written 1.25.19 - with present-day sharing at the end
I tried to look back on 2019 with joy, hope, confidence. Eventually, I let myself take stock of the losses. There was this crushing sense of loss attached to the year and I needed to list it out...
...beautifully, I could also list all I gained in the year. Though the losses felt more practical and tangible - there were so many invisible gains to be seen.
The Step of Surrender is the sermon I walked into this Sunday.
"Why is this so hard?" Three reasons: pain, fear, and pride.
Pain of losing. Pain of growth. It's painful to be lonely, to lose security, to be judged. The fear of a short-term pain robs us of long term gain.
Fear that God isn't truly good. Fear that He doesn't have our best interests in mind. Questioning His character and wisdom - "can I trust Him?"
Pride of thinking that we know best. Having control of the situation - of our lives. "You will know, so you won't need God to tell you."
"How do we learn?"
Obedience - when it is painful to obey. "You don't know how obedient children are until their parents ask them to do something they don't want to do." Even Jesus felt this but practiced and modeled a life of surrender. He still struggled. He still wept. But always, the eternal echo, "not my will, but Yours be done."
We can give room for our grief and take stock of what has been lost. We can question, beg, and weep before an everlasting Father who understands we can't see through the tears right now. We can let the thick fog of confusion settle into a somber, reverent lament.
God doesn't need our manufactured joy to prove that He is good, awesome, and writing the best story. He doesn't need us to be able to give a three-point testimony of how our grief was for our good. He's okay with us being messy. "Show the mess, my child."
In 2019 I said goodbye to college, my childhood home, geographic proximity to my parents and grandma, and - very unexpectedly - my cat, Oreo.
Everything else was to be expected - pangs of loss I could ward off with mental preparation or sufficiently distracting myself with the new things. But my cat.
We got Oreo as a kitten. He was the one who came right up to us in the shelter and wouldn't stop trying to play with us the whole time. We brought him home to our dog Brindy, and Oreo lived in my room for a few days until we introduced them. Brindy chased him all around the house - and once acquainted, licked his entire kitten body. They got along beautifully after that.
Oreo is the only cat I've known that will walk relaxed into a room full of strangers and find the best lap to sit on. When we would let him in from outside, he would give a meow of thanks. He would respond to his name and come running if you called for him.
When Brindy passed, he accepted our new dog Bear with a lot of grace. Oreo lived with me at UMBC (yes, illegally - sorry to my RAs) and provided comfort and companionship to me, my roommates, and his many adoring visitors.
Before he was lost, I got to spend a blissful ten days petting, sitting with, and being with him again.
I'm letting myself cry for him.
Having a cat at all is a luxury - having a cat as wonderful as Oreo was a gift that blessed the majority of my life so far. Losing him has felt like a nail in the coffin of my old life: childhood, comfort, home.
Yesterday, lives were taken in a helicopter crash, including the life of Kobe Bryant. Heartbreak surfaced on social media and rung in the lives of those he inspired. Grief, confusion, compassion, and a pause of shock.
For those who love. For those who look up to. For those who dare extend their hearts, expand their hearts to include something or someone outside of themselves. For those who care. For those unafraid to be affected. For those grieving.
Know that it's okay to feel the weight of what you're feeling. Know that some will share in that weight - that you don't need to carry it alone. That those who don't feel the pang of grief can still honor you in yours.
Writing again on 3.28.2020 - to continue this theme of sharing.
Something amazing? Oreo was found. Oreo was found! Oreo is ALIVE!
After months of being lost and, as you can see from my earlier writing, my accepting and grieving his death, my cat Oreo escaped death.
This is not an exaggeration.
He arrived at the shelter and was scanned for a microchip (which he has) but none was detected. He lived there, growing sicker without his prescribed food, until the shelter decided he should be put down. Before the procedure, they scanned one final time for a microchip AND FOUND IT.
He has been home with my parents, restored to regular weight and health, and as chatty a cat as ever.
But, my friends. We all know that the ideas of grief, loss, and surrender hang heavy these days. Events, connection with friends and family, and even losses of life are a very present reality. Our world is united beyond our previous understanding - groaning in a common lament - needing to lose and let go of much more than we ever could have expected.
My friend Rachel shared a meditation by Pope Francis (forgive my handwritten typo, omitting the "r" from his name). This quote stood out:
In the weight of losing - fear - grief - vulnerability - exposure - and surrender - may we see something new. May we learn something new. May we find our fullest satisfaction, and be ready to serve and offer hope, as the grip of grief may only tighten in the coming weeks.
I hope you can take stock of your losses and your gains
and believe that
With thanks and love,
- for those grieving the loss of their mobility
- for those grieving the loss of ceremonies and celebration
- for those grieving the end of a life. of lives.
- May we all hold each other. To quote Pope Francis' mediation again, to live in the reality that, "each of us in need of comforting the other."