“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
The holiday season sometimes prompts complaints of commercialism, being too busy, and not having enough. It can also bring up feelings of loneliness and melancholy. There are a myriad of feelings that arise – some bad and some good. I have friends who love this time of year and some who wish they could love this time of year, but can’t due to circumstance or perspective or a little bit of both.
I have experienced all spectrums of emotion at one time or another during the holiday, yet I ultimately land in awe of a season that encourages the celebration of light and each other. Life slips by way too fast and with little ado it can be taken from us just as quickly. The holiday brings up festive notes of friends and family sharing laughter, bright eyed kids awaiting Santa’s arrival, eating way too much good food and light kisses under the mistletoe. It reminds me how lucky I am.
Yesterday I attended a funeral of a woman whose life ended all too quickly at age 56. I only knew her for a short time, but it was clear from the many people who attended her funeral that she touched more than just my life. Seven months went by between diagnosis and her death. The cancer that ravaged her body was swift and unrelenting. How do you make peace with such a passing? Reeling from their loss, her family had to reconcile their grief that swung between anger at her untimely death and a lifetime of memories that taught and blessed and defined aspects of their own life and its meaning. They eulogized her precious life with stories that made us cry and laugh. We left perhaps more resolved to live as if the moment were all we had left.
The memory of a birch tree in full bloom is quickly lost with winter. Deciduous by design, it loses its leaves and goes dormant as if it died. It hasn’t actually. In its sleep it gathers strength for the season just beyond the bend, the one where once again the birch blooms in full glory, becoming a stately and beautiful expression of the life within.
Grief is a winter, but it also is the gift of the life that prompts it. It reminds us we were loved. It reminds that we loved. Nature is teaching about loss all the time. It is also teaching about birth. In the cycles of life, we cannot know one without the other. Season upon season we are given multiple windows in which to view life. We can take the view that sees the barren winter as dark and foreboding. We can also take the view that winter is the canvas on which new life is found.
In our winter is the spring that once was and the spring that will become. Do we want to be remembered for our kindness, or our bitterness? Tend to the garden, or not. It is the difference between hope and despair. Given a choice, which would you choose? For the woman lost, I can’t help but think she is like the Birch tree, strong, resolute, gathering her strength for a new spring where once again she will flourish.
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