I found myself despairing and wondering how on earth I was going to get through the next several weeks. Compared to Christmas, getting through Thanksgiving was easy. Thanksgiving is just one day in that it doesn't have a countdown of days like Christmas, nor does it hold the same excitement or build-up for people that Christmas does. We muddled through Thanksgiving mainly because we were able to share the day with another family who is experiencing a tremendously difficult situation. We didn't need to hide our pain from one another or pretend to be o.k. We understood that the holiday was exceptionally difficult for both of our families.
Having survived Thanksgiving, there was barely room to breathe before the onslaught of Christmas. By Sunday, the radio stations were in full swing playing Christmas music. I remembered it being excruciating to hear last year. While it's not as painful this year, I'm still not ready to be inundated by the 24 hour merriment of holiday songs. Thankfully, I am prepared with several CD's in the van, ones I burned with my favorite "grief" songs over the past two years.
As the rest of the family got ready for church on Sunday, I dragged behind. Grief had already wrapped his cold, bony fingers around my bloodshot eyes and had whispered, "Despair!" enough times to make me want to forget about going altogether. However, I knew it was better to stay out of the pit to begin with than to climb out of it later. I told the rest of my family to go ahead without me and that I would drive separately and be there shortly. I finished getting ready and wandered into the dining room. I stood looking out the window at the bird feeders. There were no birds in sight, and the trees in the back yard looked desolate. I silently prayed to God, asking Him to help me make it through the day. I told Him how I felt and asked Him to show me hope, to remind me that the veil between Heaven and earth is thin. I wanted to see a cardinal. It had been so long since I'd seen one. The first year Matt was gone, we saw a cardinal every single day. The second year, it became a little less. Recently, it's only been every once in a while, and just the kids have seen it. I didn't need to see one, but I desperately wanted to see one, and I told God that.
The bird feeder remained empty, though, and I then left the room to put on my coat. As I finished getting it on, I turned one last time to look out the dining room window. There, at the feeder, was a cardinal. It hopped and turned my direction, then cocked it's head as if to say, "Matt is near." I cried. I cried at God's goodness, at His answer to my prayer. He doesn't always give us what we want, and He doesn't have to. He is God, and I am not. Seeing the cardinal, however, was as if He tenderly reminded me that He hears. He hears my hurting heart and gives me His presence.
I realized right then that I wouldn't have to muddle through the next three weeks. Instead, I would have to appropriate the grace God gives. And the grace He gives is for the moment. I will stop running ahead with the future and trust Him with now. I will remember how He has been good to me and fix my eyes on the hope He has promised.
The Birds in the Trees
by Angie Cherney
I saw the branches of the trees.
Brown they were, without leaves.
They appeared lifeless and cold.
So much like me, and old.
I asked God for a red bird so fair,
Then flew one swiftly in the air!
The birds in the trees so bare
I did not see them, though there.
Hidden treasures for me,