Image courtesy of Rebecca Webb Wilson, Hawkeye Nature Photography
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. —Psalm 126:6
My brother was a dreamer who lived by a set of rules known only to himself. So it was not that unusual for him to step into a busy street without really paying attention. When the car turned the corner and hit him head on, I can guess that John never even saw it. He was airlifted to a trauma unit and hooked to machines that kept him breathing for a few more hours.
A thoughtful nurse brought a chair so that I could sit beside him. Another delivered tissues and cups of coffee and kept asking if there was anything I needed. My brother, I was told, had suffered a head trauma and had never regained consciousness. Would I like to discuss organ donation?
After talking to other family members and signing the necessary papers, there was nothing more to do. I held his hand. I watched the jagged EKG lines and listened to the low beep of the heart monitor. The chaplain came and said a prayer. Finally I put my head on the pillow beside my brother’s swollen head and wept. It wasn’t just the abrupt ebbing of his life; there was also what I can only describe as a woeful yearning. His life had been so sad—please, God, may he finally be happy and at peace!
Those last hours were wrenching, but I can also say—years later—that I am profoundly grateful for having been there. My brother died surrounded by kind people who provided compassionate care—to him and to me. Furthermore, I believe, at least I hope, that on some level John was aware that he was not alone. Certainly I felt, in a way I never had before, a closeness to him even as he was leaving. How strange that our core experiences of sorrow and joy are so intimately connected. This is, for reasons I cannot fathom, the way of grief. Hearts shattered by loss are held together by strong and lovely threads of grace.
You may not be in any shape to see the grace right now. But the fact that you are reading this is evidence that something has sustained you thus far. Be patient. Wait. Tiny ribbons of joy are finding their way to you.
O God, bind the broken places in my heart with your graceful threads. Amen.