Compensatory Graces

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(This is an excerpt from the book Sunset.)

I know not the future windings of the road her loss may yet take me to, but I must find a stopping place because the path of grieving does not bring one to the dearly desired destination in this mortal life. Only earth-ending time can do that. Yet time, I am learning, intensifies our desires. It is a magnifying glass that focuses love like light in one concentrated burning ray upon a single soul—my Laurie’s. It will be difficult to stop, for writing of Laurie has been a continued sharing of life and it feels a bit like losing her a second time, a certain thinning of my world. A wonderful Muslim friend of ours told me, “When we speak lovingly of those who have passed we lift them to higher and higher places in paradise.” This is my lifting.

May this somewhat scattered chronicle of my own thoughts and feelings, written down in a pocket notebook throughout the months of my wife’s and my encounter with cancer, her final passing, and its aftermath, help you with your own liftings. May it be a small permission for all to feel what they feel without wondering if they somehow lack faith or conviction or sufficient love—who question if what they are experiencing is normal, or healthy, or proper. I have been as open and honest and uncompromising with myself as I know how. Feeling is feeling, and for so many of us there arises that cry offered to Jesus two thousand years ago: “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). That is the voice of humanity.

“We mourn, Father; be with us in our mourning! Though thy scriptures so triumphantly ask, ‘O death where is thy sting?’ we know where to find it. We love, Father; help us in our loving. Teach us to walk the path that leads forward, into the arms of those we long for.”

To those who know what it is to lament a dear one’s passing—and ultimately that will be all of us who love—may that love be intensified, grounded on the bedrock of our deepest souls, and made holy by the separation. May you receive our Father’s compensatory graces. May your sunsets be bright with time’s remembered fullnesses. And during the dark hours, when the midnight thoughts turn in the mind, may the hope of an awaiting sunrise, on an eternal morning, light your hearts forever.

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