This Season of Sorrow

4679197598_fcd65ae739_oLast night, I stopped by the post office to mail an anniversary card to Duane & Alpha, longtime family friends who celebrate 64 years of marriage this week. Seven hours later, in the wee hours of this morning, Alpha passed away.

I can picture that anniversary card today, wending its way through the arteries of the postal service, dutifully bound for its destination. A day too late.

How quickly celebration can turn to sorrow.

Two years ago, on this very same day, my family stood vigil around a hospital bed – my mother, aunts, uncles and cousins pressed shoulder to shoulder in silence – and we watched as my grandfather took his last breath and left this world.

Before my grandfather died, before we knew he wasn’t going to make it, before he went to the hospital and never came home, I sent him a get well card. A day too late again.  It sat in the mailbox, cheery and unopened, until we returned to his house after the funeral, to begin the hollow task of packing a lifetime of memories into cardboard boxes.

I’ve been to two funerals in the past month. Alpha makes three, and we only narrowly escaped adding my father-in-law to that list last month.

What strikes me most deeply about this season of sorrow is that there is so much more sorrow to come. As I count my blessings for each loved one still here on earth, I realize that love is always, always, shadowed by loss. The more we love, the more it hurts to lose. And yet, if we did not love, we would miss out on the very joy and beauty of life.

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Eccl 3:10-13)

Our time on this earth is a gift, and what greater work can we do with the gifts we have received than to create something beautiful and something worth remembering for those we leave behind.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. A day late is better than not at all.

[ Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada ]

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