Even though I’m a bit of a technology nerd, I’ve always preferred a small personal notebook for keeping my calendar, addresses, thoughts, reminders, and the all-important “to do” list. The idea of entering information into an electronic device has never especially appealed to me. I like the feel of paper, a good pen, and the grainy leather of my pocket binder.
Usually around the first of the year I spend some time going through the past year’s calendar, reviewing and reflecting. When I turn the page to the new year, I note birthdays, special occasions, and meetings already scheduled, some months in advance. Because I knew I’d be moving this year and so much personal information would change, I decided to wait until the dust settled to do my annual update. I’ve kept up with the calendar in my trusty Filofax, just not with the many data changes. And though I’m about seven months overdue, now can I really take the long view to see where I’ve been, what’s changed, and where I’m headed. It all adds up to one thing – change, large and small.
When we grieve often we feel like the calendar stops. For a while the death date of our loved one seems to mark the last day of life as we’ve known it. Sadly, this is true. In one final breath everything changes - nothing will ever be the same again. We may even think of this date as a benchmark for the rest of our life - life before death, and now life after the death of the one we love.
When Leighton got sick in April, 2004 his illness became the sole focus of my life – time stopped, the calendar meant nothing except day after day of the slow, steady grind that led inevitably toward his death. Someone asked me about an event that happened in the “outside world” that spring when, for me, time stood still. Quite spontaneously I answered, “Oh, I missed the spring that year.” Really I have little recollection of anything other than the daily struggle of hospital life and certain death.
When we stop to consider everything that’s happened since the death of our loved one we realize that our lives have changed – dramatically and irrevocably. And depending on the nature and timing of our loss, sometimes the adjustment curve is so steep and long that we see nothing ahead except an often frightening, unknown future. It’s important, though, to pause and take a backward glance, to see where we’ve been and how we’ve arrived at where we are today - right now. It's in the here and now that we appreciate our God-given strength. In our grief we give thanks for the fortitude of our faith that gives us the sheer will to make it through all the hard days, around all the monumental obstacles that stand in our way to a new life of peace and yes, joy.
As I continue to navigate the changes in life my prayer is that God will steady my heart through the power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. In the face of so much change, we need divine balance, eternal equilibrium. God steadies us in our grief so that we neither fall back in our sorrow for what we’ve lost, nor get ahead of ourselves in anticipation of what might yet be. The steadfast love and faithfulness of God is exactly that – steady, “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22 NRSV). Hope in God’s steady love - today, forever, always.
Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
Psalm 6:4 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the steadiness of your love. Amen.