Sad, Sweet Season

“To everything there’s a season
A time
And the Lord’s made everything beautiful in its time
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11

This season…

Since I was of cognitive thought I’ve experienced the span of days from ThanksGiving through Christmas to New Year as a single, wondrous season…

A season brimming with the very warmest of memories…

A season most magical and poignant…

Since the thirty-second of those seasons, however, they’ve been laced with sadness.

This moment, it’s the morning before ThanksGiving.

I wrote about our family’s ThanksGiving traditions last weekend and scheduled it to post yesterday. Taking the time to type up the details and to photograph the decades-old kernels of corn and home-colored Psalm 100 place mats and ceramic pumpkin candle holder given me by Susan Rusk started a little tinkling trickle of remembrance within me.

I rose this ThanksGiving Eve morning and, as I do every morning, pulled on my woolly black socks, splashed some cold water on my face, scrubbed up my teeth, swiped a brush through my hair, poured a steaming cup of coffee, and nestled into a pile of pillows and blankets with my heating pad and my journal and my Bible.

Deuteronomy eight was part of this morning’s reading, and this is a bit of what it said to me:

“…Your God led you all the way

…to humble you and to test you…

…to know what was in your heart…

…to do you good in the end…

…that He might make you know man shall not live by bread alone,
but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord…

…when you’ve eaten and are full, you shall bless the Lord your God…

…and remember

and you shall remember the Lord your God…”

And with that, the trickle of remembrance became a rushing flood as my mind wound back through the last sixteen years.

Yes, the many lovely memories bathing this season are also laced with sorrow.

Sixteen seasons ago we learned my husband’s mom–Brent’s mom and my most beloved mother-in-law–Patsy Woodard, had cancer.

The next season discovered us rather weary and downhearted after a year marked by a series of brutal treatments and, despite those treatments, marred by set backs and deterioration.

The next season arrived to magnify the facts we were without Pat and Brent had become embroiled in his own wrestling match with cancer.

By the next season cancer had Brent pinned to the mat.

And by the time the season after that crept in–twelve such seasons ago–even ThanksGiving week itself–Brent was reduced to a shadow of his former vitality and tethered to a pink recliner in our living room by a coil of oxygen tubing. We, Hannah and Paul and I, spent the mornings and afternoons, the evenings and long, long nights of that season at the foot of his recliner until, on a frigid January afternoon, he slipped away from us into eternity.

The seasons that followed brought such additional exquisite sadnesses I sometimes felt I would crumble beneath them.

I spent early mornings and late nights without number beside our sparkling tree and glowing fire shedding tears as I poured my heart out to the Lord about my fatherless children and our faltering finances–concerns ever weightier strapped atop the burden of my responsibilities as a homebirth midwife–all of it together, ever and always darkened by the gloomy skies of desolation and biting winds of loneliness.

But those spells, those seasons, those times–especially the one through which Brent crossed from world to world–provided us opportunity to taste the way sorrow and sweetness may exist together–the way the edges of sorrow may be softened by sweetness–the way the contours and colors of sweetnesses may be both deepened and drawn out by sadnesses.

And through those bleak seasons, like our still sparkling tree… like our still warm and glowing fire… like the sun that just never ever fails to rise, the joys and beauties and sweetnesses of those seasons, working with and apart and against one another, managed to emerge overall and even all the more joyful and beautiful and sweet.

“…Your God led you all the way

…to humble you and to test you…

…to know what was in your heart…

…to do you good in the end…

…that He might make you know man shall not live by bread alone,
but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord…

…when you’ve eaten and are full, you shall bless the Lord your God…

…and remember

and you shall remember the Lord your God…”

Two years ago my friend, Cheri Swalwell, asked if I’d be willing to write a chapter for a book she planned to publish about families navigating cancer. I said I’d be honored to do so and had my contribution buzzing through the wires to her soon after.

The same day I wrote this post I received an email from Cheri saying the book had been released!

Such irony!

Here’s a smidge from my chapter:

“We crossed over into the New Year through a sort of hush. Though we stood firmly in faith for Brent to be healed, we cherished all of our moments together, saying the things that needed to be said and doing the things that needed to be done.

It was an eerily familiar scene, reminiscent of the time we’d spent caring for Brent’s mother—minus the houseful of folk as Brent preferred privacy. But the tasks were the same, the routines were the same, the feeling of it was very much the same, and I had, as I’d had with Patricia, the sense I was preparing a priceless package for return—for return to God Himself—making me love him all the more, making me all the more grateful for God’s loan of him to us—making the season of preparation and the act of returning him to God more exquisitely painful and all the more profoundly, powerfully beautiful.”

The book’s called Peace During the Pain and is available at Amazon.

I want to close this post with this–I know I’m not the only one to have suffered through the holiday seasons. I’ve written “I’m so sorry” on three Facebook posts this morning alone, and I know I’ll find other posts like them as we move on through the days ahead, and my heart breaks to know that.

Oh! May we hold one another close and tenderly as we find ways both to bring and to revel in the joys of the season, even as we necessarily surrender to the demands of our multifarious griefs. May we allow the experiences of each, of all to transform us into the sensitive and resilient souls the world needs us to be.

Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author

Books by Kim:

Homebirth: Safe & Sacred

Homebirth: Commonly Asked Questions

A Midwife in Amish Country: Celebrating God’s Gift of Life

Nourish + Thrive: Happy, Healthy Childbearing

One Little Life at a Time: Recommendations + Record Keeping for Aspiring Homebirth Midwives

2 thoughts on “Sad, Sweet Season

  • This blog moved me deeply on so many levels, Kim. God truly does use all things to work together for our good, but oh how painful those experiences can be. Thank you for reminding us of God’s promises and you calling us to use our sorrow to make this world one of love. “Oh! May we hold one another close and tenderly as we find ways both to bring and to revel in the joys of the season, even as we necessarily surrender to the demands of our multifarious griefs. May we allow the experiences of each, of all to transform us into the sensitive and resilient souls the world needs us to be.”

    • Oh, thank you, Sweetheart! I’m sooo grateful God chose to use you (and Brian and Adam and Megan) to transform ashes to beauty in our lives! We all are ♥

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