Christmas was quiet this year, mercifully, and the New Year was brought in with my dad's family at a small mountain lake in Tennessee we all convened upon. We had a great time playing and being together, but I am so glad to be home. I have had this feeling for some time that the season of my life where quiet came so easily may be drawing to a close in some way. I see now how God has crowded my private life, made my home the home of others and the stomping ground of my family, made "alone time" a commodity, when there was a time that it was a plentiful given. It has tested my patience and my grace, and I've failed many times. I'm thankful for a patient and faithful God.
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness..." -Exodus 34:6
Today is my second day back at work after nearly 2 weeks off. It's nice to be back, but it was nice to be off! I attended a memorial service of the beloved daughter of long-time FBC Charlotte members, a woman who had grown up in this very church. I did not know her, but my greatest friend Sarah Barnes grew up in FBC with Susan, so I went to the service, knowing how badly Sarah wanted to go, and couldn't due to distance. Hundreds descended upon the church to honor this woman, this wife, this mom, daughter, sister and friend, taken by cancer in her young family's Wonder Years. I entered the service not even knowing Susan Bailey Law, having never met her. I left the service loving her, and wanting to be more like her in the life I still have to live.
When I see grieving families, as I did today, it inspires me to look back over the last 4 years...3 months... and 3 days...and see how the journey has evolved, how it has changed me, changed us. I remember the days between Chad's death and his burial, the very season the Law family is currently in. For me, in many ways, it was almost a high. Everyone acknowledged our grief and the loss, told stories and shared about our beloved, honored him in all the ways I felt he deserved after such a trial and tragedy. It was just as I felt it should be...selfish, really, I suppose. Every day since then has been a further and further departure from those days. Time has marched on, and with it the broad assumption by circles of friends and acquaintances that with this ticking of the clock everything should be fine and back to normal. I even adhere to that to a degree. I don't want to have difficult conversations about Chad...only joyful ones. I don't like to see the tears...only the laughter. I save my personal tears for myself mostly, and dry them as quickly as possible. They don't come as often as they once did, but I don't believe that Chad would support my tears now. He wanted joy for us. I prefer joy as well, but have learned that true and appreciated joy comes on the other side of searing pain. It's true.
But, somehow, even though I savor life as normal, I want the world to continue to acknowledge Chad in the way they did those precious few days we took to honor his life. Even though the world would like me to get over it, I just never will. Don't want to. Because even though life has moved on and I find such joy and depth at every turn in my blessed life, I still miss my brother most days so much I almost can't breathe at moments, and live for the moment when my family is all together with Jesus...
I thought of that as I saw a young Jerel Law and his three gorgeous, but very small, children sit today and grieve publicly the loss of their beautiful wife and mother. I thought of how, in about 3 months, the loss would start to sink in...the first Christmas will be almost too painful to sit through, but so beautiful at the same time they won't dare look away, and savor every moment, every tear, every heartache to honor and remember her, to have her there...I thought how the second year would be the hardest...and by this point in my own grief I am convinced we will all make it and even thrive, still I'm not quite sure how it's done. Only God knows those miracles. I thought of all this today as I watched Jerel Law stand and honor his wife, his bride, so clearly cherished, who "made him want to be a better man." What a tribute. What more does any woman want than to inspire that very thing in a man, and to be a better woman for him? Jerel saw Christ in Susan, even until the end. It was what attracted him to her, and what held them all together in the shadow of death. Christ. Susan was, she is, the daughter of the King. Jesus was her first love, he said. Jerel came in second. He was cool with that...it was just as it ought to be.
I thought about how I can't even begin to understand the grief those children will bear for the rest of their lives, and how thankful I am for the mercy and wisdom of my God. I pray they will thrive not in spite of their tragedy, but because of it. Only God can do that...
I listened today as testimony after testimony was shared of Susan Bailey Law. "Beloved friend, beautiful spirit, loving mom, cherished wife, sparkling eyes, beautiful smile, goldy wisdom, made life fun, loved to laugh, unwavering in joy, never bitter, never questioning, steadfast in trust and faith, full of patience, grace, kindness, sweetness and goodness...always thinking of other, others, others, others...even in her own pain."
Just like Jesus.
When I left the service today, I wanted to be like Susan. But not Susan, I understood...Christ in her. We could all open our eyes to see, it isn't those people we love so dearly, admire so deeply, are attracted to and respect, it's the Jesus we see in them. Really and truly, we all just want more Jesus. The sparkle, the glow, the light shining from those whom His Spirit rests. Do you see the light in Susan's eyes?
I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. -John 8:12
Welcome home, Susan Bailey Law. Well done, good and faithful servant. I look forward to meeting you one day. Until then, tell him that I love him...and tell Him that I love Him...