On grief and love and paradoxes

I saw so much yesterday that I never wanted to see:  

a father gazing at a daughter’s casket with a profound mixture of numbing grief and forever love 

a mother with head and heart bowed low, willing a measure of calm in the storm that has stolen normal from her family

a brother, broken and brave, speaking clearly and boldly words of love and remembrance that captured, but can never replace, a sister

a whole pew-row of friends and former classmates, clad in every shade of grief imaginable, suddenly aged beyond their years

a sextet of tear-stained young women escorting the casket of a friend they never envisioned would not exist anymore

I cried for them all. I cried for all the ways that they are hurting. I cried for the ways that this kind of hurting is so painful in its familiarity

I’m still crying.

But I also saw much yesterday that I am so very glad I saw and experienced.  

the young women escorting the casket honouring their friend with loyalty and respect and dignity as much in her death as they did in her life because that is what true friends do

the friends and classmates living out all shades of love and care for each other… hard-holding, clinging-close embraces, silent gentle touches, firm understanding handshakes, hands on shaking shoulders, hands in clutching hands, eyes and hearts spilling and tumbling, always in the unspoken knowledge that this breathing and grieving would be done as an act of community.  

the snippets of blue ribbon and little blue flowers tucked into braided hair defying the blackness of grief, declaring remembrance of a life that was and memories that always will be

the hands that embraced me, not as a former or current teacher, but as an equal in this paradoxical community of grief and love; the sensitive words that acknowledged that this is indeed a déjà vu grieving for me, that there are painful past wounds made newly raw that needed to be honoured every bit as much as this present grief. Thank you.

my own heart, with its permanent gaping hole, so full of love for these young men and women that I wasn’t sure which was causing the most pain, the emptiness or the fullness. And therein lies another paradox – that something so broken could contain so much. Sola Gratia. By grace alone.

Yesterday was hard. But yesterday we caught a glimpse of what it means to live love and live loved.

 We need to keep doing this. Our community and our world needs this. We need this.

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