To Everything There is a Season …

It was a Tuesday in January 1998. This was the day. It had finally arrived. I could say that I had been waiting for this day since May 1997 when we got a plus sign on the little stick but the truth is that I had been waiting for this day for much longer. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a mom. I wanted a baby, and now – the day was here. Years of longing and months of anticipation were finally going to be satisfied.

January 27, 1998. The day that I became a mom. The day that Megan was born. The day that my life changed forever.

All of the books and classes did nothing to prepare me for this big day. All children raise their parents’ blood pressure from time to time. Both of mine started in the womb. For this reason, Megan was induced. [Disclaimer – If you are currently pregnant with your first child or have not yet had your first child, individual results may vary.] The thing that I remember about being induced was that I literally had multiple contractions at once.

If you tracked the fetal monitor strip, you could see the start of each contraction. I couldn’t breath. You could see that each contraction started at precisely the PEAK of the preceding contraction. Megan couldn’t recover from the constant pressure. It was at this point that my bright-eyed dreams of natural birth flew right out the window. Enter epidural stage right.

Before lunch time, Megan made her grand entrance. Life has never been the same since. The mental scars of multiple contractions have healed and are only paraded out from time to time in order to punctuate a dramatic point.

So what’s the point –other than to highlight one of the greatest days ever on the calendar?

Even our greatest days are shaded by our worse. Exuberance does not exist in a vacuum. Highs and lows waltz together to what appears to be a chaotic cacophony.

Megan shares a birthday with my father. I can remember calling him that day and announcing her birth. Tears of joy. Now, that Daddy is no longer with us, remembering him at this time brings tears of lament and longing. Yet, there are still tears of joy remembering all of the January 27th’s between then and now.

How do you distinguish the happy tears from the sad ones? You can’t. They look the same. They meld into one creating a synergy that becomes the cadence of our lives. The good without the bad or the bad without the good would leave life as a dull, steady stream of quarter notes. Monotone. Devoid of the ups and downs that give life meaning and depth.

My dad and Megan both share a love of music. As a nod to the cool chick that she is (and that she is a bit of an “old soul”), I’ll borrow from The Byrds (who borrowed from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and by “borrow” I mean copied nearly word for word) –

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time…

When I heard this song in the past or read Ecclesiastes, I envisioned that the “seasons” followed in succession or along a reliable pattern like summer to fall to winter to spring, predictable and orderly. Instead the seasons come like a Louisiana winter where spring, summer, and winter (there’s no fall) all come in the same week. It snows in the morning and by afternoon, you are laying out and sunning yourself.

Each of these “every purpose[s], under heaven” look more like an ocean full of those red and white bobbers we used to attach to cane poles in our mad pursuit of the elusive, north Louisiana catfish. They are all just tossed about on a mad sea. Sinking. Rising. In unison. In discordance. Perfectly chaotic. Perfectly choreographed.

From the moment we are born, we are physically dying. Laughing and weeping often are one. Who doesn’t know that razor sharp and thin line between love and hate? How many times can you look back and see how a situation that initially broke you down built you up in the end?

Dancing and mourning are two of the purposes under heaven juxtaposed against one another. As war and peace, planting and reaping, and laughing and weeping collide in a heavenly tension so it is with dancing and mourning. It’s easy to see how celebration and sadness are inextricably intertwined. There are times when memories and the reality stream down in the same set of tears.

At some point on a grief journey, a time comes (and goes just as quickly only to return again …) when you will experience true joy even while you are still deeply steeped in grief. Life catches you off-guard and you laugh. I mean really laugh, but guilt chokes it out. How can I laugh when I supposed to be weeping? What business does frolic have to prance in during a dirge?

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

I wish that I could report that grief in its many forms falls neatly into a predictable cycle of “happy – sad – happy – sad – happy.” I wish that I could tell you that grief takes a break on “happy” days. No vacations or holidays for grief. What we can hope for is that grief will allow merriment to take front stage – at least for a while.

So, this birthday (and the ones to come) won’t include a carefully, curated collage by Brooke posted to social media. We won’t be able to witness her race to post in order to beat out the rest of the family to be the first to acknowledge Megan’s birthday. The sadness and the joy of even this one realization can’t be separated. This very thought simultaneously crushes the heart (knowing she won’t be a physical part of our celebration) and buoys the spirit (knowing that she can never not be a part of our celebrations). The tears are the same stream of tears.

Though a different context, Garth Brooks sorta summed it up when he crooned “…I could have missed the pain, but then I’d have to miss the dance.”

More often than not, the contractions overlap one another. The waves hit before you recover from the last wave. You rise. You sink. In unison. In discord. Perfectly chaotic. Perfectly choreographed.

What’s the good news? Even our worse days are shaded by our greatest. Anguish does not exist in a vacuum. Highs and lows waltz together to what is actually a perfectly choreographed symphony.

My dearest, Megan –may your birthday be highlighted with joy and celebration. Come Saturday, you will no longer be a teenager. This is an amazing time of your life. Embrace it. Soak it up. Take chances (preferably the kind that do not cause your mother’s heart to skip a beat). Dance – even if it’s with a limp. And remember – Be safe. Make good choices. Have fun. I love you! – Mom


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