...for those who are 'new' to reading my posts - here's a history: I started this blog as our wedding website. Instead of a site on The Knot (or whatever other site there is), I wanted a place that we could have to keep our family and friends updated on our new life together. So, prior to May 29, 2011 - this site had tabs about our wedding, hotels, registries, our awesome wedding party, the story of how Dan and I met - and posts about wedding prep. After, I wrote about our life together as newlyweds. Then, it became our 'homebase' for Dan's treatment. ...and for the last 3 years, where I have shared my journey through the valley of death...and into life. So, eventually, you'll see something new!
That said: let's spend some time here.
Words, phrases - those matter to me. (along with proper punctuation - for the love of God stop using apostrophes to pluralize a word!) (ahem, let's start over)
Words, phrases - those matter to me. They speak deeply to me.
How many of us have heard, "Oh it's better..." as a phrase to console. "Oh, it's better. Dan is in a better place. It's better for him to no longer suffer, to no longer be living in a body that fights itself."
a) No. That's not helping. because - How can it be better for us to be separated by death?
b) I know that God desires for us (aka all people) to be in relationship. He created us for relationship: first with Him, then with each other. I know that God cherishes relationships - and has graced our marriages as a Sacrament - to be a revelation of His Son to the world. ...so, how could that (our relationship ended by death) be better? How could it be better that this revelation be destroyed by death?
And so, I reasoned that if God allowed this - then, He intended to redeem it. Specifically, I believed - trusted - that He could make good come out of this tragedy. That He could call from light from the darkness of this veil of death - that joy could emerge from the mourning.
Take those words into the frame of our marriage - our covenant of oneness - what was better for one of us, must be better for both of us. This 'better' must be reciprocal by reason. If Dan's death led to resurrection for him - and that IS better, I wholeheartedly concur - then, surely, there must also be resurrection for me.
This is the truth that I clung to as I began the journey of walking through the valley of death. The death of our spouse isn't the end - but the beginning. The valley is where we do the hard work of grieving. God's shadow protects us as we fumble forward - feeling our way toward life - and resurrection.
As I visited Dan on Memorial Day, I had a little conversation with him:
You know, I think the real work of our Sacrament didn't come until you died. It took that release of the flesh to allow me to fully trust you. ...and, it took the release of the flesh for you to fully, unselfishly love - and for me to respond and receive.
I suppose that's true for all of us. While we are in these bodies, we can never be fully free from selfish ambition or vanity - though we can certainly strive for it. We learn to - sometimes, slowly - sometimes painfully - but, we learn to put the other's needs above ours. We learn to listen. We learn to value the other's voice. presence. help.
Our whole life leading up to marriage is an exercise in, "I can do it myself." (say it in your best toddler voice) We are taught to rely on self...so much so that even God can become an afterthought if we construct our world carefully enough.
This was me. I did this, Dan.
...yes, you did, too. You did, too.
Our journey toward holiness was learning this together.
Our journey toward completion was learning this, even in death.
Finding myself separated from you by death, I looked to you for a guidance - in a way I hadn't in life. I had relied on - and relished - your presence, though I also relied on myself.
Finding myself without you, I learned to listen for you. I allowed you to be what you wanted to be -
...the light to help see me through,
...to heal the hurt till the hurt is gone...
...and you consistently led me to Jesus.
...everything I had wanted you to do - to be - in life, you have done in death.
...and I guess, that's how I know resurrection is real.
...because somehow,* you are alive and guiding me - though you died.
When I listen,
when I quiet myself
and when I ask: I know.
I know you're...here.
Still trying to get me to dry my tears and not take life so seriously - to just relax, Jessica.
God is far better - far bigger - than we can even grasp.
This morning, while looking through one of our wedding albums, I was reminded of one of our wedding readings.
1 John 4:7 - 12
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.
*No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
A Sacrament is the revelation of God to the individual and to the world. First, the invisible, almighty, overarching God revealed through Jesus. Not only was God revealed to us through Jesus, but through Jesus, in Jesus, God became accessible to us. We had access suddenly to the Almighty, Ever-living, Everlasting God. Through the Holy Spirit and the reception of Sacraments, not only is God revealed to us, we now become a revelation of God to the world.
This is mind-blowing. And how does St. John instruct us to reveal God? Through love. By loving, we are brought to perfection.
You guys, we are imperfect. We love each other imperfectly. On our best days, we still end up rubbing against each other. My image is that our spouse is like sandpaper for us: smoothing the rough edges - perfecting us through love. But it hurts! But it is worth it - to be smoothed out into our best self.
My friends, if you are in the thick of it - where marriage is hard - where your spouse is grating on you - where you feel like at every turn you are coming up short: stay the course. Lean into the Holy Spirit right now and ask for the grace to be LOVE revealed to each other. Marriage is a beautiful, powerful thing - and precisely because of that, it can be hard.
Receive - don't resist. Yield - don't shield. If you learn to journey toward life together - Love will you bring you to perfection.
Happy anniversary. DK Forever.