My husband and I recently returned from a long and difficult road trip to Arkansas, where we were privileged to witness the White Coat Ceremony of our youngest son who has just begun the journey of medical school, along with his good wife and their baby twins. I couldn’t be more proud of him, and grateful to have been able to make the trip despite an extended illness that has made it difficult to breathe. Nightly, I awoke gasping for air. And yet, I was surrounded by reminders that God knows my singular plight.
I was reminded by the monarch that visited me just before our trip when God spoke peace to my heart and told me all would be well. I was reminded by the hundreds of butterflies that greeted us at each gas stop. And I was reminded by the bird that sat just outside my bedroom window one morning while I struggled to breathe. That bird looked straight at me and sang for several minutes as he sought shelter from the rain under the protective branches of the tree just beginning the transition from brilliant green to what will be vibrant red, and then barren. God is here.
And God hears me.
As my husband and I drove through the Colorado Rockies, we stopped for a few days to soak in all the wonder of animals and earth. I thought much about transitions as I marveled at the almost imperceptible but daily, hourly, change in the color of leaves – first from a vibrant green to brilliant yellow and orange and red – seemingly overnight. I thought of the transitions we make when faced with illness, job loss, relationship loss, mental and physical decline, and especially death.
I was reminded that God reaches out his hands during each transition. And we can be assured that despite the coming winter, there will again be spring. Will it be exactly like last year’s spring? No. But it will be spring, nonetheless.
As I watched these beautiful trees, I thought of the transitions, both happy and sad, that I have faced in my own life just this past year – the death of a relationship, the marriage of my only daughter, the acceptance of my son to medical school, the birth of grandbaby twins, the year-long challenge of a life-changing and near life-ending illness of a loved one.
I watched the trees change from green to yellow to orange to red, and I thought of this loved one who has faced each month with uncertainty about his future. He has waited, sometimes patiently, and at other times impatiently, for any positive news. Each holiday has been celebrated with renewed meaning. Will this be the last such celebration? What will next year look like? And the next, or the next?
When I read of the heartbreak of a dear friend following the loss of her mom, I was reminded of the most difficult transition I have faced – the loss of my own mom to suicide when I was just a girl. While this friend did not lose her mom to suicide, the words she used to describe the very literal pain in her heart, the difficulty breathing, the piece of her that has been torn from her soul – the hole in her heart – I felt her pain. Those words were my words, that grief was my grief, that loss was my loss. And I cry, for I know the transition she now must make. A walk with Winter.
Then comes Spring once again. And in that spring we will marvel at the new buds on the once barren branches, and we will touch the fresh new leaves bursting forth once again to create shelter for the singing birds in rain. We will be warmed again by the sunshine. And we will see God’s hand in the butterflies.
This I know.
And he walks with us through the snow.