Deep Joy, Deep Sorrow

ornaments

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”                                                                                                                      -Kahlil Gibran

We are getting ready to celebrate our first Christmas without our oldest son, who died in June. We went to Huber Farms to cut down our tree the day after Thanksgiving, just like we do every year. But then, for the past three weeks, it sat in a bucket of water leaning up against the garage. We can say various life events kept conspiring against us to keep us from getting it up and decorated. And to certain extent that is true. But it’s also true that both my husband and I have been dreading facing our first Christmas without Tyson. Somehow, not decorating for Christmas was keeping it at bay. It kept us from having to deal with questions like, “Do we hang his stocking?” How do you walk that line between acknowledging his death but not erasing his existence? And how do you embrace the joy of the season when struggling with such questions fills you with such deep sorrow?

And so the tree continued to sit in the bucket, and we continued on through the season. Even as my heart has been heavy with the deep sorrow of Tyson’s absence, there have also been some special joys in these past three weeks: celebrating our oldest daughter’s graduation from college and spending time with Tyson’s birth family.

Watching Grace walk across that stage when she graduated, I was hit simultaneously with the deep sorrow that we won’t have such a day with Tyson, and deep joy that we were getting to share in that day with Grace. The sorrow and the joy really couldn’t be separated.

And the same has been true when we spend time with Tyson’s birth family. It was such a joy to have them come and attend a Louisville women’s basketball game with us – one of Tyson’s favorite family activities. Sharing that experience with them made his absence more poignant, but at the same time filled me with a deep sense of joy. When we are together I miss him more, but it hurts a little less. That which has given me sorrow is giving me joy and that for which I weep has been my delight.

As they prepared to head back home after the basketball game and dinner, we exchanged gifts. We gave Lorrie the ornament in the picture on the left, while also getting one exactly like it for ourselves. Lorrie gave us the ornament on the right, and has one exactly like it for herself. And somehow that was just perfect.

The next day we finally decorated the tree. Those were the first two ornaments we hung. The presence of these two ornaments, representing two families who loved one son and now love each other are helping me to hold the joy and the sorrow together in this season. If you are struggling this season I hope you find a way to do so as well.

Merry Christmas.

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