This is about love, first and foremost. It's also about severe mercy. In Sheldon Vanauken's book A Severe Mercy, he speaks about love and the loss of it. Through his life's story he reveals the truth that love will be lost, one way or the other: either through falling out of love or death. Death, in his opinion, is the merciful way to lose love. With that being said, we go on, into the severe mercy of it all.
A little over a month ago, my world was rocked by the relatively sudden death of my most precious grandfather.
The details don't matter. What does matter is this: that he lived a long life, well lived and surrounded by those that he loved and that adored him in return. He left us with a legacy of loving your family well and intentionally, caring for your neighbor, giving to those that are in need and living a life full of integrity, loyalty and honor.
I'm not sure if it gets much better than that.
That being said, his death was no easy pill to swallow. Selfishly, we miss him and wish he were still here with us. But we rest--we have to rest-- in knowing that his body is whole now; that he is living a new life of perfect eternity. How grateful I am for this.
I know that posting something so personal and so seemingly sad may seem like an odd choice for Valentine's Day. But I want to share the sweetest story of love and comfort that came from our time of brokenness.
It was this past January and it had been snowing for days upon days on end. Even for the mountains of East Tennessee, this was unusual. My grandmother, who embodies Spring, kept saying, "This would be so much easier if the sun would just come out... if it would just stop snowing." We all agreed; sometimes you just need a little sunshine.
On the morning of the funeral, the flakes continued to fall and the raw weather echoed our heart's condition. We arrived at the funeral home to have our last viewing before the casket was closed. While the rest of us were shuffling our feet and sniffling our noses, my sweet mother, who inherited her mother's essence of April and May, reached a crumbling point. She snuck off to the window of the funeral home to compose herself and pray for extraordinary strength and comfort. When she lifted her head, she opened her eyes to this: two hearts in the snow.
She came racing into the room, exclaiming what she saw. We hurried to the window and stood in amazement of what we were looking at! In a time so heavy with grief, we were given the sweetest, most creative gift of compassion.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
What makes this story even sweeter is the marriage that my grandparents had for more than 58 years. Over Christmas my grandparents were asked what the secret to such a long marriage was. My granny said, "Oh, well, we're friends!" My grandfather, without skipping a beat said, "We just love each other. We don't argue or fuss--we never have! We just love each other!" A few short weeks after this conversation, we stood around his casket before it was closed for the last time. My grandmother leaned into him and whispered, "See you later, Sweetheart."
Amen. Amen. Hallelujah.
So today, on this day that celebrates love, inspired by the Greatest Love of all, I say we challenge ourselves to be bold with our affection, strive to show glimmers of love to all, compassionate to those who are difficult to love and cherish our time with our nearest and dearest.