On This, The Longest Night of the Year

winter solstice

Grief and loss punch can punch us repeatedly in the stomach. While we try to manage our anxiety and despair, grief has what seems like a malicious life of its own that must live itself out. Grief has a personality, meaty fists, a hungry mouth, and a high demand to do with us as it pleases. We can do little but let it live its life, as we try to manage ours.

It’s during times like these I’m grateful to end up on the frozen ground of my pastor’s backyard, being fawned upon by two loving — but drooling — dogs. Grief’s fire gets frozen out just a little bit. The moon’s bright overhead, no one else is around, and a couple of exuberant canines who want nothing more than to be loved fight to sit on top of me.

Deep breath… it seems that it’s impossible to measure the impact other folks have on us until grief comes to life. And I find it such a strange thing how truly unaware we are about how deeply we are connected, how deeply we’re loved, how deeply we’re changed by these other people until grief begins its parasitic feeding on our spirits. We don’t choose the depth of this impact.

That’s what gives grief such power.

We are opened to the raw reality that others mean more to us than we have ever been willing to admit; and when faced with loss or separation, grief smiles and begins dancing around our perisperhal vision.

Any talk of “being okay” sounds only like a betrayal. Someone could offer us a million dollars to help us feel better, but a million dollars is meaningless. We don’t want a million dollars. We want — we need — our lives restored like they were before.

But grief eats all our befores. Befores have no say anymore. When grief lives its life within us, we have no control (despite our yearning to find some finger hold somewhere). And we are afraid.

It’s not okay.

And it won’t be okay, even if and when we survive.

We won’t be who we are after grief has its way with us.

And that makes us even more afraid. And rightly so.

If I sound rather vague, it’s unintentional. Grief also has a bad habit of turning grounded thoughts into fragments. We pick up these fragments, try to put them together more as a jigsaw puzzle than a coherent thought, and discover that squares are stuffed in round holes, and someone inevitably tries to store the kayak in the laundry hamper. Because it makes sense. At the time. For some reason. Or no reason.

So on this longest night of the year…

Peace to you…

And gentleness (I can only make it to verse 3)…

Each Winter as the Year Grows Older

By William & Annabeth Gay 

Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God’s love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!

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