It’s the last day I have to face this year.
It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this.
I am reminded that on this day three years ago, 6 months into his cancer journey, my husband, living with an incurable disease, had an MRI on the last day of the year.
After a good stretch of clear scans, it was time to check in again.
We were still trying to wrap our minds around how this diagnosis continued to rock our world. It took Jon and me months to process everything we faced. I am still processing it.
We started to live with and accept our reality while still knowing every day was a gift. I was grateful to wake up and see his smiling face each new day.
It was always unsettling to have another scan; every scan left us holding our breath even as we held onto hope.
There were so many unknowns in his cancer journey. But isn’t that the truth about life—suffering? I know it was the truth about our lives long before cancer as we supported Sophia through her 10-year progressive hearing loss journey and many other complicated things we have faced.
It felt cruel it was New Year’s Eve. We were hardly up for celebrating anything. We were saying goodbye to the hardest year we had yet. But I had high hopes we would celebrate no changes in his scans.
It felt cruel that our last appointment in 2020 gave us news that the MRI showed changes when things remained stable until then. It was as if the year wanted to give us one more punch.
But we took the news from our ever-so-gentle and attentive doc and left our appointment stunned and silent and holding onto hope. There still was so much hope.
We didn’t want to celebrate the discouraging news, but we did want to celebrate making it through those first 6 months.
We did want to show our gratitude for the gifts, grace, mercy, and love that abounded through our journey of 2020.
We did want to put all that weighed on our hearts in God’s hands. We were facing so many unknowns.
So Jon and I remembered we had time to make it to the vigil mass of Solemnity of Mary, Mother God, on the eve of January 1.
What better place to thank God ahead of time and for the time we had been given and to lay our fears of the unknown than at the altar by celebrating the Eucharist.
I distinctly remember how cold and dark it felt in the church that night.
Maybe I was shivering because it was frigid.
Maybe I was trembling because I feared the worst.
But while the night and church felt dark, there were flickers of light and glimmers of hope.
While it would make sense that I would fall apart, it was in church that I found peace. I felt wrapped in a mother’s love and a supernatural peace as I prayed bold prayers.
My prayer went something like this… “If you are going to give us this cross, Lord, please show me how to get through, give me the strength to keep going. Please give us more time (He did). Please give us rest. I ask you, Jesus, please show me your face.”
I was on my knees most of the mass, and my cold hands were clasped tight, my arm looped through Jon’s.
We were clinging to life, the moment, God, and each other.
Before heading to receive communion, I finished my prayer as I inhaled the breath of life and the divine presence to gather myself and slowly exhale my worries as tears filled my eyes. There was so much worry. And so much hope
Then I look up…
I see His face looking back at me.
“Jesus Show me Your Face,” I whispered.
I brushed away the tears filling my eyes.
The stained glass windows were as dark as the night sky except for a small light illuminating Jesus’ face.
I wondered if I was imagining it.
The other images I mull over in that window were barely visible.
“OK, God. I see you. I see what you did there. You see my heart, you hear my prayers, and I see your face.”
I pull my arm from Jon’s and point to the dark images and the visible light shining through Jesus’s small face in the window above us. I tell Jon to look so he doesn’t miss it.
I asked if he saw it. He nodded and smiled. I tell him I’ll explain more later.
Of course, I grab my phone to capture the moment.
It is worth capturing, remembering, and sharing with you now.
It is a worthy moment and an answer to a prayer. A small prayer but an important one.
“Show me your face, God,” and a light from behind makes His face the only one I see among the faces of a window I have stared at many times before and many times since.
It is a constant reminder His face stood out for me; the slightest glimmer of light (and hope) was made known to me in my darkest hour. It still is.
Show Me Your Face, Jesus.
I have been asking God ever since to show me His face throughout this entire journey of cancer, caregiving, loss, and grief.
I could write an entire book about all the places where God has shown me His face along the way. Maybe I will; I am told I should write this one for Him.
He is a Good and Faithful Father who loves us and is with us on our journey to sanctification—growing closer to Him. He is with us in all of it. He wants to be face-to-face with us and draw us close to his heart.
I have been thinking a lot about age showing on my face.
I have been thinking about time and life as we end another year. It makes sense, considering my husband left this earth much too soon.
There wasn’t enough time in our worldly understanding.
I am a young widow in many ways; we still have kids to raise and launch as I watch them step into their futures without their dad by my side. It’s not natural to experience life this way.
If we learned anything in our cancer journey, it is that time is fleeting and precious. We only have control over how we choose to use that time.
As I battle the lies and narrative about our story, trying to understand who I am, my humanity and vanity taunt me as I look in the mirror most days. I cringe at the lines and age wearing on my face.
Grief is wearing on me, too; the lines that have gracefully and gently appeared seem more harsh, sharp, and stark lately. The circles under my eyes also speak volumes to the sleep I still owe my sleep.
Time and exhaustion are seeping into the lines as waves of grief lap upon my face. Grief won’t let me forget.
I think God is a bit more forgiving.
Age is catching up with me. Before now, age never mattered because I was always grateful to live another day. I still am.
But I hold a heavenly perspective more closely and confidently these days. We were never meant for this world and place where life is less about the moment. We often live in the past and worry about the future, neither of which matters to where we are standing in this very moment.
The present is where it matters most and where we can find peace and His presence. It’s where I most easily see His face. I often pray I see His face in others, too.
As I try to find myself in the mirror and in life’s new circumstances, I am learning to grasp a different perspective of the age on my face; I find myself sometimes turning away until I remember a quote from St. Iraneaus, “The Glory of God is Man fully alive.”
I still only see half of who I am or was, but I am working to transform my perspective on what my wrinkles say to me and others—may they be an example of living fully alive by giving God the Glory. May my face reflect an image of Jesus to others and to myself.
I remember my early morning “self-talk” of pity and exhaustion—May I be gentle with myself, too. May you be gentle with yourself too. God sees you.
It seems fitting I write this on the last day of the year. During the year where I lost half of myself, and where I spent the first part of the year caring for my husband and preparing him and our children for his end of life, and now as I search for how to move forward in this new year and life where he’ll never be.
He will never be in another new year with us. We just wanted more time.
A New Year
How do I step into the new year? Who am I called to be?
I ask God to show me His face in my reflection and those I meet.
As we think about all we leave behind from this year and what and who won’t greet this New Year with us, I thank God for showing me His face and guiding hand and, most importantly, His merciful and loving heart.
It’s the time of year when the world tells us to consider how to become the “best version of ourselves.” I may not feel like the best version of myself, nor do I embrace the new year’s resolutions for how to get there.
I am not working to become the best version of myself through the best cream, more exercise, better food, etc. Those are temporal.
I want something different, something better, something that transforms for the eternal.
As I look in the mirror and see all of the lines and dark circles, I ask God to show me His face in mine, show His face in the dark circles and dark places, in the lines that are writing a story on my face and in my heart and soul. I want Him to illuminate those dark places.
I want my reflection to show The Glory of God—Man fully alive.
You see, I am learning, as I did back on December 31, 2020, that if I focus less on my face and fears and more on His Face and Will, the peace will come. New mercies will come each day, too. I saw so many mercies and answered prayers in our journey.
As I look in the mirror every day, do I want to see my face or God’s looking back at me?
As we ring in a new year, a year with the hope of a future, even if the light only flickers a little, I am going to do my best to focus less on what I see wrong in my face and commit to noticing how I see God’s face looking back at me in mine.
Truth, beauty, good.
He’s there illuminating our way in the dark.
He is the only light in the dark.
My prayer for this new year is simple.
Jesus, please show me your face.
“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”Numbers 6: 24-26
May the Lord bless you and keep you
May He show His face to you in the New Year.
May He bring you His grace, mercy and peace.
As we enter a new year, one that Jon will never be in photos stamped with 2024, our hearts and souls and mind are trying to make sense of all of this. We are asking for prayers, grace, mercy, compassion, and understanding as we navigate these days. This holiday, birthday, anniversary season was harder than we could have expected and we are grateful we found moments of joy and glimmers of hope. I am extremely proud of these kids Jon and I raised and their beautiful and compassionate hearts. It is a gift to walk alongside them in these days. They are truly incredible people. If you know, you know.