{the road home}

February I went on a road trip with some of my best friends in the world. Our destination: a wedding. A very special one. We had everything planned out to the best of our abilities, but boy was it different than what we planned! The day before we embarked on our adventure, there was a school shooting. In Florida. Just a few hours from where I live. With that as the backdrop, we headed out. The A/C of my car decided to not work, so after picking up the third of four friends joining Cheryl and I on our epic road trip, I decided enough was enough and bought some freon to put in the car. Freshly gassed up and cooled off, we set off yet again. In the back of my mind hung the school shooting, and the frustration that there have been so many. And the horrible knowledge that for some people, their normal would no longer include someone they thought would always be there. And the small fear that one day, that could be me, living without someone I thought would just always be there. We spent the night where we were picking up our fourth and final friend, early the next morning, and cheerfully made our way to the church where the wedding was to be held. For the moment, I pushed thoughts of fear and sadness from my immediate consciousness so I could fully enjoy what I was about to witness–a covenant between two people and God. Two people who had a large impact on my life and who I admire and respect deeply. In their ceremony, they included a bit of Jewish tradition. One stood out to me in particular. Little did I know I would be holding onto it as it became my theme for the weekend. In many Jewish weddings, at the end of the ceremony, the groom will stomp on a glass while everyone yells out “Mazel Tov!!” and cheers. I learned the significance behind that tradition, which has stayed on my mind since; when the groom breaks the glass, it signifies that in the middle of great joy, there is pain, loss, and brokenness. No true happiness is without some sorrow. My thoughts briefly rested on those lives lost and forever changed. I pondered how true it was. The ceremony ended, and I was swept up in the busyness of the reception, which we had the honor of doing some things to help out with. We talked, we danced, we reunited with our camp family, (since it was the wedding of our assistant director and head counselor) we cleaned up, stayed out way too late, and finally collapsed into bed well after 1AM. The next day was somewhat slow and quiet. Cheryl and I spent most of the day visiting somewhere Althea wants to work at with her. We went back to the hotel and napped. I took Elisa to pick up some of her things from the newlyweds and got to see their adorable house, before heading back for a chill night in before leaving the next morning.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt off. I attributed it to the fact that I really didn’t want to say goodbye, again. But later, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a sense of all the things that would come through the rest of our journey home. Since it was Sunday morning, we were going to listen to a podcast sermon on our way home. Soon after we left the hotel, however, I received a text from my dad that changed the whole day for me. In just a few, simple words, he told me that a couple in our church who was expecting their second child, had lost him shortly after he was born. I did the only thing I could think of; clap a hand over my mouth in shock and pass my phone to my sister and Elisa. We exchanged looks of shock and sadness, trying to process what we had just read. Finally, Elisa managed to pray, and we cried. I can’t tell you what I was feeling in that moment. I am not particularly close to the couple that lost their baby, but still, my nephew was born just a little over a month before this little boy and everything was perfect. All I could think is how horrible, to not have that sweet newborn cuddling his momma and daddy. To have all his uncles and aunts aching to hold him and kiss his sweet little forehead. And I cried for the brother that I lost before he was born. Who died, and because he died, I’m alive. I don’t know if he can see me or hear me, but I asked him to look after that baby, who shared his name. I cried to God to hold them all in His hand, so they would know that He is there.

What can you really do when people in your social circles lose someone close to them?? I know there are articles listing the things that are and are not okay to say and do, but does that even help? The couple who I mentioned above have been handling this in a way I have never seen. They acknowledge their grief publicly, and encourage us around them to not be silent about it around them. They want to hold the babies. They want us to talk about their son. I’ve never seen that before, but it is good. It has bonded us together as a community.

Having heaven as a hope is probably the best thing when going through grief. Oh for that day when every pain, every tear is washed away! When families are reunited. When joy is complete. When we get to be with our God forever.

In the meantime though, there’s suffering and death. For those who have experienced death close to them, it stays close to them. Unlike the media, they don’t just forget and move on from it. But they aren’t the only ones who never forget, because–thankfully–we have a God who knows. He lost His son. He mourns for His lost creation. But He rejoices when we finally come to Him, and acknowledge there is hope for tomorrow! It truly is a wonderful thing.

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