Today, my friend buried her daughter--the fourth parent of elementary-school aged children that I have known to be taken by cancer in the last three months. Smiling is not something that comes easily at the moment.
I never knew Ruth. I know her mother and her son, and my weeping is for them. In the same way, I never knew Chuck well, never spoke more than a few words to Cameron, and knew Kristen only through her multitude of relatives, some of whom I grew up with. But their children... Their children dance through my life. I see them all the time it seems. They dance and play around my own children; their story is the nightmare that I hope will never happen for my family. But, of course, they still have lives--beautiful lives--left to live.
And you see, sometimes I forget, especially when I'm teaching and all the preschoolers are acting up--sticking markers up their noses and swirling glue on the table--and I just automatically ask, "What would your mommy say if you did this at home?"
And the one slams his marker to the table. "I don't have a mommy anymore!"
Now I remember.
On days like these, giggles are impossible, smiling is torture, and standing upright takes force of will.
Sometimes, happiness is a sacrifice. It's a sacrifice of what we'd like to be doing, what we're really feeling, for the sake of those others who are also pressing on, who want us--need us--to support them as they keep walking forward.
Some days, moving forward seems unthinkable. I would rather wallow, thank you very much. And on these days, God gives me little snippets of His great love for us. At the beginning of Ruth's chemotherapy on this go around, God and the universe provided gum for Ruth Anne in the strange karma that love layers on our lives. That story is here if you want to read it. But yesterday, standing with my beautiful friend as she stood gazing on the lifeless body of her beloved baby, I discovered that Ruth had one pack of that gum left. It had lasted perfectly from beginning to end. She was not forgotten. Not at all. Never alone. Always remembered, cared for, held.
And so, as hard to see as it sometimes is, are we.
For this season, then, we bring a sacrifice of praise in the hope and the faith that there will come a day when it won't hurt anymore.