“Aunt __________ had a stroke,” the voice on the other end of the line said. The bottom fell out from under me. I gripped the counter for support.
After multiple moves from hospital to hospital and some new factors, the prognosis is not good. Aunt _______ has a special place in my heart, only seven years my senior and a writer (journalist) with a quick wit and a heart for hurting children. She has been a constant fixture in my life and is famous for our coffee dates that last for hours while we talk about everything and nothing.
Grief sucks energy and leaves me drained. To add to that, over the past several weeks my family has suffered its share. A dear aunt from the other side of the family slipped away far too quickly. I got a text at 4:30 am that she was gone. My sister-in-law spent nearly a week in the hospital while I was on vacation (and no one told me). That news shook me. I called her as soon as I heard and was relieved to hear her voice on the other end.
I’m a deep, slow processor. While others are microwaves, I’m a woodburning stove, the embers burn slowly. I almost didn’t write this post because my processor is still creaking slowly away, but I felt I had to share this message, one I have experienced over and over: Grief and joy co-exist. I didn’t used to believe this. I thought that I could be happy or sad. Turns out joy is not happiness. It’s a fruit. It need to seed, to flower and then to produce a tiny fruit that matures until it is ready to harvest.
Charles Dickens said it best:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Fifteen years ago I had two seasons burst forth at the same time. My new kids came home from Poland and at the same time, my Bud (step-father) labored to breathe in ICU. I had the joy of my whole family together at last and the grief of losing Bud. He died a week into the kids’ new life in the states.
Last week, with the devestating news of my aunt pressing on me, I almost cancelled Camp Lemon-Lime, a family camp here at my home for the kids and grandkids. I followed through because I know joy and grief can and should co-exist. He prepares a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. He provides daily manna. I trust that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and He is good. He gives good gifts.
We swam, jumped on the trampoline, ate S’mores every night while we sat round the campfire and watched the fireflies light up in the distance. I napped in a hammock one afternoon while the grandkids napped after two swim sessions. I battled it out in the pool with sponge balls and laughed hard and long with Sam and Theo, Jerry, Adam and Rafal. Audrey, Amerey and I chatted and read aloud to one another while lounging in lawn chairs on the front lawn. And…sometimes I cried quietly, sometimes out loud.
In the midst of all the fun, a dear friend was wounded deeply. I shot her a few texts and said some prayers and wished I had some sturdy, strong boxing gloves I could put on and to into the ring for her.
Camp Lemon-Lime ended Sunday. Jerry and I drove the hour and a half to visit my aunt. The situations are still there, active, living, breathing, causing pain and suffering, yet, my joy is there too. I have a brown paper bag full of memories, moments of connections, play-doh at the dining room table and a long story telling, jumping on the trampoline like popcorn. Sweet conversations that begin with, “Ni Ni, COME!”
There is sometimes snow in summer. Seventy degree days in December. Joy and grief blast in at once. Weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning with tousled heads and bowls of cereal in the library pouring over nature guides.
Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday!