Calendars are for marking days. We write down plans, appointments, birthdays and anniversaries so we don’t miss something important. There is a date on my calendar that has no marking yet glares at me as if written in neon – April 24th. Every year I dread flipping the page from March to April because I know that the date will be staring back at me. If I had my choice, I would remove it from my calendar in hopes that ignoring it would somehow take away its pain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The daunting day with all of its triggers arrives as scheduled. What then do I do with this day that is more than a date; a date that will bring tsunami force waves of grief and the consummate wrestling match of emotions? What do you even call the yearly recurrence of a date that twisted your fairytale life into a nightmare?
My quest continues for the best way to handle the day. I begin by praying long in advance. I ask those who mourn with me to pray. It seems to be best for our family to be away from home where the walls close in and painful memories echo through the rooms. This year we chose to go hiking at a nearby national park. The beauty of God’s creation embraced us under the canopy of trees and the sound of water running from fresh springs was a soothing melody. We stopped along a path to let the children enjoy a spring. I grabbed the camera, for one lesson I have learned from all of this is that you can never have too many pictures. I snapped a picture of the girls splashing in the water. What I thought would be just another picture turned out to be one of God’s little kisses. A sunbeam shone from the heaven into the pool of water by the girls. I hadn’t noticed it when I took the picture. How amazing that God would give us this beautiful vision of Taylor being with us on that day.
I am still groping for answers as to how to make the day part of the healing process rather than another tear in already wounded heart. My answers will likely look different than yours. That’s okay. While I engage in an emotional tug-of-war where fear, weariness, anger, anxiety, betrayal and confusion pull with vehemence against peace, assurance, and fortitude, I must let the hope of what I know be my anchor on the rope’s end. I know that God loves me. I know He is sovereign. I know that He has gone to prepare a place for me and He will come back and take me that I may also be where He is (John 14:3). I know that not only when that day comes will I see my Savior, but also my son. This hope which I intentionally seek gives me the strength to face a day that is reminder of the healing that is still taking place within me; of the contrast between what I am and what I seem.
Frederick Buechner in A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces says this, “The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”
Let the day be what it needs to be for your personal healing. Let others know what you need and want for the day. The journey to peace in this tragedy is far from over and anniversaries are one of the many hurdles along the course. The pain is real and it is deep because our love is real and deep. I didn’t write the story of this life. If I had, there would be no nightmare. I don’t understand it, but I trust the One who is the Author of Life. The One who holds time and seasons allows a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to tear and a time to mend – Ecc 3:1-8. That fateful date has forever changed who I am. I wrestle with the nightmare, but intentionally seek hope that will give me the strength for today and wisdom for the long road ahead.
God knows your pain,