I always love the first snowfall of the season. The ones that follow, not so much; but there’s something magical and miraculous about the first snow that catches me unawares every time and leaves me mesmerized, unable to take my eyes from the falling snow and come away from the window. Maybe its because during snow’s absence I have forgotten any harshness or inconvenience she might have brought with her in winters past, but I have also forgotten the quiet serenity of her arrival, clothing all things autumn’s end left barren, in her soft, shimmering brilliance. She enters and she exits, leaving the familiar landscape totally transformed before my very eyes. This always takes me by surprise. Every year, I experience snow’s entrance as if for the very first time.
Today is that day for me. Fortunately, my classroom has large windows filling an entire wall, so I can keep one eye on the falling snow, the other on my students. I doubt they even notice my divided loyalty this day. The noisy chaos of the classroom is a sharp contrast to the quiet, peacefulness of the steadily falling snow filling the air and covering everything in sight. Today, snow covers me with her calming comfort as well, while I watch her at work, thus lessening the impact on me of the students’ less than peaceful behaviors.
But today is a difficult day for a different reason. Today is the fifth anniversary of my mom’s death. Did snow know? Did she show up today just for me? to soften the sharpness of a painful memory? to keep me company in my grief? Whatever the reason, I welcome her appearance today. Especially because Time hasn’t lived up to her hype. Isn’t one of her promises that she heals all wounds? Well, I beg to differ.
This is a commonly held belief about Time and her powers. “give it time”, we tell each other or “Time heals all”. Maybe Time is not as powerful as we think she is? Just maybe, time is powerless over the bonds of love and relationship that bind us to our loved ones. You see, each person we love occupies their very own space in our heart. When they are no longer here with us to occupy their space, there is a void, an empty space. And we cannot fill that space with another person. God made each of us unique, just as no two snowflakes are alike, so no two individuals are completely alike. We were all created in God’s image, but He calls us each by name and knows us for the one of a kind person that He, Himself made us to be.
Now, we can create new spaces in our hearts, if we are willing, to welcome new people into our lives. But we can’t expect them to fill one of the empty spaces we carry around with us. That would place an impossible burden on them, because one person cannot take the place of another to us. Each person deserves their very own space in our heart. We should be willing to grant them that. In the meantime, the longer we live, the more our hearts must be resembling swiss cheese, with all the empty spaces we accumulate as we go through life. Because loss of our loved ones is an inevitable part of life on this earth.
However, “we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do, who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) Yes, we grieve the loss of a loved one, but there is hope in our grief. And therein lies the difference that makes all the difference to us as we learn to live with our losses. It is the difference that hope makes in our lives. ” . . . In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, ” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) How do we walk wounded in this world with hearts full of holes? There is a paradox I think, with my ’empty spaces in the heart’ theory. You see, I don’t really believe they are empty spaces at all, that’s why someone else can’t fill them. They are already occupied. Just not physically occupied anymore. And we are physical beings. But we are also spiritual beings. One connection is gone but the other remains. So, our lost loved ones’ spaces are both empty and filled at the same time. An inescapable paradox of life. Time can’t sever what hope holds close. And our loved ones aren’t lost, Jesus knows exactly where they are, that’s part of our hope in the midst of our grief.
My memories of Mom fill her space and keep me company, even as I wish more memories could be made with her. I will have to be grateful and content with what I do have to look back on for comfort. Time cannot take my memories, (illness sometimes robs some of memory) but Time by herself will not empty her space in my heart. She does not have that power. Holidays are hard for those living with loss, but Hope is the Message of Christmas. Jesus was born after four hundred years of silence, hope for mankind had arrived. He came to heal our broken hearts and give us hope. The hope of eternal life.
Let us take comfort as we live with our losses. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
sincerely, Grace Day