Shadow of Grief, Arm of Joy

It’s been a very cold start to the week, a real taste of “deep winter.” Various extra bits of clothing litter the kitchen, holiday mail (happily) keeps trickling in, reminding us we now owe everyone a note of some sort and there is general confusion over everything due to the refrigerator dying. A 16 year veteran of a household of six (more or less) as kids came, left, came back, left again, it got us through our absence for Christmas and the last child’s extraction of wisdom teeth. As soon as that last ice pack was applied, the freezer, then the body, began to leak, warm, and clearly declare its work finished. Given the weather, it’s the perfect time to loose this appliance, but it has involved some dashing about with a thermometer checking on bins in the attic and coolers in the van. I’m not sure why it will take three weeks for our new choice to arrive, but since no one really buys ahead for a refrigerator, it is what it is.

Into all this came a delight in yesterday’s mail. For some years before my father died in 2006, he’d been the recipient of a class action suit involving one of his former companies and asbestos. He’d given clear testimony several times about his hands-on work in the 60s and 70s as an insulator. Suits were settled and fees were paid. When he passed away, my mother received these occasional checks. And when she died three years ago, I persuaded my brother that we should at least keep the option open. Why not?

Since then we’ve probably had 2 or 3 small payments come our way, and yesterday this happened again. When I saw the return address of the law firm I felt that sense of kindred family: here was Dad, reaching out! What a nice surprise! It was familiar and comforting to see his name in the memo line of the check. But when I read the issue date, it was more than that: the check was cut on my birthday last month.

I believe these are the moments when as the Good Book says, the veil is very thin. Through the shadow of grief, of which there is plenty to go around, there can come a real arm of joy. “They,” our dead loved ones, are not so distant! “We,” those left here a while longer, are not out of range! God in his mercy is alive and well despite what we see as the very real human condition. The painful parts of the situations around us are a truth, but not the final truth. They may lodge with us, but they don’t define us. They are not our final destiny.

On this “deep winter” day, this is more than just my hope and prayer. Somehow, but especially in moments like this, it’s my belief.

Thanks, Dad, for my birthday check, even across all this time and space! Miss you still, and love you.

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