The way life unfolds in ways unexpected, beautiful, and tragic will never cease to cause me wonderment.
For me, Friday marked the end of my college career. I couldn’t quite fathom how this happened. A graduate, already? The day dawned bright, unusually warm for a Michigan winter, blue skies and soft rays.
My day began in the simplest of ways: Love Buzz in a yellow Lemonjello’s mug across the table from a writer friend with a peaceful presence.
Over coffee, spaghetti pie with a friend, and later that evening, fried ravioli and bread with garlic butter at a table with my dad and sister, celebration ensued for a college career well-ended.
That day I wove a tapestry of goodbyes: goodbye to my favorite local coffee shops, goodbye to my English major advisor, goodbye to dear girls I befriended way back freshman year, goodbye to my writer friend and our conversations, goodbye to faces and places I love.
Some days, we have no idea what the next tick of the minute hand will bring.
It was on the stationary bike, face turned towards the news on the flat screen T.V., that I caught glimpse of the Connecticut tragedy that has the whole nation wondering over the horror of innocence interrupted. Somehow, I had survived all my goodbyes without turning into a watery mess, but the footage of distraught parents and frightened children brought me, as I’m sure it brought every viewer, to speechless grief.
In the evening I received two further accounts of news that took me for an emotional ride.
Reading campus news online, I found out that my admissions counselor who influenced me to attend Hope passed away that day. His battle with cancer was long and understated – he was 66, and had dealt with the illness unbeknownst to many for years. His perseverance through the insanely difficult journey inspired many to hope. I will always remember Garrett Knoth with deep gratefulness and credit his thoughtful dedication to his job for convincing me to attend Hope, where I honestly had a life-changing experience.
How strange for Garrett’s passing to coincide with the day I, too, passed on into the world from Hope. How uncanny and tragic to say goodbye to this great man as I said goodbye to the school where we met.
Soon after discovering this news, I received a sudden phone call from a friend who shrieked incredible news into my ear when I asked how she was doing. “I’m doing great considering I’m engaged!!!!” she cried. Of course, I’d seen this coming for weeks, and amidst screaming and tears and laughter, together we celebrated the joyous turn of events.
What a day of ups and downs! Truly, I’m not sure I’ve ever had another day of such magnitude of emotion, from terrible sadness to indescribable joy.
Friday, I truly practiced grieving and rejoicing all at once. Rejoicing for graduation, and for engagement. Grieving for lives lost.
As I observed this uncanny dichotomy of life, twisting white with black in an optical illusion of sorts, flitting back and forth from sorrow to joy as rapidly as the beating of hummingbird wings, mingling salty human tears with fresh life-giving rain, I looked towards the chapel in the slowly dimming light. A beacon of hope (and Hope), to be sure.
A solid, weighty presence symbolizing the presence of our mighty God, who steadies the turbulent seas with a single word, whose presence casts out fear and whose power none can fathom.
What is steady and sure in the midst of days like Friday?
Days of life and death and joy and sorrow – this is our lot, isn’t it? Isn’t this more common than any of us would wish to admit, this up and down nature of daily life, sometimes beautiful, sometimes so tragic we can hardly lift our eyes to the news because they are so heavy with tears?
And yet God is faithful to bring joy in the midst of great, great sadness.
I’m reminded of these verses from Lamentations:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”