I’ve always loved fireworks - enormous displays with the latest pyrotechnic creations. Fireworks transport me to a place beyond the dailiness of life, a place of awe and wonder and utter splendor. They’re ancient and magical, they’re simply ingenious. Before Leighton got sick we planned a trip to Boston for July 4 to enjoy the fireworks and be a part of that grand patriotic occasion. It never happened. As I cancelled our reservations, I tacitly acknowledged that he would never recover. He was dying.
When I returned home on July 4 after another dismal hospital day, I longed for any sight of celebration on that hot summer night. I put on my robe and stood in the street outside our house searching the sky for light and life. Instead I saw only a shadow of smoke wafting through the air, its acrid smell the remains of fireworks spent and over. It seemed at the time like an apt metaphor for my life…up in smoke.
Three years later I mustered the courage to go to New York for the July 4 celebration there. I wanted to see the fireworks over the East River live and in person. It’s impossible to transmit the three-dimensional effect of fireworks on television – I watch, but it’s never the same as actually being there. It was a hard day emotionally – I was thinking of Leighton, remembering what once was and would never be again. I’d made a rather elaborate plan to get to the venue, but it started to drizzle and I knew I just couldn’t do it –I ditched. It’s still on my bucket list to be in New York on July 4. One day, someday, I’ll try again.
This year was different. From the balcony of my new aerie – I moved to a sevnth floor condo – I had a front row seat for a local fireworks display about a half mile away. At the appointed time I pulled up a chair, opened the door, and sat there in pure delight. I was visually dazzled, transported to a place of sparkle and amazement for the twenty minutes or so of the display. I felt myself grinning from ear to ear, I heard myself laugh for joy. And after a week of moving and chaos, I needed the refreshment of entertainment and amusement if only for a few brief moments on a clear summer night. It was the gift of a new view.
What we discover as we grieve is that our view to life is constantly evolving and changing. We see things differently because of the death of one we love. Our shared view is no more. If we abide relentlessly in the past, our only perspective is from the rear-view mirror of life. We know what was – we’ve experienced it - yet it’s behind us. We can never go back and recover or recapture what once was. If we’re looking forward, feeling our way through the present moment of our grief with all its pain and sorrow, all the while we’re seeking, searching for our own new view.
We don’t know what it will look like, but we’ll know it when we see it. Our new view may be the horizon of sustained peace or the sunrise of renewed joy. And though the glory of fireworks may light up the view for a moment, our life is forever illuminated by the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you” (Psalm 26:3 NRSV).
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Psalm 43: 19 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the glory of your light. Amen.