November 7th will always be a very dark day for our family. Though Judson was set free from his affliction two years ago on the 7th, my heart recalls his suffering, the manner in which his life was ripped from us, the relinquishment of hope for his healing, the utter brokenness over saying goodbye for a lifetime, and the shock of holding the lifeless frame of my son. My heart was, itself, lifeless—totally fractured, torn and shred by heartache: full of only grief, sorrow and absolute pain.
So how do I engage the anniversary of such a day?
I have heard people speak of turning anniversaries of loss into days of celebration…I have marveled. Though Judson’s life is worthy of much celebration, the darkness of the day leaves little room for merriment and cheer. How does someone find delight in such a dreadful day?
But as I read the following quote from Henri Nouwen last night, it became apparent to me that I can, and hopefully have been, engaging celebration, in the truest sense of the word, as he describes it.
When we speak about celebration we tend rather easily to bring to mind happy, pleasant, fun festivities in which we can forget for awhile the hardships of life and immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of music, dance, drinks, laughter, and a lot of cozy small-talk. But [true] celebration has very little to do with this. Celebration is possible only through the deep realization that life and death are never found completely separate. Celebration can really come about only where fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles can exist together. Celebration is the acceptance of life in a constantly increasing awareness of preciousness. And life is precious not only because it can be seen, touched, and tasted, but also because it will be gone one day.—Henri Nouwen
Losing Judson has made the deep realizations of the intertwining of life and death deeply apparent to me. At its basest level I have engaged the intermingling of fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles. I have been awakened to the preciousness of life by intimately seeing, touching, and tasting the joy of a beloved little boy and the sorrow because he is now gone.
If these realizations lead to the possibility of true celebration, then on Saturday (and every other day) my sorrow can be seasoned with such celebration as I engage the full spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and memories, allowing Judson’s death to move me toward richer experience and understanding of life.