Before and After
The dust settles after a hit and run
Bewildered by the damage done
I don't know why we chose the roads we travel
Or how a life could get so unraveled
We live our lives from then until now
By the mercy received and the marks on our brow
To my heart I'll collect what the four winds will scatter
And frame my life into before and after
~ Carrie Newcomer's "Before and After"
For years I've been loving the words and music that have come as life-gifts from Carrie Newcomer. A Quaker, Hoosier, songwriter, poet Carrie weaves words of life and faith into the most beautiful songs. I can recommend her music for everyone. Words and melodies offered as a solid, life companion. Her music meets you where you are, in all of life’s circumstances abiding with you.
Before and after. Life has moments when the world shifts on its axis and eventually the dust settles. Events happen. Later when you slowly begin to get your bearings, it feels as though you’ve landed on another planet. You know when before and after moments happen because everything stops. Everything. Then you believe that you have stopped as well. But somehow, someway, for some unknown reason, you don't stop. You continue. Before and After. Your life is altered, shifted, moved from where it has always been to some new place. And what was is no more.
Living in times of unknowing is nothing you can prepare for. Or maybe you can. Living in times of not what I wished for is nothing you can comprehend or accept. Or maybe you can. Perhaps. Perhaps. [Editor’s note: This is not in any way meant to sugar-coat this time. I do not in any way pretend to be Mary Poppins with a carpetbag that holds the answer to everything. I am speaking from my experience, for my experience. I hope that these words also resonate with your story and experience] Perhaps your life has taught you, or is now teaching you that you can do hard things. Granted, there may not have ever been anything in your life as impossibly hard as this moment - losing your beloved, losing your home, losing your vocation, losing your dream. And even in the midst of this – all that you have grieved before has taught you well about holding on and letting go. Perhaps there is an echo that resonates from times before in your life. Whatever has happened isn’t what you wished for, but when the dust settles, perhaps you can see that other parts of your life continue. Without your understanding, parts continue.
There have been many who have lived in and through Before and After events. T. S. Eliot wrote, "What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” I know that for me, these words took many months to come into my heart. My head understood what he had written, but my spirit was so guarded that these words took much longer to enter in. A couple months after my Mom's death, I heard her voice as clear as when she was alive say, "time is different here." My head knew that of course, everything, including time) was different for me after her death. But still years later, my heart is leaning into the wisdom of her message.
Carrie's words speak to a story that is held within a greater story, to the notion of time that holds all of our moments as a whole. "Before" and "after" moments are marked in something more than this particular time, this particular event. There is a deep comfort in connecting with God's presence that has been, is now and will be. There is a life-bringing strength in seeing beyond this time. Kairos time, planting-a-seed-in-the-dark-earth time. There is a rootedness that comes with the hope of naming "this is not all that will be for my life." It will not always be like this. Shifts will come. Something will come next. This is not the end of my story.
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"Writing more often than not helps me find my way home." Lesley is an ordained minister in the UCC and co-parents two remarkable young men, John Brogan and Sam.