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Finding Light in the Dark and Lent

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I was up somewhat earlier on Sunday to let out the pups. Like many things these last few years, they’ve been stealing my sleep. I’ve been missing the early sunlight.

I was grateful to catch the rising sun peeking through the trees. It was a glorious stream of light.

Then I remembered the event of this weekend last year and another sunbeam.

I woke up on an uncomfortable couch in a hospital room overlooking the city I love. 

Then I looked over to the man I love even more than that city. 

He, too, was waking and smiling, when he saw the single beam of sunlight filling the room. Then he caught my eyes and smiled bigger. His smile was the light that filled the room. After our long night, I am confident he was also grateful for another day.  

It was an unexpected hospital stay after a nudge to get something checked that just seemed off. It turns out I do have good intuition and instincts. I am no stranger to these medical stories.

That morning, a stream of sunlight forced its way in between the shade and the window. It was enough to give light to the dark room and dark moment. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

Dawn

A new day was dawning.

It was a hard night with the din of beeps and monitors filling the room. We both had little sleep, with the medical team checking in all night. 

Hardly rest for the weary. 

These moments and memories feel both like yesterday and a lifetime ago.

Good rest is just as hard to come by these days. We were/are weary. Thank God, Lent is for the Weary.

But I have always loved seeing the rising and setting sun. These days, like Sunday, I am trying to make the most of my days. I’m always searching for light. So I still get up. It is a choice.

Many new days have come and gone since this weekend last year. 

Many hard days, too.

So much has happened and changed. 

So much to unpack and untangle, like the damaged and frayed hairs tangled in an unruly and unrelenting knot. 

Deep in my soul, I knew that hospital visit and why we landed there was just the beginning of complications rearing their ugly, tangled-haired head in the already ugly journey of brain cancer and stroke recovery. I know that is a lot to read. It was a lot to live through.

I didn’t yet know how much more we would endure from that moment on—until the day that changed everything for us—April 28—Jon’s birth into eternal life.

Still, there was light and many small miracles every day surrounding those last two months and every day since. I search for them every single day.

It takes a lot of work to see the light, hope, and glory of God through the distractions.

Sometimes, I whisper, plead, implore, “Jesus be near! Satan, get behind me.” as the enemy slithers in to lie, steal, cheat, distract, and tempt especially when we are in the desert.

No wonder we are marked with ashes at the beginning of Lent to remind us that we are mere dust; to it, we shall return, so we must “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”

It’s the life I chose to walk—The Resurrection Life. Jesus never promised it would be an easy path, but He promised never to leave us as we carried our cross. We must trust and look for the glimmers of light and hope as we rely on His grace and mercy.

With each passing day and another chapter written in this story last year, the truth became clearer—we are not made for this world—and only God knew the time we had left with Jon. Only God knows the time any of us have. 

If I have learned anything on this journey, life is precious, and heaven is our destination. AND the grief of losing a spouse is absolutely the worst.

I am not ready to run there just yet; I know God has work for me to do here to prepare me, and I want to serve, love, and give God glory as best I can wherever He calls me. But I can’t help but believe and know a huge piece of my heart already lives there in eternity—with Jon. It’s why this grief thing is so disorienting, and half of me feels so lost, untethered, and/or no longer here. But I continue to carry my cross—grief, losses and wounds. At the foot of the cross is where you will find me. 

“Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up the cross each day, and follow in my steps.”

Luke 9:23

God continues to illuminate many things throughout this journey. He keeps pointing me to the need for rest, peace, hope, and joy in this life. He reminds me that we often waste our time with distractions that cause us to lose peace and hope.

Light

He is the only source of light.

May we look for the moments that bring us joy, peace, hope and light when life seems quite dark, even when navigating devastating events like an unexpected diagnosis or a tragic loss. I am not asserting that joy, peace, and hope will eliminate the grief and complicated stuff. However, focusing our hearts and souls on truth, beauty, and goodness will help us to stay focused on God as we search for and maintain peace/joy/hope.

It is good to look for the light; we need something to help us navigate the dark. 

St. Francis of Assisi reminds us, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” 

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” 

St. FRancis of Assisi

I was grateful for the light that forced its way under the shade that woke me and greeted us with a new day in the hospital last year, and for the sun that greeted me early this past weekend. I am grateful for sunlight and new mercies.

I want to tell you all the ways God has shown me many single beams of light to cast away the shadows and how near He was as I walked through the most devastating yet sacred weeks of my life last year (during Lent and just beyond.) In time, as I unravel that tangled knot and with God’s invitation, I will share these stories, but it will take time. 

Grief and Lent

This journey of grief is an unpredictable life all its own, so for now, I am choosing to honor it as it rolls, crashes, or sneaks in. Pray for all of the grace and gentleness.

I am learning our body keeps score and knows things before we “know.” 

I couldn’t figure out why the last few days felt so off — not the least of which was the moment I was reminded by photos that this was the weekend we spent in the hospital last year. Trust me, our souls always know these significant dates long before we catch up and realize they are coming or are here.

I have also been grieving the loss of a dear friend’s mother; both mom and daughter have been woven into the fabric of my children’s lives for the last 18 years. This friend spent considerable time comforting and being there for my girls in the most tender ways, especially this past year. It makes sense that my heart is breaking all over again. They call this compounding grief.

I have been feeling unsettled that Lent falls earlier on the liturgical calendar this year. My mind is trying to make sense of it of the passing of time. Grief knows no bounds.

Jon’s last two months of life on Earth aligned and were tangled up in our favorite liturgical season of Lent

There is both beauty and heartbreak to the story of Lent and The Resurrection life. But death was never part of the plan. Our Lent felt very much like that last year, except the beautiful part is more complicated to explain. I sought the protection and mantle of a gentle Mother—Our Lady of Sorrows because she knows the story of suffering I was facing. Daily, I imagined sitting at the foot of the cross next to her and our Lord. I still do.

What a season to prepare my husband for a sacred walk to eternity. 

They were some of the most painful and exhausting days. 

They were some of the most holy and sacred days. 

It was holy ground.

The details will forever take my breath away—from a vision of our Blessed Mother, to the way a Blue Heron keeps landing in our story, to how God provided and sent us the most beautiful and treasured people who supported, nourished, and loved us (and still do unconditionally), to how so many details were woven together and fell into place during moments that only God could have designed. God knows my heart. He knows your heart, too.

Most importantly, He knew Jon’s heart and what he hoped and prayed for during those tender final days. Jon’s last weeks and days, surrounded by the gifts and graces of the holiest of Holy Weeks and days and a feast day of a Saint who meant so much to us, brought me many beams of light to comfort my pain. While death pierces our hearts, the beauty of these intricate details could only have come from God to bring comfort to us on this journey. 

I saw it then, but I see it more clearly now.

It’s the light in the darkest of days and hours. 

I see how I was holding on by a thread and giving all I had. Jon was, too. He was fighting less, surrendering more, and showing a most courageous heart, knowing and trusting how he would find healing even as my heart was being pierced like the heart of Our Lady of Sorrows.

There is no doubt Jon has received complete healing. He was made holy and whole. I prayed for complete healing. As a grieving spouse, I am both grateful and broken.

There is also no doubt both Jon and God often send me a single (or many) beam of light exactly when I need to be reminded it only takes a small amount of light for darkness to be extinguished. 

Today, as I write this, my phone opened to a video from this day in 2018. We were all singing in the car while on our way to ski. As everyone sang and danced in the car, I held the phone in selfie mode from the front passenger seat. This brilliant light was coming from the driver’s seat; I could hardly see the driver in the video. I knew it was Jon, but I was laughing, given the nature of this post—this memory sent me a few beams of light. The light was so bright it covered him. I watched longer and caught him singing on the video, and then he turned to me rather than to the camera and smiled the most adoring smile. Boy, do I miss that smile and this man.

With the grace and mercy of God and memories like this—our beams of sunlight—the kids and I are working together ever so gently to mourn, comprehend, restore, and re-assemble the shattered pieces of our lives since losing our beloved husband and father. 

I’m grateful we have entered the season of Lent. The past few years, my Lenten seasons have reminded me we, He continues to refine on this journey as we walk closer to Him and toward home. We all carry crosses we never expected, and they wear and wound our shoulders (and ankles) and also pierce our hearts.

Maybe you remember how Lent started and went for me in 2021 on Ash Wednesday when I sprained my ankle. And take note of the sun in the photo-sunlight. Nope I didn’t plan that!

St. Pope John Paul II reminds us, “Lent is a time to put life back in its proper place and remember two things about ourselves: we came from God, and we are journeying back to Him through the Resurrection.”

“Lent is a time to put life back in its proper place and remember two things about ourselves: we came from God, and we are journeying back to Him through the Resurrection.”

st. Pope John Paul II

While it felt confusing at first, I am grateful Lent comes sooner than the one-year mark of the most devastating day of my life. It may give my heart some time to catch up before we hit that first anniversary of the day that changed everything. That one-year mark is nothing I am looking forward to except to honor the day for what it is—the day Jon was healed and made holy and whole once again. I do not expect that will be “the day” I “heal,” move on, or check a big ‘ol box of grief. In fact, because of our humanity, it will take until we reach eternity for all losses like this to heal. 

Until then, I will search the skies, the windows, and the trees for the single smallest sunbeam of light, and I will approach this Lenten season with my heart wide open, prepared to welcome all the grace and mercy, forgiveness and cleansing, consolation despite the desolation, repentance, and renewal and abundant loving light God invites me to receive. 

May God’s light illuminate your day and your spirit bring you peace, hope and joy even with one beam of sunlight.

“Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way, we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism.”

Pope Benedict XVI.
The Landing
February 2024 Issue

One last thought…I have received so many wonderfully kind and humbling comments and messages from readers about the monthly newsletter, The Landing. I have been sending it out monthly since September. If you are subscribed to my email list you already receive this monthly newsletter sometime around the first weekend of the month. February came later, sorry, It includes essays, reflections (not found anywhere else,) guest blog posts, features on creatives and artists, free downloads, first looks on new shop products and sometimes info on pop-up shop events. If you are not subscribed, I invite you to do that now by clicking here or entering your email down below.

This will also be where I share about the upcoming podcast season release and the new weekly Love and Laughter Note called A Few Lovely Things. This will be a short weekly note on what I learned, what made me laugh or cry and what I loved, what inspired, encouraged, or was simply beautiful enough to share with others. My hope is this little love and laughter note will inspire and bless you too. We all need a dose of truth, beauty and goodness in our week, right?

Sign up below for the monthly Newsletter, The Landing, The new Love and Laughter Note: A Few Lovely Things and you will continue to receive recent blog posts as soon as they are published and other announcements including new shop drops, pop-up shop details and other fun stuff. I look forward to meeting you there.

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