On Saturday morning I got a call from a friend I haven’t spoken to in over a year. Excited to hear her voice, I answered enthusiastically only to hear the news. Our friend and former colleague, Brad, died this morning in a car accident. That can’t be right, I thought. He has three young boys only slightly older than my own. His wife is an incredible mother who volunteers her time teaching creative art classes in town. Surely this is a mistake.
But as news like this so often does, the words sank slowly into the crevices of my mind—permeating the brain matter in such a way that the facts I couldn’t fathom began to find a permanent home in my cognitive thought. And then, like the flow of a steady stream, those tragic thoughts made their way down into my core – the part of my body that emanates pain throughout. The part that feels the emotions of loss with such gravity that it’s almost paralyzing. What were once just cerebral facts, were now eliciting deep and painful emotions as I experienced and imagined what this loss must feel like to those closest to him.
Another friend texted. After two days in the hospital she finally delivered her precious baby girl. What joy! What gladness! The promise of a new life entered the world. Two parents laid eyes on their daughter for the first time falling madly in love with her tiny features. They began a love story that will only grow and continue over the course of their lives together. The thought pierced my heart and filled up my core – how wonderful and marvelous it is the day you meet your first child. What a gift this precious life is.
And there I sat. In between these two emotions.
I don’t think I’ve ever lived a more dichotomous day. For one family, February 18th will forever be marked with tragedy and loss and grave sadness. But for the other? It will mark life and birth and new beginnings. How odd it is that we can be living in this same world and have such polarizing experiences? How strange to see Solomon’s promise in Ecclesiasties 3:1-2 play out so vividly on this single day – “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.” How ironically unfair, it seems, to have the feelings of each situation slightly muted by the competing emotions from the other experience.
It seems odd not to experience the fullness of grief when the joy of new life demands a glimpse of my attention. And, on the other hand, it feels disingenuous to revel in the miracle of life knowing that the pain of loss is tugging on my heartstrings as well.
But isn’t that the mystery of this life God has promised us? It’s wretchedly painful and remarkably joyous sometimes. All the time. At the same time.
I don’t think anyone understood this as well as Brad did, in fact. I can still see his infectious smile glued to his slightly scruffy face as he’d shake his head in a joyous and mysterious way and exclaim, “What a world!” I would hear Brad utter this statement after a meeting where two parties had a difficult time coming to an agreement – “What a world!” Or when I told him I was pregnant with my first son, I watched him beam with joy and utter the same phrase – “What a world!” For Brad, these three words signified a reality, not an emotion. They weren’t tied to only highs or only lows – they were a statement of acknowledgement that this wonderfully beautiful and utterly messy place we live in is mysterious and magnificent, confusing and delightful – “What a world!”
While Brad definitely understood and empathized with the pain that is felt by people in the margins and on the fringes, his positive and jubilant attitude was easily his most identifiable characteristic. His ability to elevate others, both students and colleagues, set him apart from the crowds – ensuring that others needs were always taken care of before his own.
It is with Brad in mind that I’m able to smile a little wider when I think about my friend’s baby girl – What a World!
It is with Brad in mind that I can grieve his loss and not let all be lost because he wouldn’t allow tragedy to steal his own joy – What a World!
It is with Brad in mind that I can be empowered to love extravagantly on those who are grieving alongside me – What a World!
It is with Brad in mind that I’m encouraged as I read Ecclesiastes 3:4, where Solomon says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” and maybe the time for both things is today - What a World!
It is with Brad in mind that I can feel grief and joy simultaneously – relishing in his memory and delighting in my friend’s new baby – What a world, indeed.
***Friends, if you are able, I'd be honored if you'd consider donating to this sweet family. While I can smile when I remember Brad, the practicalities and logistics of losing a loved one can still be overwhelming. You can click HERE to donate.***
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.