Wednesday’s Theme: Grief
Every year I have to remind myself that Advent's days are held not in winter but most all of them are held in the fall. Advent is held in nature’s season of holding on and letting go. Advent is seasoned when days grow shorter and nights grow darker. Advent is the time of cold returning and settling in. This past fall in Georgia has felt so much drearier than in previous years. It has felt like the trees sensed our Pandemic-days, and their colors haven’t seemed as bright as past falls have been. There have been some reds and some pretty impressive yellows, but this season has felt more like shades of brown. Some days it has seemed that even the trees were grieving.
Fall is a yearly teacher of letting go. Each year we are gifted with lessons taught leaf-by-leaf. When we are paying attention, we can observe some of life’s lessons being lived out as we watch the leaves falling. We can see them dropping from their branches – sometimes one-by-one, sometimes in a rush, sometimes as if time were standing still. It wasn’t that long ago that we looked out and saw full, green trees. On this chilly Georgia morning, my bones know that we have moved from one season to the next. Autumn invites us to look closer. Autumn invites us into the preciousness of particularity. Each leaf’s release can be a teacher. When we are paying attention, we are invited to witness letting go’s lessons.
Many of us are grieving this Advent. I would venture to say all of us are, but I don't want to put anything on anyone else that doesn’t feel true. For my family, this year has held a funeral in January for a husband/father/grandfather/brother/uncle. Many of us were in Illinois to be together. It has held another funeral for a husband/father/grandfather/uncle this past September that needed to be livestreamed on Facebook. Our family has missed both a high school and college graduation; we missed birthdays and so many other gatherings. 2020 has held and not held more than enough to break this writer's heart more than once.
The season of Advent will be one of our final guides as we navigate these last days of 2020. What will be our mile markers? What tools are we to be given to mark this journey? In Advent we are invited to wait and to watch. These are not “go to sleep and I'll wake you when it's all over” instructions. Instead, these words ask us to push on and push through. Advent’s waiting is the kind of waiting when it's all dark around you and you are praying that the sun will rise one more time. Advent's waiting is the time between the procedure at the doctor's office and the doctor's return phone call. Advent's waiting is the waiting that somehow feels like an eternity between a loved one's dying breaths. Advent’s waiting holds “not yet.” These are our guides for this November into December season.
Even on these colder, darker December days, there are a few leaves yet to fall. Fewer than back in October, that's for sure. I am trying to not miss these teachers around me. It matters to me to mark each moment. It matters to witness each moving from what had been life to what is to be next. And what will be next? “Not yet.” Holding on and letting go in these days invite us to keep paying attention. We are invited to wait and watch.
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"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.