When I was a child, I looked at snow. White as far as the eye could see. Cold as the thickest snowsuit could withstand. Icy as a sled’s runners' need to fly down a sloping yard into a ditch waiting at the bottom. Malleable enough to roll small orbs to throw as snowballs or to form our own version of a snowman complete with charcoal eyes and carrot nose.
I love snow. Until my family moved from the S.C. Upstate to the Lowcountry, I enjoyed at least one dusting or more during the winter months. When I realized that the Lowcountry provided no such delight, I was a child of despair. Winter would never be the same. Occasional snows over the past 51 years of my life as a Lowcountry lass have served to remind me of the joy, but they have never replaced the thrill of my early childhood memories.
Now that I am an adult, I realize that a weatherman had predicted a mixture of elements necessary to form my Upstate winter wonderland. He had detailed the conditions that would lead to a day away from school and endless frivolity in the fluffy white stuff that brought so much delight to my heart. After that, hot cocoa and marshmallows toasted in the fireplace brought a satisfying end to a day of cavorting in the cold.
“May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise” (Psalm 119:169-170 NSV).
There is no prediction of how a life of grief will unfold. While one can generally understand the process, its elements are not as easily forecast as those of a snowstorm. Mixtures of emotions assault the soul, most especially when unexpected. Because of that, there are those intimate moments of crying out when one feels lost and confused.
“Give me understanding.” That’s where the plea of grief generally ends. “Deliver me,” is where the petition for peace subsides. Those are not the ends of the psalmist’s entreaties.
“Give me understanding according to your word,” he writes, which compels me, the petitioner, to search the scriptures to understand grief according to God’s ways, not mine. “Deliver me according to your promise,” which requires that I study God’s promises and understand them from the perspective of eternity and not simply this day.
One of the processes of grief is facing all the “firsts” of the year following a loved one’s passing. I never imagined the “first” I experienced last Sunday. Catching me completely off guard, it nevertheless served to remind me that God’s promises and His word are, indeed, the underpinnings of a life of faith.
As the ushers began delivering the first elements of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, I felt the first teardrop swell up in my eyelid then slowly drip down my cheek. Another and another formed until I realized that I was unexpectedly experiencing a first. I was taking communion, celebrating the Lord’s Supper for the first time, without Thurston for the first time in 38 years. I allowed the tears to gather and stream even as my nose began to run. Tissues failed to stem the tide. My shoulders shook with each physical element and also with the spiritual elements that reminded me of two truths.
One. The Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus’ death and resurrection offer believers eternal life with him – God’s word. Two. The sadness I feel without him will end when I, too, join Thurston in the heavenly places, free of sorrow, tears and pain – God’s promise.
Until then, I trust that I will be able to live with the current forecast: a mixture.