I awoke at 5:58 AM from a rather fitful sleep to the sound of my phone stirring. “You guys have a new grandson!!!!”. Yes, there were four exclamation marks. Soon after 7 AM, we were given the go ahead to come and meet him. I was like a runner out of the starting block.
As I walked across the porch, clad in my jammie pants, with the bright April sunshine streaming down, I thought of something I had heard Richard Rohr say in a talk earlier that week. He said that negativity imprints instantly, but positivity needs fifteen seconds of savouring to imprint. So, I savoured the walk across the porch in the morning sunlight, the screen door being pulled open, the climb up the back staircase, and then the gathering of the little big sister, beaming parents, grandparents, aunts, and attentive midwife all peering with wonder at the littlest person in the room.
The birth of a grandbaby – this tiny human who is born to your own child – is there anything more celebratory? We speculate who he looks like (his big sister), whether his hair will curl like his daddy’s and whether his eyes will be blue like his mommy’s. The village gathers to see and behold the miracle.
A day or two later, we were sitting with our family at church where a candle had been lit in memory of a close and dear friend who had died after a brief but brutal illness six months ago. After a lament was read, I fled to the solitude of a bathroom stall because I don’t cry pretty. How does a heart hold the elixir of joy and the dregs of grief all in the same cup?
Later in the morning, the birth of our little grandson was announced and cheered and my eyes welled again but with a different emotion. When his picture was shown, my heart swelled with a pride and a joy that was all life.
“Take part in the joy of those who are glad, and in the grief of those who are sorrowing” (Rom. 12:15), and sometimes the joy and grief bleed right into each other. There is no compartmentalizing, it seems, of our joys and our sorrows. Birth and death, both literally and symbolically, are bedfellows of living. Sometimes I don’t want to drink from that cup.
After dropping off the little big sister at school, I came back for a little snuggle with that precious wee laddie. Wrapped in his blanket, he slept with complete abandon as I cradled him close. I savoured his downy hair, his rounding cheeks, and his sweet breath.
Both joy and sorrow can cause an ache. Can I accept that unresolved ache and settle into taking part of both? Tip that cup back and drain it? Be fully present to joyache and griefache and live with heartache?
That same Sunday, our pastor talked about the resurrection being the start of something new, right now, here on earth where we live. I know that new and right work when I gaze at that infant that is part of me. But there is an incompleteness – a now and a not yet. I also know the not yet when a friend not meant to die, dies, and it is all wrong.
The now and the not yet. The yes and the no. And it is all in the cup.