A Day of Dichotomies

I’ve tried to write this post about a thousand times. Every time I read it, my words seem too weak, my sentences sound too trite, and I feel as if I haven’t made sense of anything. That is what I’m trying to do — make sense of a day that was filled with highs and lows. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe I’m not meant to make sense of it. But somehow I must get out what is churning inside and sort through the emotional highs and lows of the events that took place yesterday.

It started the night before, actually. The dichotomy of emotions. I had had an argument with my husband and felt hurt and irritated. He went to bed, and I got on Facebook to decompress for a little while. One of my friends suggested I take a warm bath and provided me with plenty of encouragment. It was just what I needed and I went to bed content and grateful for my dear friend’s presence in my life.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I checked my e-mail. The one that caught my eye was titled, “My Dad.” It was from my friend Michele. She said her dad had died that night and she was able to be with him in his dying moments. I have known Michele since I was 14. She is among one of my most loyal and closest friends. To hear that she had experienced such a loss broke my heart. Yet, I rejoiced because Michele’s prayer that she would be present when her dad died was answered as she wished. Later when she told me the story of her dad’s passing from this life into heaven, tears flowed down my cheeks at the beauty we experience even in the midst of some of the most painful circumstances.

This theme was driven home even more as the day unfolded. After I dropped the boys off at school, I had a delightful morning with my friend Heidi and her son, Will. We ate breakfast at a quaint cafe overlooking the downtown canal and continued catching up on each other’s lives as we headed down the steps from the restaurant to the canalwalk to enjoy the sunshine and let Will feed the ducks. I marveled at the simple things in life: the blue sky with wispy clouds floating overhead, the reflection of the trees on the water, the playful ducks gobbling Will’s leftover muffin, and conversation with a treasured friend.

When I left Heidi and Will, I headed to an appointment with my counselor. My mind turned to Michele and her loss and my heart ached at the thought of her saying goodbye to her father. By the time I walked into my counselor’s office, I felt unsettled again. My anxiety was heightened by the thought of our session. The last time we met, we had decided to address some painful issues I was facing. I dreaded the time, but knew in the end it would be beneficial.

I’m usually fairly engaged when I talk to my therapist. But the nature of the issues we were addressing had me feeling as if I would need to run to the bathroom to vomit at any moment. She noticed something was not quite right, that I was not fully present, and said, “I need to know where you are right now. I can tell you are not grounded.” That was an understatement. Between Michele’s dad’s death and the ramifications of the issues I was addressing, I felt like I had left my body. My arms hung limply by my side. My eyes fixed on the floor in front of me as if I were in a trance. And my breathing was so shallow I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me. I tried to stay the course. To listen well. To respond appropriately. But the pain felt like it might ignite inside of me and cause my entire body to erupt in flames. Thankfully God brought to mind my friend Scott. Earlier that day, I sat in a meeting with him and sensing my sadness, he reached over, gave me the biggest bear hug and told me I would be okay… about twenty times.

I wanted to believe that message, but when the  time with my counselor was over, I felt like a zombie. I didn’t want to go home so I wandered around some stores looking for a gift I could give to Michele. I found an I.U. blanket at Dick’s Sporting Goods and wrote a note to tell her the blanket was meant as reminder of her dad’s love, not just for the school he adored, but for his cherished daughter. I told her I hoped it would feel like the arms of God wrapping around her whenever she needed to feel his presence in her grief. It felt good to get outside of myself for a little while.

I was able to get outside myself even more when I got home. As I drove up to my street,  I noticed the usual crowd gathered on the front porch of an old apartment building close by. I was compelled to pray for them, and I asked God to show me how to be a good neighbor. About five minutes after I got home, the doorbell rang. It was a lady from the apartments. She wanted to know if I would buy some meat from her. Her doctor told her she needed to cut out red meat so she asked if I would buy it from her. I didn’t want the meat. It was still packaged, but it felt warm and the “use by” date read August 12. I bought it anyway. I’m not sure if that is how God intended me to help my neighbors but I was in no state to second guess. If anything, it would open the door to have a conversation with her later. So I handed her a $10 and she was on her way. It was such a short interaction and I may have ignored its significance completely had I not just prayed for this neighbor minutes before. In some strange way, it was a reminder that even in the painful circumstances I face right now in my own life, there are others around me who are also struggling. To ignore them would be to miss out on the gift of seeing God’s miracles revealed. When I turned to come inside, I felt a little more alive than I had an hour before, and again I was struck by the dichotomy of beauty from pain.

There’s a song I love called “Beauty from Pain” by Superchick. I will end with these lyrics which seem apropos for a day that was filled my heart with both sorrow and joy. I shared some of these

The lights go out all around me
One last candle to keep out the night
And then the darkness surrounds me
I know i’m alive but i feel like i’ve died
And all that’s left is to accept that it’s over
My dreams ran like sand through the fists that i made
I try to keep warm but i just grow colder
I feel like i’m slipping away

After all this has passed, i still will remain
After i’ve cried my last, there’ll be beauty from pain
Though it won’t be today,
Someday i’ll hope again
And there’ll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

My whole world is the pain inside me
The best i can do is just get through the day
When life before is only a memory
I’ll wonder why God lets me walk through this place
And though i can’t understand why this happened
I know that i will when i look back someday
And see how you’ve brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames

After all this has passed, i still will remain
After i’ve cried my last, there’ll be beauty from pain
Though it won’t be today,
Someday i’ll hope again
And there’ll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

Here i am, at the end of me
Tryin to hold to what i can’t see
I forgot how to hope
This night’s been so long
I cling to Your promise
There will be a dawn

After all this has passed, i still will remain
After i’ve cried my last, there’ll be beauty from pain
Though it won’t be today,
Someday i’ll hope again
And there’ll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

me sad

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