Life is Guaranteed to be Unpredictable; Mourning is Not

Every one of us suffers through the deaths of people we love, and grief is a strange companion. Sometimes it fades into the background and lulls us into believing it has loosened its grip on us. Then, without warning, it’s back, uninvited, unwelcome, and unkind in its sneaky ways.

I was reminded of this only a few weeks ago. My daughters and I were all together celebrating a birthday, strolling through shops and boutiques, breathing in the unexpected spring warmth on a day that was still winter, enjoying dinner together, laughing at family jokes. I was fine.

On the trip home I started to feel the first prickle of sadness in my stomach. I missed Neil driving the car as we talked about the day, instead of having to mull it over by myself. Then I started missing not only Neil, but the life I thought we would have together. Within minutes I was crying. I cried that we would never go back to Italy and that I had to go to our daughter’s upcoming college graduation without him. I cried that we wouldn’t buy a new camper and travel the country together. Soon I was deep in the throes of a pity party – a whiney, woe-is-me, why-did-this-have-to-happen feast. And to top it all off, it started raining.

I cried myself out, and within a little while the tears dried up. The rain stopped, too, and as I came over the top of the mountain toward home the clouds cleared. The stars were bright and one in particular caught my eye. I tracked it, watching it blink periodically as the wind blew. It played hide and seek behind the remaining scattered clouds, but kept reappearing ahead as I watched out the driver’s side window. Gradually I was comforted at how consistent it was.

If only life could be as constant as that star, as certain as the night sky. What a relief that would be! But, of course, life is not predictable and nothing in it is constant except God. We can’t control what changes in life, and we can’t predict what those changes will be. The only thing we can control is how we look at things. Are our memories sad reminders of the life we lost? Or are they precious gifts we save in our hearts to ponder with gratitude as we embrace the new future God has planned? The answer is up to us, but welcoming the future is a lot more likely to bring us peace than refusing to give up the past. We will always mourn what we’ve lost, but we can still look to the future with hopeful anticipation and the certain knowledge that God is the constant night star who stays with us through it.

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  1. Today’s meditation in Yoga class was about the impermance of everything and the 5 Remembrances – which reflected your post. Thank you for your thoughts. Grief, following Charlie’s death, was like an ocean wave with me; the sea would be calm, when suddenly a wave of grief would flow over me and I’d have to deal with it all again.

    1. Helen, thank you for sharing; I SO wish I had been able to get to class this morning! You’ll have to tell me about the five remembrances.

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