A New Table Setting
The day I am writing this happens to be the four-year anniversary of my mom's passing. A few days ago, I realized I was thinking about her more than usual. I also couldn't figure out why I felt so blue.
I finally looked at the calendar at some point that day and began to think about the days leading up to her passing... where I was, what I said and did.
I thought about the last look that she gave me before she slipped into a coma the day before she died. She smiled at me with her eyes, just like she had done thousands of times throughout my life.
And then she was gone. Her body would follow the next day, but she was already gone--slipping away to another world right in front of me.
As I pondered all of these things once again, it occurred to me in a wave of guilt that I had actually forgotten what day it was. I was thinking about work, sermons, football practice, cooking dinner, preparing for a class I was going to teach...
"How could I forget?" I asked myself. I decided that I must be a terrible son. Only a terrible son would forget something like the day of his mother's death.
That destructive thought couldn't have been further from the truth.
I get the sense from the people that I speak to about things like this---issues of grief and loss, trauma and pain---that I'm not alone. Many of you reading this know exactly what I'm talking about.
The fact of the matter is, it's perfectly natural to experience feelings of guilt when we begin to heal from the pain of our losses, especially when the loss involves a loved one.
You see, my forgetting what day it was turned out to be one of the healthiest things that could have happened. It was a sign that even though the hole in my heart that my mom left will never be filled---I am learning to live with it, accept it as part of who I am.
The spaces created by your losses and griefs can never really be filled, and they shouldn't be.
What or who was lost was part of you, and always will be. But that doesn't mean that you can't discover new spaces in your heart for a new life, new expressions of joy, and defiant, glorious hope.
I heard this song by Ryan O'Neal the other day, and this bit of the lyrics really spoke to me:
The table is set
And all glasses are full
The pieces go missing
May we still feel whole
We'll build new traditions in place of the old
Cause life without revision will silence our souls.
The imagery this stanza lifts up is both beautiful and amazing. Imagine pulling out your tableware to set a table for a dinner party, but your table setting was plundered, and you're missing pieces.
Do you cancel the dinner? Of course not! You make do. You find new pieces to put out, and even though the table setting might look different than before, it's still a party.
We need these kinds of revisions or we cease to grow as human beings. These kinds of revisions, these moments of grace are signs and symbols of resurrection, restoration, and renewal.
May all your losses and all your grief be transformed by this good news today. Your table will never be the same without them, but you don't have to withdraw from living your life to the fullest because it is.
May this good word give you peace and the strength to discover joy in the new life that awaits you. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.