When Pain and Joy Co-Exist



I almost wrote out an invitation, addressing it to my brother.

It happened in a fraction of a second. Sitting at my dining room table, I was scribing invitations for my son’s graduation party. It’s a celebratory moment in his life, another first and last, all wrapped up in one event. He had worked hard to graduate early, and he overcame statistical odds that his past experiences had pronounced over him. My heart swelled with pride.


I was going over the list in my head, mainly of our immediate family.

Grandparents.

Aunts and Uncles. My sister. And my brother.

But wait. Not for my brother. Never again for my brother. Remembering the bitterness of this, it crashed over me like a wave of fresh sadness.


It has been 6 months since I received that unwanted phone call. Sobbing on the other end, my sister shared news of his sudden passing. It's not like he and I got to see each other that much in our adult lives. We lived a decent driving distance from each other. We both worked a lot and had full schedules. It seemed the busyness of life got in the way of my best intentions.


Now I find myself left with an aching realization. The option of spending time with my brother has now been removed. There will be no more Christmas’s. No more moments where we laugh at the same thing like it seemed we always did. There are only memories now.


Time marches on. The sun still rises. The heat of summer returns to us once again. Babies enter this vast world. People still send kids off to school.

Still rush in traffic.

Still punch a clock.

And my brother's nephew still graduates.

Time marches on for the living, as it should, even if the pain we experience individually tries to demand that it stop. It has to march on. Time cannot stop, for it carries the living. It beholds the beauty all around.


Yes, grief and celebratory, joyous moments do indeed co-exist. They must. Joy would be foreign had I not been acquainted with pain. And grief would be unbearable if I never knew joy. Sorrow and joy link arms. They ebb and flow and make room for each other. They don’t cancel each other out. They nod in proper respect to each other, a united front in this life thing.


The pain is proof of the love my brother and I shared, and so I’ll welcome it. And in a few weeks, we will celebrate the graduation of this middle child of ours. I will fully embrace that too, even though there will be an empty seat at the table. I know it is entirely possible to feel happy and sad while still moving forward, carrying both emotions with me. And I know that it's much better to love and to lose than to forfeit the loving part, altogether.


FOR FURTHER THOUGHT

It doesn't take a whole lot of living to learn the painful life lesson that things are not as they should be. Actually, they haven't been since the fall of humanity in the beginning of Genesis. Since that moment in time, pain, brokenness, death, and decay have entered our narrative as human beings.


But the story doesn't end there. In Revelation 22:1-5 (NIV), we are given the promise of Eden being restored. "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."


It's my reminder that no matter how dark life feels, or how heavy grief is to carry, it's not the end of the story. The Lord of Light will brighten my dark days of grief with the light of His love and hope.


PRAYER

Father, I thank you for the time I had with my brother, for gifting me with his life and love. Thank you for entering the human story through Jesus, who fully understands the pain and loss we experience. Who advocates for us before our pain feels too heavy and too complicated for words. Amen.


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