What a month it has been. . . In the last 30 days I have flown on 2 airplanes, been in 1 wedding, attended a second wedding, eaten Chipotle during 2 wedding weekends, danced for at least 2 hours, hand-written 25+ pages (double-sided), talked on the phone for 33 hours, worked more hours that I want to count, welcomed 1 new baby into our community, and lost 1 friend to death.
Two weeks ago I experienced one of the hardest weeks of the year. In the span of seven days I was asked to resign as an editor over a difference of opinions, had to kill a suffering mouse with a rock, offered a listening ear to an upset friend, found out a different friend ended their life, and had to have a hard personal conversation with yet another friend. I called it the week from Hell, because so much of that week was shot through with death in one form or another, and that is the work of Hell.
But this past week was balm to my soul. I didn't work overtime. My sweet neighbour came over for dinner and a walk. My Scripture circle met under a double rainbow, sharing some things I've been chewing on this week—or more accurately, things that have been chewing on me. I wrote my heart out. I got to spend three precious hours with one of my best friends. A couple of friends and my family were so kind to pray for me and check in on me often. My sister sent me a box of sunshine. The friend who needed a listener sent me cheese, chocolate, and flowers in the form of a totally unexpected gift-card. The CEO of our company wrote me a kind note and gave me a gift-card for my ten year anniversary at work. And today, my boss got married.
Just like the Hell-week had redemptive moments and hours, this balm-week had its dark moments and its bitter tears. But there were so many good conversations in both weeks. So many walks and cups of tea and scudding clouds across the moon. There were invitations into sorrow and invitations into deep joy. There were things that scared me, but I did them. There were things that wounded me and others, but we are walking with one another into healing.
This evening, in the midst of deep joy and fun on the dance floor, without warning, familiar notes washed over the room. I've never seen so many people scatter for exits so quickly when there was no emergency. . . The DJ couldn't have known that playing "Don't Stop Believin" would be incredibly painful for nearly a dozen people. He couldn't have known that a few days ago we found out our friend, Mike, was dead. "Don't Stop Believin" was Mike's theme song. If I heard it blasted from the classroom once a summer, I heard it half a dozen times a summer. I like that song, but tonight it made me sad. Yet, in a way, it was like Mike was there in spirit. Like maybe he was dancing, too.
This week so many beautiful, good, kind, and joy-filled things happened. It doesn't fill the maw of Hell-week. No. In some ways, it stuffs goodness down the throat of the aching blackness and still overflows everywhere. And in some ways, that gaping emptiness of Hell-week carves a pit in the many of us it touched. The wound of death does not heal here, not fully. I will always bleed a little of my heart out for the friend I lost nearly two years ago. Our world will always bleed a little for the loss of Mike. Goodness doesn't fix the not good.
Sorrow and grief over many things still clench my heart and make me cry. But the kindness of family and friends also makes me cry. The deep gift of love, the deep joy of watching my friends get married makes me cry. I cried hearing my friends exchange their wedding vows and hearing their people toast them. And I cried tears of loss watching the father-daughter dance, because I want to get that experience and I don't know that I ever will. And simultaneously, I cried tears of anger and hurt that a person who might have given me that chance declined to even try. And I cried the achingly sweet tears that come when you hear grown men say "My life is what it is partly because of you, and I love you" to another man in front of a whole crowd of people.
Hell-week wasn't all bad. And balm-week wasn't all good. Even something so beautiful and deeply good as a wedding brought all kinds of mixed emotions—joy, pain, sweetness, grief, and hope... Hope of these friends birthing light in the darkness our world is falling into. And lest it all sounds like this hope or joy or kindness springs from my friends, it doesn't. Its source is God the Father, showering His deep affection on us (often through other people) where we are—whether that is a place of pain or gladness, or a mix of sorrow, joy, sadness, loss, hurt, and hope all co-mingled. And let's be honest, we're often an amalgamation of emotions, not feeling one at once, but many (even conflicting) emotions at once. That is the agony and the beauty of being human.
Grief makes me weep. Sorrow makes my heart bleed. But alongside these, kindness makes me cry.