If you know me well, you know that I hate to cry in public. It's just something I try to avoid. Consequently grieving in public is sometimes hard. One minute you're fine, then you bump into someone you haven't seen since the funeral, and...either they cry or you do. It's unavoidable.
I expected the holidays to be a bit of a challenge this year, with Robert gone, but I also knew that nothing would lift my spirits (and perhaps prevent the dreaded public tears) more than remembering my Savior and the gift of His birth, so I jumped right in. In fact, I almost couldn't wait to get going! I started setting nativities out. I did. And the Christmas music, I started that too. And it helped... I found great peace in arranging the nativity figures, thinking about Jesus' birth and all the while planning Christmas activities with grand kids.
But, I didn't want to skip Thanksgiving, in fact I wanted to be sure I gave thanks daily and focused on my blessings. I knew that would lift my spirits as well....and it did! I found joy in thinking of the many people in my life whom I loved and loved me. I found joy in small things and big things. All of this lifted my soul. I sailed right through Thanksgiving Day without too many tears. I was pleased..."I'm doing ok," I thought.
One of my favorite songs is Grateful by John Bucchino (I have a blog post about it), I found myself singing the song over and over in my head. I realize now that I never quite made it through the line about, "I feel a Hand holding my hand, it's not a hand you can see, but on the road to the Promised Land, that hand will shepherd me." I surely have felt the Shepherd's hand...and here I am, setting up sheep in nativity sets! The scriptures teach that giving thanks for all that we do have, even in difficult times, will bring us closer to our Heavenly Father. Maybe thats what happened, maybe the tender gratefulness opened my heart, I'm not sure, but i was not prepared for what happened on Sunday.
You know how little things sometimes pile up and conspire together? That was Sunday. For the first time since the funeral, I sat in church alone. The first Sunday back to church after Robert's passing, my oldest son brought his sweet family and joined me, knowing my first meeting alone would be hard. On that Sunday he was running late, though, so I went in and saved a seat...but as soon as the singing began I sent him a text saying, "This is harder than i thought". After that first Sunday, I found people to sit with...that helped. But on this Thanksgiving Sunday, most of my friends were out of town, so I sat by myself. No biggie...I've done it before, right? And then came the talks about gratitude. The sacred words of truth fell on my heart and opened my tear ducts...and..well...I cried through the whole meeting. I found it interesting that I could smile, be thankful and then cry because Robert was gone and I missed having him beside me to share it with. They weren't tears of sadness really, they were tears of grateful feelings. Gratitude so big, I felt like singing. I have been so blessed! I give thanks, and in the process discover more blessings! More blessings, more tears. More gratitude and a renewed desire to serve others, to share His Good News. More good feelings, More tears.
On the way home, the words of another Christmas carol crept into my thoughts.
"What shall we give to the Babe in the manger, what shall we offer the child in the stall? Incense and spices and gold we've got plenty, are these the gifts for the King of us all?
"What shall we give to the boy in the temple, what shall we offer the Man by the sea? Palms at his feet and hosannas uprising, are gifts for Him who will carry the Tree.
"What shall we give to the Lamb who was offered, rising the third day and shedding His love? Tears for his mercy we'll weep at the manger, bathing the infant come down from above."
I guess crying in Church isn't such a bad thing, after all.
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Monday, November 5, 2012
My grandma tied a string around her finger. A simple piece of twine in a nice little bow. I asked her what the bow on her finger was for and she said it was to remind her of something important she wanted to remember. I liked it. I didn’t really need to remember anything (I was 6), but I wanted a bow on my finger too, so she made one. It did remind me of something, though…that my grandma loved me and would do (almost) anything to make me happy.
My life is filled with reminders. Pictures remind me of good times and my beautiful family, of those here with me and those who’ve gone on to the next part of eternity. A beautiful wood bowl turned by my late husband reminds me of his love for nature, for his family and for me. He made gifts of some of his bowls to those who helped or served him. Those people now have symbols of his gratitude to them. We sometimes decorate our homes with symbols to remind us of things. We wear jewelry or clothing with symbols, as well. Heavenly Father loves symbols, too. Remember the rainbow? A symbol of His promise to Noah? There are symbols all around us, if we look for them. All of creation is a symbol to us of His love for us. The symbols around me strike a chord within me that helps me remember God and His love for me and to feel peace.
Sometimes I choose funny symbols. Shortly after Robert and I were married, I was with a group of women who were discussing, not in a mean way, just a gentle discussion of the things about their spouses that could become an irritation. One friend mentioned that her husband’s snoring had often driven her to another room at night. I smiled. Robert snored. It’s legendary (he would even admit to it!). You could hear him from other rooms (the nurses in the hospital kept his room door closed and they could still hear), so moving to a different room wouldn’t have made any difference. When the noise broke into my dreams at night, I would wake and think to myself, “Oh yes! I have an amazing husband who loves me very much and has answered every prayer in my heart!” Then I would smile and go back to sleep. The snoring never bothered me (police helicopters overhead of equal decibels, however, those bothered me). I said this aloud to my friends, who laughed and said, “You’re just a newlywed and ‘in love’”. That may have been true, but the snoring was a string around my finger to remind me of something beautiful and wonderful. How could I complain? It all depends on how you want to look at things.
"My life flows on in endless song, above earth's lamentation.
I catch the sweet, tho' far off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul; how can I keep from singing?"
There are sad things, hard things, that happen in life. We sometimes make symbols to help us remember those things, too. That same beautiful handmade wood bowl reminds me that Robert has moved into the next life. But because it also reminds me of his love and service, it doesn’t make me sad to look at it, rather, I feel blessed to share his journey and see his example. It inspires me. It really does depend on how you look at things, and so often that can be a choice (like the snoring?).
"What though my joys and comfort die; The Lord, my Savior, liveth!
And though the darkness gather 'round, Songs in the night He giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that refuge clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?"
I met a woman a few weeks ago who was widowed two years ago. The friend who introduced us commented that we could cry together. The woman lifted her left hand to display her wedding ring and said, "I miss my husband, but every time I look at this ring on my finger, I remember how much we loved each other and how happy we were together, and it makes me smile. How can I be sad when I've had a love most people never enjoy?" I agreed with her completely! But I had to add to her comment, "This life is just for a time, I will see my sweetheart again. That knowledge gives me real joy!"
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "With the bountiful blessings of our Heavenly Father, His generous plan of salvation, the supernal truths of the restored gospel, and the many beauties of this mortal journey, “have we not reason to rejoice?”
"I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin, I see the blue above it!
And day by day this pathway smooths since first I learned to love it.
The Peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing,
All things are mine since I am His; How can I keep from singing?"
Like the string around my grandmother's finger, I am surrounded by people and things that are daily reminders of God's love for me. I know He is real. How can I keep from singing?
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