My good friend, Bruce, died last month. He was my age, and I’m not that old. It was sudden and unexpected—a trauma that knocked us off the rails and left us in disorienting grief.
Bruce was the father of my son’s wife. We vacationed together, swapped favorite books, and told stories until late at night. We even golfed together, and I’m not a golfer. I miss him and am devastated by his passing My sorrow is incomparable to the great grief of my daughter-in-law.
Weeks before Bruce dropped dead of a massive heart attack, we were all giddy with the joyous announcement that the young married couple we share as children are expecting a child of their own. Our massive joy, at the news of the coming of the first grandchild for both families, was suddenly muted by our sudden tragedy.
We heard well-meaning comments at the funeral about the “circle of life,” and the “coming of a new generation with the passing of an old one.” These words rang hollow. There is no way to make bad-news good. The grief we feel cannot be mitigated by shallow platitudes.
Some describe life as a series of ups and downs. We ride a roller coaster up to mountaintop moments then plummet into dark valleys. Experience has revealed that life’s highs and lows are not always sequential; they often come at the same time.
My wife, who also doubles as one of my spiritual advisors, recently gave me an image for understanding the concurrent nature of hardships and blessings. “Sorrows and blessings,” she said, “can be seen as dual rails of a track that we are on. Our emotional experience does not have to be an either/or proposition.”
Just as no person should be expected to deny the reality of a significant loss, I am also convinced that nothing can diminish the delight of emerging new life that God gives. We can look for joy and truly experience it, even in sorrow. God has created us with the capacity for this simultaneous experience. Even during times of despair, we can lean on hope.