Seven years have bumped and jostled along since our son’s suicide. Although grief occasionally changes clothes or dons various hats, it remains an unruly and unwelcome guest whose weighty presence still presses hard on my heart, still squeezes out tears to the point of overflow in awkward and unwanted moments. My recent reflections on how grief has changed and not changed (and changed me) over the past seven years were interrupted yesterday by a question.
The question is buried in the Biblical narrative of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem under the leadership of men like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel. Rebuilding anything from the rubble was a monumental task, made even more challenging by strong opposition from many sides. The small and tenuous steps towards reconstruction seemed inadequate – how would this ever result in anything that resembled the former glory of the temple before the Babylonians completely razed it?
Into this context, God inserts a question delivered through the prophet Zechariah: “Who despises the day of small things?”
We are not trying to rebuild an impressive temple, but we are attempting to rebuild life, knowing that it will never be as it once was. Life before our loss was as imperfect as it is now, but a missing loved one cannot be replaced, repaired, rebuilt.
This question stopped me because it gave me a new way living with grief.
Because we have just lived through seven years of days upon days of small things.
Rather than viewing all these small things – the sun rising each morning, food filling the table, rain replenishing dry ground, snowflakes sparkling in winter sun – as inconsequential in comparison to the magnitude of the loss or the longing for something that will never be again or never be at all, I am reminded that the small things are foundational to the ways that God is reshaping me and our family. In the story, the people rejoiced when the chief builder picked up his plumb line – a small tool and a small step in the face of the great task ahead. A small step in turning despair into joy.
It was a day of small things.
So I, too, am learning to pay attention to and find joy in the small things. The fact that grieving happens in a place of rubble rather than a finished edifice means that I have much to learn, and I can be grateful for the small beginnings that lead to greater hope and purpose and a deeper understanding of what God is building into my life.
So today I rejoice in lilies, planted after Justin’s memorial, that for seven years have brightened a corner of our backyard and my heart.
A small thing in the days of small things.