Joy and Loss

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I’m on a cross-country flight for my godson’s wedding. It will be the first time seeing him since his father, my dear friend, died of cancer. Steve died during COVID making his death one of so many for which there was no memorial; a gathering for him further complicated by his having moved to Canada. When I hug Susie, his wife, it will be our first touch since she lost him. She wisely planned a brunch for old friends the day before the wedding so that she could give space to those first greetings since Steve died—a gift to all of us and to herself, to be sure. It was her attempt to untangle the joy of a wedding from the unfamiliarity of Steve’s absence.

But joy and loss cannot be untangled. I will think about Steve countless times during this wedding of his son, dear Caleb, who looks so much like him. While I am only predicting, I’m guessing that the day will go something like this…We will sing, think of Steve, pray, think of Steve, toast, think of Steve, cut cake, think of Steve, dance, think of Steve, and so on. Joy and loss tangled together.

I’ll remember how Steve and Susie laid their hands on our shoulders and prayed for Dan and me during our wedding 30 years ago this May. I’ll remember Steve asking me if my allergies were bothering me once when I was crying. I’ll remember Steve telling me that I was more valuable than what I could do when I was planning to miss an important event. I’ll remember the way Steve made going to get donuts into a Spanish verb—“Donarmos!” he’d announce, grin wide.

And I’ll remember being asked to be Caleb’s godmother, on a day we weren’t thinking any of us would be gone before his wedding.

God, I hate death. But I love weddings. It will be wonderful to witness this rite of passage for dear Caleb and I feel sure the wedding will buoy me. I will wonder at where he is in his young life…the adventures ahead for him. I’ll enjoy seeing the joviality of his friends, the special touches that will set this wedding apart from others. I’ll watch Caleb and his new wife—Natalie is her name—for the signs of how they connect. I will be grateful for the solid foundation of his loving family, however incomplete it may feel without Steve present.

As happy as the day will be, I’ll feel the sting of death. We all will. A wedding celebration shows how we stand in rebellion against death, insisting that life carry on. Although today I don’t feel much like a rebel. Today, I just miss Steve.

15 Comments

  1. Oh the heartache. Beautifully articulated though. Joy and loss bundled together in this journey we call life. Existing in a body this side of eternity sure does stink and sure has its beauty too. Much love

  2. Perfectly said.
    Thank you, Janice.
    Grieving and celebrating with you all.
    So disappointed I will miss this very special event.
    ~ Mo

  3. Janice, Thank you for this beautiful expression of the paradox of joy. I think in order to truly experience joy we have to have experienced loss, pain, suffering ir struggle. Joy rises and gives us our very breath. ❤️

  4. Very touching. I miss Steve too.

    And Caleb is a fun guy like his Dad.

    And Natalie seems really sweet, fun and intelligent. Oh, and she is beautiful.

  5. That’s beautiful Janice! So honest and real and we will always miss Steve. Enjoy celebrating with Caleb and Natalie! I got extended time with Caleb one summer in hawaii when he attended our Hawaiian immersion. He is such a beautiful combo of his parents!

  6. Thank you, Janice, for this poignant posting. I resonate with you in so many ways. I am reeling in shock at the news of a fourth death in a week of someone I care about, this one a neighbor. I am relishing the celebration of EASTER, death does not win!!

  7. Dear Janice,
    I got teary as I was reading your beautiful tribute to your friend Steve while celebrating young Caleb. Wishing you to feel fully immersed in the experience.

  8. My father died when I was 13, my grandmother was only 60 when she died and I was 21. She had been like a mother to me. Just three short months later my brother died in a fire, he was 18. Death them was a mortal enemy. The joy in this is the awareness of my immortality at such a young age is what drove me into Jesus’s arms. For me sorrow brought rejoicing, but can still bring tears in the rembering.

    May God give you joy in you sorrow,
    Gail Seward

  9. Well said, please give Susie a hug from me. Had a fun drop-in from Phoebe on her way up to the wedding. Peace and Donarmos!

  10. Rejoicing and grieving with the Colby Family in anticipation of this wonderful occasion. I relate and am struck by this incredible image of what our Savior must have experienced so often on Earth.
    The sting of sin is death, death has been conquered, and the longing is ever-present. Come Lord Jesus. Make us one.

  11. Janice,
    I love your writing and how you share your heart.
    I’ll be thinking of you and hope you celebrate the joy of your Godson’s wedding, and be gracious with yourself as you naturally feel the loss of your dear friend.
    ❤️ Lori

  12. Indeed joy and sadness do go together. There is no death without birth. So we need to remember in our dark times the joys we experience and that the best chocolate is always bittersweet. Loved your writing.

  13. So well written and I love how your stories about Steve brought him back to life in my mind and reminded me of my own memories of him. His humor mingled with his passion for Jesus was such a precious combination and I missed it after they moved away, but miss it more now. Hugs to you Janice and Dan❤️

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