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Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Birthday

Today would have been beloved Claire's 38th birthday. I had breakfast with two friends this morning and we remembered her. It is hard to believe she has been gone since August 2010.

Markers like this are bittersweet at best; to stop and take time to recall the special qualities of someone who is now gone is very dear... but it is also jarring to realize how life has plowed forward all too easily without them. In losing Claire I have experienced a very strange tension: I was (and sometimes still am) angry that we could not put all of life on "pause" and refuse to continue without her. At the same time, it was often a great relief that I had the new things of life to distract me from that unnameable ache.

Grief, after the initial shock and awe of the loss, settles into a strange stereo existence. On one speaker is the (usually) louder ups and downs, joys and challenges of everyday life. Yet humming steadily in the background is a quiet tune that increases in volume at the strangest times -- a visual reminder, a song, a conversation or a particular person can turn my attention from the present concerns onto memories and sadness.

It is a curious thing... Sometimes I have lovely, wonderful, fulfilling experiences or opportunities, and am so grateful for them. They are almost too good to be true, and I cannot believe I have the privilege of doing them. But what do I still wish for? To get to share them with Claire, to see the laughter and delight on her face as I tell the tale. I look forward to those times, but also miss them.

The photo here is of our last conversation... I was heading out for vacation, to take my niece and nephew camping, and stopped by to say goodbye. Those goodbyes were especially poignant because there had been several close calls in the few years preceding them, and at first I did not have the courage to say all I wanted to say... Yet after one especially horrible moment where we almost lost her, I decided to never miss another chance. Over and over I would say all the things that were felt and known, and learned a profound lesson in the process. Thank you Claire.

This morning as I rode my bike back from breakfast and memories of Claire, my iTunes mix brought up this song by Sara Groves called The Long Defeat:

I have joined the long defeat
that falling set in motion
and all my strength and energy
are raindrops in the ocean

so conditioned for the win
to share in victor's stories
but in the place of ambition's din
I have heard of other glories

and I pray for an idea
and a way i cannot see
it's too heavy to carry
and impossible to leave

I can't just fight when I think I'll win
that's the end of all belief
and nothing has provoked it more
than a possible defeat

we walk a while we sit and rest
we lay it on the altar
I won't pretend to know what's next
but what I have I've offered

and I pray for a vision
and a way I cannot see
it's too heavy to carry
and impossible to leave

and I pray for inspiration
and a way I cannot see
it's too heavy to carry
and impossible to leave
it's too heavy to carry
and I will never leave

There are many references I could give here as to what "the long defeat" means, but if you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, you know what it is talking about. At one point I heard an interview by Ms. Groves, where she talked about being inspired to write the song out of learning about the work of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health in Haiti: the whole concept of "losing" a cause yet knowing that we cannot give in to the loss is profound... and really the meaning of life for us as followers of Christ. The weight of sin and brokenness in the world is "too heavy to carry" and yet how we cannot possibly leave either. We stay for the fight, despite the seeming odds against us, because it is simply the right thing to do. As she says, "I can't just fight when I think I'll win."

That was what I learned from watching Claire fight that damn brain tumor for ten years. It was a losing battle, but she never gave in. Her redheaded stubbornness, faith and beauty refused to cave, and it took her without permission at the end. With the strength of the crucified and risen Christ, who is acquainted with such a fight as that, we persevere as well. In the strain of it all, I inch toward understanding what obedience means. We miss you Claire, we don't forget you, and we are grateful for the years we did get to have. See you again.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing Kelly - loved the Sara Groves song as well. xo