The time from very late Tuesday the 22nd until the 31st was the shortest and best eight days of my life as we had a wondrous holiday with our little granddaughter, her parents and our youngest son here from Denver. I knew it would be a special Christmas, but was shocked to experience one of the most rare of things in my over intellectualized, overly anxious, and tending to the darker emotions, life. I was treated to the most joyous of surprises as to just how wonderful Christmas could be. I generally dislike surprises -- and often feel concerned even when they are pleasant ones, because I feel I must not have thought adequately to realize this good thing could happen!
Oh, I still managed to "what if" some -- grandpa did a lot of the most careful driving he has ever done, however, unlike falling in love, marriage, having kids, milestones in their life, etc, the wonder and magic of a perfect little granddaughter is such an unalloyed gift that reminds me that God may always have "just one more surprise" in his plans for his children. Even for those who are very much the least deserving of all, which would be me. There are a number of times over the past seven years where I wished that my life had ended earlier because of bad things happening. I was very wrong ... I would not have been around for those completely undeserved eight days!
One of the many highlights of the time was the Baptism of our granddaughter, and so the embedded "Borning Cry" which has become dear to me since becoming a Lutheran. Baptism is a completely undeserved gift, depending on none but Christ -- as is our life, made eternal through the gift of participating in God's Grace.
It was 2008 before I understood the Lutheran phrase used at death -- "They have left this Vale of Tears". Sudden younger death holds few advantages, but one is the likely avoidance of learning the impact of what that phrase means. Grandparents, aunts or uncles, pets, etc dying are an introduction to death, but they often fit into "the circle of life" -- the "proper order". "They had a good life" ... "they are at peace now", etc. Such phrases often bring comfort, but not always ...
Life is even more precious when the "vale of tears" has been experienced. When the rest of your family gets into the car to head to the cities to fly back to Denver with your wife driving, you realize how vulnerable we all are to losses that are all the worse in that they actually are VERY imaginable.
Some people like to claim that "religion is imaginary", that there is "no evidence for it". In order to reach that conclusion they must of course not consider how unlikely our existence is, historical evidence for things like the resurrection, etc, but lets just say, OK, it's "imaginary".
We KNOW that money is all dreamed up by man. Is that real? Capitalism? Communism? Human Rights? Which parts of your life experience DON'T aren't "in your head"?
Well, my best Christmas ever is now "all in my head". Will it remain the best that I ever experience? Will tragedy strike and I will again fall prey to wishing it was my last? Will it be my last? Such is the essence of our lives -- poignant, ironic, capricious, indefinite, ethereal, ineffable ... I'm not about to give up my best Christmas just because it is all in my head -- in fact, it is very very dear to me there -- like my Christianity. Sure, the fact that my best Christmas was very much "shared" and is in others heads as well is critical to it being "real" ... same with my Christianity. Same with money ... take a look at times in history when people lose their shared faith in it. Confederate currency anyone?
So now life goes on with that bittersweet hole in the heart, but also much gratitude to God for allowing me to live to experience that joy. We were able to take her up to see my 89 year old father and get a four generation picture -- considering he was 30 when I was born and I was 31 when my son was born, there is a lot of grace in evidence there!
Oh how my mom would have loved to hold her! Gods ways are not our ways. I pray that heaven will wait 100 years at least for that meeting -- but it will be a great one!
So "New Years Eve came, just the same" (like "The Grinch") ... and now 2016 has come. 2015 was a year that started in terrible tragedy for us, but from 6/14 on contained a lot of indescribable joy, and it now slips it's way into being all in our heads (and hearts).
In childhood, the feeling of "Christmas is over" (and at that time, the INTERMINABLE amount of time until next year!) was a hollow difficult feeling. My parents said "you will grow out of it!" ... and I did, but at the price of Christmas not being as magic and dear as it once was. I was too "grown up" for such childish feelings.
As my career moved along, there was a similar feeling in going back to work after the holiday break ... that left with the end of working. Then last year was the first year with no kids able to make it home -- a different sense of the holiday that made the loss of my mother touch my heart more as well. Last year was the Christmas of the missing.
Now I've come full circle for at least one year, to have not "grown out of it" after all! My soul feels that there is a major message of life there -- to know great joy is to know great sadness, there are no peaks without valleys. To enter Heaven we must be "as a little child" -- it seems that God is helping me understand what that means after all.