Rediscoveries of life’s good gifts in challenging seasons

The pain and loneliness of grief can provide a transformative season — if you allow it to

Over these past few months, I’ve developed something of a new morning routine.

I make coffee and head out for a short walk in my neighbourhood. I can’t tell you how much I love to do this. I have really rediscovered the uniqueness of the morning — the solitude, the peace, and just how luminous things look when the sun is shining. The air feels fresh, cool and clean and it’s just the perfect time to reflect and think about things.

It’s also a time to offer thanks for the day as well; and that’s another thing I have rediscovered over these past few months — that holding onto a sense of gratitude for the good things is essential to wholeness.

As many of you know, I lost my dear mom back in January. Life really hasn’t been the same since.

But even in the bleak moments when I’m plodding through the hardest of days, there are ‘treasures to be found’ in the darkness.

As mentioned, there is the gift of the morning.

Some days, I also drive out to the cemetery on the edge of the city and walk along a road that lines the back of the property.

Again, that ‘re-discovery’ of nature resurfaces time and again. From the freshly-mown grass to the trees to the beauty of the sunlit skies — it’s striking.

Both of my parents loved the outdoors, particularly the mountains, but our landscapes like these around Red Deer also brought them joy. Maybe that’s why I feel a ‘closeness’ to them when I’m in the middle of nature. It’s kind of miraculous, really.

As to my grief journey, I’ve continue to learn and take steps forward.

I’ve learned that there are no ‘little’ moments in life.

When I think of my mom, the memories that often touch me the deepest come from the simplest of times — short and spontaneous visits, drives in the nearby countryside or even a quick trip to the store.

Sometimes it was just watching a favourite program on TV together.

At the time, none of these things seemed overly momentous. But these days, I treasure the memories that spring from each and every one of them.

I smile when I think of mom at the grocery story in the cookie aisle, trying to decide on what kind most appealed to her on that particular day. I would wait and even get a bit impatient because busy stores on a Saturday just weren’t that appealing to me. But what I did love was the predictability of those outings; the ‘sameness’ of them.

Week after week we followed routines which I grew to appreciate and love. Now, they are happy pictures in my mind — images that I cherish.

I’m also of course continually struck by a parent’s love for their child.

I was thinking recently of the ‘safety’ I felt when I was around my mom, even as a grown adult. I think that’s because along with unconditional love, there was grace.

I knew that no matter what, mom was always ‘in my corner.’ That’s not to say she agreed with everything I did, but the support was always there.

I contrast that with what is sadly a pretty ‘graceless’ world.

Let’s face it — there are plenty of times we feel afraid of making mistakes or being transparent because we know there are a few people out there who won’t hesitate to point out the flaws they see to us and to others.

Maybe that’s why many of us live rather guarded lives. And why allowing vulnerability to seep into our hearts is such a foreign thing for many.

I’ve noticed how upset some people also get over the tiniest of things, and maybe part of that is a fear of the consequences — will people think less of me for my reactions to things?

I’m beyond grateful for parents who never dwelled on my shortcomings, but encouraged me to pick up the pieces in the bad times and move on. To me, they reflected the love of God, who I know cares about us with inexhaustible and unconditional love. I find comfort in knowing that.

Mom, there are days when I miss you so much I can hardly put it into words. I go for my quiet walks and imagine you by my side. I hear that voice that I had heard since I was a child, and that’s probably what I miss most about you. You were the first person I called with good news and bad. No question — your absence is almost tangible at times.

But I guess I’m learning to move forward, too.

I have certainly learned what matters most: my precious faith, my family, my friends, the healing nature of quietness, the power of prayer, and a renewed love for scripture and contemplation.

These are my foundations.

In some ways, they always have been, and they are all the more as I continue to walk this ever-changing road.

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