The last year ended and the New Year began with lots of death. My sister’s father-in-law, my dear uncle, a parent from my children’s school, a parishioner, a neighbor, a friend’s relative, I’d run into someone every other day with news of losing someone in their lives. Then as a proud and pronounced non-participant in the news, whether it be via newspaper, radio, or internet – I just don’t go there – I started reading the newspaper headlines and tuning into NPR. An accidental fire, senseless shootings, more death. And as all this happens around us we are in the dead of winter, dark and grey, leafless and wet.
It’s enough to make people be grumpy, sad around the edges, pack up and go to Mexico, buy a sun lamp, question life’s purpose. Instead of adhering to any of the above, although Mexico does sound lovely and being sad around the edges makes people curious and ask questions, I’m going to do something different. As easy as it is to get sucked in, spiral down the drain, I must seek out signs of birth and hints of life, for they are within reach, not out of view, even if it means turning around and looking in an unexpected direction. Behind me in this coffee shop, where I sit and write, is a wall of art and a particular piece, alive with color, sparked with creativity reminds me I love art, reminds me I love this life, even with the pain and death in it. Outside I see a child smile, inside I hear a beautiful guitar solo spill out from the coffee shop speakers, and next to me teenagers laugh.
As President Obama stated in his address yesterday about the tragedy in Tucson Arizona, this past weekend, Our hearts are broken but our hearts have room for fullness.
I am quite aware of the necessary and inevitable nature of death. If the tree doesn’t lose its leaves there is no room for the blossoms in the spring. And this is where it is really hard, I can’t explain why some die tragically, suddenly and senselessly, but I know it happens too often.
What I can do is something different in the wake of death, I can look for signs of spring in the dead of winter. I can switch the dialogue in my head, I can reach out, I can try to live fully even when it seems bleak.
When I do that I can hear the birds sing as I walk home, even on this dark, wet day. I can see the love in my life and the beauty in this world, and I can feel the fullness in my heart and still have room for more.
by J.G. McGlothern