Ali's awesome hair for her dress rehearsal of the church Christmas musical…
… and from the front…
First time in a booster and first time rocking the straw!
One of the greatest and best pictures of all time…
Not to be outdone by this one… from mommy's company's "winter open house " (PC for Christmas Party)
Ironically, despite all those hilarious and uplifting pics, I'm writing about a heavy subject, but a subject that none of us escapes.
I want to start off with an AWESOME quote from Pastor Randy Hill from Healing Heart Ministries in Hunting Beach, CA. Pastor Hill and I worked the annual remembrance service for Fairhaven Memorial Park two weeks ago. I led christmas carols and accompanied a soloist on Silent Night, while Pastor Hill gave the sermon. Here is the quote:
"Great grief is not a sign of poor faith."
It was nestled into the middle of a paragraph of thoughts that Pastor Hill was sharing, and it just jumped out "in bold print" (aurally speaking) at me. I approached him afterward to make sure I got it right, because it was so profound. I know I have written about grief before, and I seems like a distant memory at this point, but unfortunately grief itself is not a distant memory.
Christmas remains bittersweet. Ali picked out a pair of fabulous socks to put in Bella's stocking today. Going into the baby aisle at the store and looking at the cute little girl socks and reaching up and picking the ones Ali wanted caused pangs of pain in my chest. There remains the duality of grief and joy, ever-present. Missing Bella and delighting in Ali and Julian - simultaneously.
I was greatly comforted by this quote. It reminded me that the game is not to try to use some strategy to avoid grief; grief is unavoidable. It reminded me that grief and faith don't necessarily have any relationship, direct or inverse. It ISN'T true that "the more faith you have, the less you'll grieve." And… It's also NOT true that "the more faith you have, the more you'll grieve." They're just not related at all.
I think people who think that they have faith and yet find themselves beset by grief may be confused by their own despair… like it's a sign of weakness in their faith armor or something. This is when the dreaded and useless "Shoulds" can kick in. Like, "I don't understand, I should be feeling better, after all (my loved one) is in a better place." or the flip side, "What's the matter with me? I shouldn't be so selfish and upset, (my loved one) is with God now."
Or worse, once the shock of the loss wears off, we may feel worse than when we initially found out about the loss. Then what do we do? Is our faith slipping?
Circling back to Pastor Hill and the event where we met… it was a free community event in this beautiful old church that is built as a miniature cathedral… like totally to scale, but maybe only fits a couple of hundred people. The service was offered over two nights, and both nights, the church was packed; packed with people who had lost a loved one and needed to mourn over the holidays. Fairhaven Memorial Park, being as awesome as they are, has filled this need for 17 straight years now, and I felt really privileged to minister to so many people that I would otherwise never intersect with.
They had a "roll call" where you could fill out a form about your loved one, and they would read their name and the small details about them… like a micro-ulogy, and a family member could come up and collect an ornament to hang on your Christmas tree at home in remembrance of that person. I thought it was so sweet. When I asked the lady about the forms, she said, "Would you like me to fill one out for you?" (She didn't realize I was working there) and I said, "Yes." I gave her Bella's info, and when she asked me what did I want her to be remembered for, I replied, "for inspiring the world."
During the role call, my job was to play gentle instrumental guitar in the background. They told me it would be about 15 minutes, so I prepared a 3 song medley that is roughly that long. As I was playing, I heard Bella's name called, and the man reading recited what I asked them to say. The tears came as I played my guitar…
… know what song number 3 in the medley is?
"Bella's Song" began as an instrumental piece, and for a long time, I played it that way to Bella while she was still in the womb, and it was only with Ang's encouragement that I finally set lyrics to it, with her and Ali's help. So, it was a bittersweet moment to be playing her song while we remembered her… none of the people there knew who she was, and none of them knew the song I was playing, but she and I knew what was happening. The event coordinator who hired me for the service was very sweet; when the service was over, she walked right up to me with an ornament stretched out in front of her and gave me a big old hug. I really appreciated that acknowledgement. She knew my story, and while she didn't recognize the song, she recognized a daddy who was missing his little girl. A lot.
Great grief is not a sign of poor faith.
It's a sign of deep love.
Wear your grief proudly. Feel it deeply. You've earned it. You've risked it all and loved.
For if you haven't loved, you haven't lived.
Merry Christmas and God night.