Every grief, I think, is different. With each death comes unique aches, depending on who you lost or how you lost them, depending on the history you had together or the future you didn’t have together.
But in one sense, every grief is the same. The anthem for anyone who has ever lost someone is, “We didn’t have enough time.” Whether that person was one or one hundred, we are never ready. It’s always too soon.
We lost Baby Mo when he’d been inside me just nine weeks. It was too soon. We didn’t have enough time.
The book of Ecclesiastes says there’s a time for everything, a season for everything.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.
I’ve always given intellectual assent to the idea that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. But I never thought our baby’s time to die would come before his time to be born.
If we had our way, Mo’s time to die would come after he’d lived a long, good life. It doesn’t seem right that his time to die came before he had a chance to blow bubbles or shoot baskets with his dad or give sloppy kisses to his mama.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about God’s timing, it’s that he has his own clock, his own calendar. Sometimes he’s slower than I’d like, and I’m stuck in the agony of waiting.
And sometimes the hourglass is up before I’ve even fully embraced the season.
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .
And so even though this isn’t what we would have chosen, now is a time to weep. It’s time to weep on a Wednesday afternoon, when the delivery guy grins and says, “Congratulations!” not knowing the flowers are here to mark Mo’s too-short life. It’s time to mourn when the baby books I’d put on hold arrive at the library, only to be returned, unopened. It’s time to grieve when the doctor’s office calls, reminding of my the prenatal appointment I forgot to cancel.
But now is also a time to laugh. It’s time to laugh when Daniel sings silly songs at the dinner table. It’s time to laugh when Graham dashes out of the bathroom, stark naked, before bath time. It’s time to dance with my boys in the kitchen, even though I have no rhythm and I’m supposed to be making dinner.
So maybe the truth about seasons is that it’s not one or the other—living or dying, weeping or laughing, mourning or dancing. Maybe life is an inextricable jumble of both.
And although we don’t get to choose whether it’s a time to weep or a time to laugh, maybe we do get to choose to embrace them both at once.
What I want to tell you is that these times are connected. Mourning and dancing are part of the same movement of grace. Somehow, in the midst of your tears, a gift of life is given. Somehow, in the midst of your mourning, the first steps of the dance take place. The cries that well up from your losses belong to your song of praise. Those who cannot grieve cannot be joyful.Henri Nouwen