Today has been a bittersweet day. It began with a Facebook birthday reminder. A dear friend’s brother died two years ago this month, just weeks before his birthday. It was a hard birthday two years ago, and a hard birthday today. His page is still up, serving as a vehicle to express love and condolences to his surviving friends and family.
Later this morning, we went to services at our congregation. We prayed for a friend who will finally be getting a new kidney tomorrow, and also prayed for the young man serving as her living donor. He is the son of friends of ours who were also there. His selfless gift of one of his kidneys will mean new life for this mother of two and her husband. Our friend has been suffering through daily dialysis waiting for this day. It is an amazing story of sacrifice and hope.
After lunch, my husband Timm and I, along with our teenage daughter Avery, savored the end of a perfect Colorado day, taking a walk around our mountain neighborhood, and watching a fawn outside as we enjoyed a late dinner on our balcony. A warm evening is a rare thing when you live at 8500 feet. Almost miraculous.
While enjoying this summer miracle, we got the news that someone we know had died after summiting a fourteener here in Colorado. He and his wife and two young children are close and longtime friends of many of our dear friends. He had been missing for four days, and finally today they found his body. His wife had just gotten the news, as had all our mutual friends.
Tonight, Timm took the final pill in Cycle 2 of his clinical trial. Now he begins a week off from the anti-cancer drugs poisoning his system. We are spending the time together as a family, celebrating the rare few days we have each month to just enjoy life.
Kate Bowler, a writer and historian we follow, also has stage 4 cancer. When this young wife and mother got her terminal diagnosis, a mentor of hers shared these wise words: “Don’t skip to the end.”
These words have held me up during times when my mind races ahead, wondering how we will manage if Timm loses this fight. How will Avery cope with losing a father at this critical stage of life? It is hard not to plan for bad news. It’s a vain attempt to control our fall into the abyss. A ridiculous effort to stay the hand and soften the blow of pain destined to come. Instead, I remind myself to live in the moment, not to experience loss before it happens. Not to let the future steal today.
Love means risking loss. There is no way around this. In the midst of any joy I experience these days, loss and sadness linger at the borders. Joy and loss are brothers in this life. And though I try to push back, and deny pain, sadness, and sorrow their place in my world, joy cannot live without loss. It’s only through loss that we learn to value beauty and joy. And love and joy make us vulnerable to loss.
Today I heard of other, smaller but still-hard losses. And I experienced other joys. I am reminded how life always hangs in the balance. This world cannot possibly be our final home. Because sorrow and loss cannot win. If I’m going to live with hope, love and joy must be the victors. And I must live with hope if I am to live.
Here is to all of you living in the margins, in one way or another. My heart goes out to you, both in your joys and in your sorrows. I’m choosing hope, as hard as that can be. Because the alternative is even harder.
May God bless us all as we linger in this delicate balance, and help us hold out until we can finally come out of this bittersweet day into a lasting sweetness that has no shadow, and no end.