Sunday, June 14, 2009

Unfathomed Mystery

It's funny - strange, really: grief. One of those mysteries of life we experience as human beings but never really understand.

This week I watched episodes from the show Roswell--not a series of great depth or insight in general, mostly just fluffy teen pulp with aliens thrown in for good measure. An entertaining diversion, but not much more. But there was an episode I saw in which one of the main characters died in an accident and the rest of them dealt with the loss. It was a very real hour of drama. Despite the random alien elements of the show, it took the time to focus on how death affects us as humans, how we grieve.

I've been grieving lately, that's no secret. My niece died in January and the loss has marked me forever. As I watched that episode this week, I shed a few tears for Keren. But here's where grief bewilders me: that recent loss was not at the forefront of my mind as I watched. Instead, I found myself once again grieving the loss of my friend Carrie Wolfe who died in 2003.

I got word of Carrie's death just after we'd finished celebrating my birthday a day early. The next morning, the day I turned 22, I awoke to the knowledge that my friend was gone. It was not the happiest birthday I've ever had.

In the Roswell episode, on the morning after the accident, one of the guys, Kyle, awakes to his typical morning routine but then, remembering, he crawls back into his bed. His dad comes in and, sitting next to him, says, "Not a very happy day, is it? I want to tell you something. It may not seem like much, but you need to know it: your friend died yesterday, not today. Have a happy birthday, son."

At those words, the loss of Carrie washed over me once more, and it was followed by a wave of relief. I'd never realized how closely I've connected Carrie's death and my birthday in my mind. With the words of a fictional character on a silly television show, God reached into my heart and set up a hedge of proper separation between the two events.

I lost a friend, and that loss is a thing to grieve, and the knowledge that Carrie is in heaven is a thing to rejoice over, and the anniversary of the day I was born is a thing to celebrate. But they are not one event. I can commemorate each, day after day. Though they fell together in time, here on this earth, God holds them each in His hands individually, having known since before the dawn of Creation that He would place both grief and happiness in my life and that they would become intermingled. But to give each event its own value, I cannot remember them as one. Instead, I should hold them separately, as precious memories in my heart.

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