweet little newborn filling her world with joy. Her grief for my baby was not diminished by her own joy. My joy for her baby was not diminished by my grief. As my cousin said, “our joy and grief walk hand in hand.” (I can see this picture in my mind of grief and joy walking companionably down a beach. )

    My heart goes out to the two families you write about and to you whose life is entwined with both stories. I pray for moments of joy for both and for the peace of God to guard their hearts and minds in ways beyond their own understanding. Thanks for your writing which gave me a moment to write a few thoughts of my own. (Perhaps a dangerous thing to do during the middle of the night when I should be sleeping!)

    • January 18, 2012 7:39 am

      Kari – yes, that is exactly it. “My joy for her baby was not diminished by my grief. As my cousin said, ‘our joy and grief walk hand in hand.’ ”

      I never knew about your loss – I think my friend, whose baby arrived safely, albeit in characteristically miraculous fashion, is thinking of the sweet babies before him who never made it into her arms. Joy and grief, hand in hand.

  4. January 18, 2012 7:09 am

    What an incredibly insightful and moving post. You are so right – grief and joy are inexplicably intertwined and there often is the bittersweet mix of both when one or the other is experienced. Thank you for these beautiful words and truths spoken in to my heart this morning.

  5. Tonya Power permalink
    January 18, 2012 12:54 pm

    Grief, as well as joy, becomes folded into our lives and becomes a part of us. They are now part of the story of who we are. We may wish for things to have been differently. But, the grief becomes part of us just as much as the joy does. We can not separate ourselves from it anymore than we can turn the days and hours back.

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