running to stand still

wp-1469413762554.jpgI don’t quite know what to do with myself at the moment. For the past month or so, I feel like I have been running non-stop. I’ve alternated things that bring me laughter and joy with not-so-fun doctor’s appointments, scans, tests, and results. I’ve been working extra hours at my day job and spending my spare moments helping with the Grey Havens summer camp plans and other volunteer business, in addition to trying very hard to exercise even more than I already did.

I’ve been running fast. And now it feels like I can stop for a while, but I don’t know what to do. My next check-up is in a couple weeks, and then a kidney specialist visit in a month, and I have to schedule another scan…but I can’t do that right now, and even when I do it will have to be for a couple more weeks out. I am waiting. I know that I have polycystic kidney disease, and thankfully so far nothing else, unless that next scan proves otherwise…but I still don’t yet know what this all means for my future. Right now, I am taking my medication, exercising, and waiting to see what comes of it…

Today, my family is pre-occupied, and my love is at home getting ready for his work week, and I am physically alone. It’s quiet outside, almost too quiet, but I wish it were quieter in my mind. I woke up early today and held my love close as my mind kept racing and racing. I’ve already exercised, twice, today. I’ve cleaned, I am cooking, but I can’t help feeling like I am supposed to do something else. I’ve been running so hard that I’ve forgotten how to just be still— and that it is perfectly okay to just be, by myself.

I know I’ve been reserving my moments of pleasure and relaxation to spend them with my love, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relax and do nothing for an afternoon by myself, right? I’m so very hard on myself. I need to just let myself be, and be alone, and rest. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I’ve been so afraid for weeks that I don’t know how not to be afraid anymore. I am thankful that I have people in my life who help me to pull me out of this and lead me to think positively.

However, now that I am alone… I’ve tried to read; I am reading five different books. I’ve tried to watch tv; I’m watching about five different shows. I can’t slow down long enough to get absorbed into one of either of them. I want to so badly. Sometimes, it feels almost like the first year of grief all over again.

And yet, sometimes I can experience the most ecstatic joy– and a love that makes me wonder how it’s even possible to be filled with this much of it, a light so bright. I’m so glad I have that, but of course that comes with the fear of losing it. But I must push that aside (perfect love casts out fear) and enjoy the now. Yoga has helped me to think of the now; if only it were as easy to take that focus and serenity off the mat… I do love catching this echo of the Divine in the now, in human love, in natural beauty, in knowing my own body.

I know this post is all over the place. I am even typing it as I cook dinner– I can’t even commit to doing one thing at a time. But hopefully the days will get better and not worse; hopefully, I can learn to create a new normal, just as I have after losing my mom, and then my dad. This chronic disease does not have to define me. Let me go, ‘cuz you are just a shade of what I am, not what I’ll be. I want to hold on to the hope I tried to grasp in my last post. I want to do great things with the time that is given to me, but I also want to just be still– to enjoy the resting, to be okay being by myself, to reconnect with God, and to breathe, to listen and connect to the rhythm of the universe.

I am still thankful. I am thankful for the amazing friends and family in my life, for a decent job working with compassionate people, for a volunteer position that changes young lives, for doggy cuddles, for love, for today. I will try to be thankful for the quiet, for these words, for the darkness too. Let there be light.IMG_1552

Using a dead man’s library card

Sometimes, I still use a dead man’s library card… The card belonged to my dad, and I still have it on my key ring even though I have my own card in my wallet. Sometimes, I accidentally swipe his when I check out books, and I don’t realize it until I select an email receipt and the machine tells me my receipt has been sent to my dad’s email.

Well, that’s a receipt I’ll never see again. I still can’t access my dad’s email. I don’t know the password, and his security question is so vague that I don’t want to risk being locked out entirely by guessing wrong too many times. Unfortunately, Yahoo refuses to release passwords for the deceased. Apparently there’s some clause you agree to in their terms of service, which renders it pretty much impossible for your surviving loved ones to gain access to your correspondence without your exact password at time of death. They say it’s to protect your privacy, I say it’s ridiculous.

I wish I could read his emails. I wish I knew him well enough to be able to guess his password. I just want a little insight into his mind… I want to read his words again. I want to see who he spoke to… Not to mention that, in the midst of death, I needed to access emails from his various accounts.

And now I need to access my library receipt so I know when my books are due.

What a waste, a whole inbox is sitting there, locked.

I wish I had asked him more questions. I wish he had told me more stories.

The other day, my friend was telling me about the funny details of the day of his birth, and he wanted to know about mine. I told him there was no one left for me to ask for that information.

No one left.

There’s no one left for me to ask about the firsthand account of my birth. No one left to ask about the moment my mom knew my dad was the one. No one left to ask about what kind of daughter I was, or who they hoped I’d become.

I didn’t intend for this post to be sad. I mean, of course it’s going to be sad, but I thought at least it could be quirky, a clever/bitter-sweet comment on the sudden cut-off moment that is death, on the jarring experiences of surviving life, and on how we may continue for years to use the same dead person’s library card without realizing it.

I can’t believe that I’m finally referring to my dad in the past tense– not only that, but I’m even referring to him as “a dead person” and “the deceased.” For a while I couldn’t even write the word “dead,” I had to say, “gone” or “left.” I don’t like that I can say it now. I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m sorry if it’s wrong.

I sit on little thoughts like this one. I sit, and I’ve stopped writing about them, so I’m writing it now. I’m typing about death on my lunch break. Maybe it’ll become part of the book I finish one day, the book I told myself I would write about this orphan experience. To do that, though, I have to re-immerse myself in the grief fog that at times seems lighter, and I don’t always want to stay in that shadow. It won’t leave me, I know that, but I don’t always want to stay immersed in it…

Either way, I wrote this post today, about death and library cards and email accounts and lost information… I wrote what I could, and I’m publishing it now. I’m sure it’ll come back to me later, I have to return that book in two weeks… I think.

when He is risen, but death still hurts.

Last year on Easter, I went to a sunrise service, had breakfast with friends, and then went to pick up my dad from the airport. We shared Easter dinner together with my aunt’s side of the family, and then I got to spend about a week with my dad before he flew back to Colorado. That was the last time I got to see him.

Last year, I had Easter dinner with my dad. This year, he is not here. How do I celebrate that death has no power, no sting, when its power overwhelms me and its sting still hurts?

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Christ’s tomb is empty, but my dad’s urn is still full. What does it mean?
“Today you will be with me in paradise,” Christ said to the thief who hung dying beside him. Not, “In the last days,” but “Today.” What does it mean?

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” 1 Corinthians 15:36. NIV. Or, “Every time you plant seed, you sow something that does not come to life [germinating, springing up, growing] unless it dies first.” -AMP.

On the night before He hung on the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Where is that joy? Why does it feel like death has swallowed it up — when in reality, death is the one that is swallowed up, destroyed, rendered powerless?

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The very day before my dad died, before I even knew it was coming, I went to church and listened to a sermon on Nehemiah 8. I wrote verse 10 in my journal: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” I continued writing, “What does that mean, God? Teach us, lead us. The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

I am looking for the joy of the LORD today. I found Him in the stillness of the early morning hours, in the dark sky, in the foggy mists, in the creeping dawn. I found joy at first light, as the world turned golden orange and the water sang.

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Then the day came on, the sun rose rapidly in the sky, the stillness turned to busyness, and the cool mists burned away in the stifling heat… And now it is dusk. The sun has gone down again, and I am still not any closer to understanding Christ, His death, His sacrifice; His resurrection, His victory. I am drawn to Him, to the dawn. I need His hope, but I don’t understand it.

What does Resurrection mean today? For me? For the orphan? For the widow?

It is easy to sing of Christ’s victory, “He rose and conquered the grave, He conquered the grave.” It’s easy, when death seems far away, when you haven’t yet felt its sting, or when that sting has faded to a dull memory. Today, though, it hurts. Today, I sing, “He conquered the grave” not with a shout of triumph, but with a cry of desperation. It has to be true. He has to be risen. Death is defeated, it has to be, or what else can I do?

This sorrow will not pass, but perhaps joy can mingle with it… perhaps “pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” I am looking for the eucastastrophe.

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Against my ruins

My sense of smell is intricately (and sometimes quite inconveniently) linked to my memory.

The other day I caught a whiff of new-carpet smell, and I nearly burst into tears. (My dad used to work in a carpet store. That smell clung to his being all of my childhood life.)

And yet another day, the air was warm and heavy. We opened the windows. As I walked down to my room at the end of the night, I caught the smell, that outdoorsy, windows-open, fresh air, summer smell. I can’t handle that smell, the smell of summer…

Because my last summer was so awful. Daunting. Oppressive. Dark. Suffocating.
It can’t be summer yet. It’s too soon.

T.S. Eliot says,
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Did winter keep me warm? Winter was awful too at times. But the cold was so long and permeating that perhaps I forgot about the passage of time. And now it is April.

More Eliot,
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I never agreed with Eliot’s description here before. Who could call ever call the breath of April cruel? But now I think I am beginning to see what he means. Yes, spring is the season of the poets, but in the joy of new life, there is also sorrow. It is this very juxtaposition of the blooming April against the decaying winter that makes it so cruel.

The world is still slow, silent, dead, when spring tries to grab hold of us and thrust us into the life.

Pablo Neruda,
How do the seasons know
they must change their shirt?

Why so slowly in winter
and later with such a rapid shudder?

What will it be like this time around? Can I handle that rapid shudder?

And how do the roots know
they must climb toward the light?

And then greet the air
with so many flowers and colors? -Neruda.

Am I climbing towards the light? I need it so desperately.
But when my dried roots reach that light, will there be any flowers to bloom?

I have lost my train of thought. Eliot: These fragments I have shored against my ruins… What does it mean? What will it bring? I need to climb towards the light. Lilacs, I want lilacs. I cling to the promise of the lilacs, of the spring rain. This dead land, this waste land, needs water to quench it and color to save it.

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)
-Eliot.

Grey Havens

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or even if you read one of my posts from December, or checked out the meaning behind my username, you’d know that I really love The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I found Tolkien around late 2001/early 2002, after my friend dragged me to see The Fellowship of the Ring movie. I remember being really upset because I didn’t know she was taking me to see it, and the previews had really frightened eleven-year-old me. However, I fell in love at the cinema that day, and even though I still turned away during the Moria scenes out of fear, I wanted to learn everything I could about this strange new world called Middle Earth. I started reading and devouring the trilogy, and by the time The Two Towers movie came out, I was a bit obsessed.

As you may remember from the poem I published a few months ago, my mother died not long after The Two Towers was released. In fact, the last time I saw her awake and breathing without a machine to do it for her was before my dad and I left the hospital to go see the movie.

I clung to Tolkien’s works during that tumultuous time. I clung to Jesus too, and I don’t think the two need to be separate. Yes, The Lord of the Rings helped me to escape, but it also helped me to see God in a different and deeper way. I researched into Tolkien’s life and his faith, and I found hope in the same Power that was dear to him. I did a project on the making of the films for my seventh grade English class. In eighth grade, I led a workshop for my church youth group on finding spiritual truths in The Lord of the Rings. As a freshman in drama class, I had to write and perform a monologue while portraying a famous person from history, and of course I chose good old J.R.R. I wish I had the transcript of the monologue somewhere… but I remember I wrote it as John talking to his wife Edith about his mother. (He too had lost a mother around the same age as I did.) I also remember that my British accent often strayed off course as I kept turning into a southern belle… but that is neither here nor there. In my senior year, I titled my college admissions essay “Hobbitry in Heart,” after some encouragement Tolkien wrote to his son in one of his letters.

If the kids at my middle school knew me at all, they knew me as the girl obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, the one who wore the One Ring around her neck and decided that instead of doing a peace sign or a thumbs-up in photographs, she would hold up nine fingers, the right ring finger missing, as if she were Frodo or something… Yeah, I was that kid. God bless my friends at the time. I love that about nerds, we look out for each other.

And that’s what brings me to the present moment. (Yes, I know I skipped a few years.) I wanted to write about a group I found here, a group of nerds, a group of scholars, a group of loving and compassionate people, The Grey Havens Group. I moved to Colorado after my dad died last summer, and I have struggled to find new friends, new community, and new hope. I’ve clung to Tolkien (and Jesus) during this time too. I remember needing to watch the films right after it happened, putting them on as I tried and failed to sleep. I returned to the books and read them over again, and I started reading The Hobbit to my little niece. I am grateful that I got to share The Lord of the Rings with my dad before he died. He was the one who actually shared it with me, since he read it back in the day and would watch it with me and tell me it’s not scary. He would always point out to me the lines I should pay attention to before I knew the whole story. For example, he would repeat Gandalf when he tells Frodo in the mines that “Gollum has some part to play yet,” and then make this humming noise that always meant he knew something I didn’t. I love remembering how my dad would get excited about movies, stories, and foreshadowing.

It was during this mourning season that I randomly came across a Tolkien Society not too far away from me in Boulder County. I decided to show up to one of the meetings, and I instantly felt welcomed, cared about, and accepted. I had been struggling to find a church community at the time, and when I walked into Grey Havens, I felt more accepted there than at any church I had yet found. I’m sorry to say that about church, but it’s how I truly felt. Here was a group of people from all different backgrounds, all different ages, careers, beliefs, life stories, but we had one thing in common: a love for Tolkien, for the Inklings, for fantasy and imagination. I am so grateful for that bond, and for a group that will sit around a table in the back of a bookshop to discuss fantasy, history, comedy, and spirituality while respecting each other even amidst disagreements. We spur one another on to think deeper, and I love that.

I haven’t been able to make many Grey Havens meetings, but with its online presence, I never feel as though I’ve left the community. Grey Havens has also started a young adult chapter (the blog is now LIVE!), and I’ve been able to get involved there. Watching young adults come alive while discussing literature makes me so happy inside, I can’t even describe it to you. We host monthly events at the library and a biweekly book discussion. These young adults have such passion, and they are not afraid to be themselves, to love what they love, and to respect others for what they love too, even if it’s different. (We stole our slogan from Wil Wheaton: “Being a nerd is not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.”) I am so blessed to have come across the Grey Havens during this time in my life.

Tolkien people are good people, and I am grateful to have found a community of them right in my neighborhood. If you’re in the Boulder area, check us out. If you’re a Tolkien fan, but haven’t told me yet, let me know. (You’ll be my new best friend!) And if a work of literature or film has helped you through a dark time, I’d love to hear about it.

I’ll leave you with the quote I used for my essay. It’s from one of Tolkien’s letters to his son Christopher while he was in the army during World War II: “Well there you are: a hobbit amongst the Urukhai. Keep up your hobbitry in heart, and think that all stories feel like that when you are in them. You are inside a very great story!”

Re: With Time

My last blog post was a bit messy. I put it out there because I’ve been telling myself that I want my writings to be real, to be raw and honest like Lewis’ A Grief Observed and the various psalms of King David that included anger and despair as well as wild hope.

Maybe that’s puffing myself up too much– I mean, let’s be honest, I also do it for that tiny bit of attention, because sometimes I just want to scream to someone, anyone, that I’m still not doing well… and for that I am sorry. However, I have noticed that whenever I get this stuff off my chest by posting here, I feel a little better, a little relieved.

Thursday, after I published “With time…” I felt like I could actually turn to God and seek Him, see His goodness, after I’d gotten all that despair out of my head and into the words I published here. Perhaps that was how David was able to write songs of such joy alongside songs of such sorrow and anger.

I confess, I’ve sometimes been a bit of a brute beast lately, but God is patient and gracious with me, and He won’t let me go. The “Asaph” psalmist knew what that was like, the feelings of grief and bitterness, and still the overwhelming comfort of God’s everlasting presence.

I’m no Lewis, no king of Israel, no ancient songwriter, but in a way we are all just like them. They were human too, and I would like to write as they did. I know I’m not the only one out there who has gone through/who is going through something like this, and I want to be a voice. That’s part of the reason why I’m keeping up (or trying to keep up) this blog, especially during this mourning season. I want to be a voice for those struggling with such loss, a voice that says, “I’ve despaired. I’ve been angry. I’ve lost. Yet in such darkness, I’ve tried to cling to hope, but sometimes I really didn’t want to, and oftentimes I failed.”

God is the Rock, and He is what I keep coming back to, no matter what happens. I can’t stop going back to the notion that I need Him to be such a rock. He is the constant one, the one to count on in all this chaos.

I feel like I am living a terrifying, exhausting roller coaster. I can write posts like Thursday’s, full of darkness, and then two days later I can churn out posts like this, words with a sense of burden’s loosed and hope rekindled, and yet in the back of my mind I fear that the darkness will lurch forward again and take over tomorrow…

Yet, I still have the Rock, don’t I? And each day I can come closer to knowing this love that surpasses knowledge. That’s what I want my story to be. Thank you for reading.

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Seven months later

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My hair is longer now, longer than he’d last seen it. It’s cold and snowy now, it was warm and rainy when I last spoke to him. Now, it seems, we just take his absence as ‘normal’ and carry on with our lives… but life without him still terrifies me.

From C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed:

“For me at any rate the programme is plain. I will turn to her as often as possible in gladness. I will even salute her with a laugh. The less I mourn her the nearer I seem to her.

An admirable programme. Unfortunately it can’t be carried out. Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in-tears. For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often–will it be for always?– how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.”

“In Transition…” One Year Later

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Last year, I wrote this blog post on Christmas Eve called “In Transition.” It’s odd how I feel pretty much the same way now, though rather than hitting a speedbump, I’ve faced an earth-shaking crash that seems to have turned my world upside-down and render me senseless.

In that post last year, I wrote this:

One day from now marks the traditional anniversary of the moment my God left the throne of Heaven, took on flesh, and became a baby, a baby that would grow up to die for my wrongdoings and then conquer death to bring freedom and victory to the whole world.
So maybe that’s all that matters. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know the Gospel. …
May this be a time of sweet communion with the LORD, then. I want to know my Father’s heart so deeply, to bind mine with His so closely, that the way is obvious. And even if it isn’t, even if I still don’t get an answer, at least I will be drawing closer to the Lover of my soul.

I am grateful to have kept a log of my journey and be able to look back on these words to find comfort, comfort in the encouragement to simply commune with the LORD.

Manna today, or I starve. And that’s for today, not tomorrow, not a week from now, not a year from now, but today. There’s a reason God specifically commanded the Israelites to only gather enough manna in the morning for that day alone. (And when they disobeyed and tried to save some for leftovers, it rotted. See Exodus 16:16-20) Manna today. I must see His goodness today, or I won’t make it to tomorrow. And if I see His goodness today, then that is enough. He provides today, and therefore He will provide tomorrow, and two weeks from now, and decades from now.

Remember earlier this year when I blogged about my trek through the Hebrew prophets post-exile? I wish I had started blogging even earlier, when I was reading about the prophets in conjunction with the accounts of their various kings, because then I could’ve blogged about Habakkuk. I remember writing about Habakkuk for my college course on “The Problem of Evil,” because Habakkuk cries out to God about the evil he sees in his world and God’s plan to let the Babylonians carry the Israelites into exile, but in the end the prophet chooses wisdom over knowledge and joy over despair and lives by faith in a sovereign God.

I am grateful that such a sovereign God led me to read through the Old Testament prophets last year so that this year, when I am so in need of their stories, He can bring them to mind again.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 says in shigionoth (wild, emotional, enthusiastic song):

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.

Yet. I. will. take. joy.

That’s not a very easy thing to say or do right now. Grief still troubles me in the middle of the night, it still suddenly stabs the heart in the course of a normal day. Confusion and worry and fear tend to cloud my future. Joy sometimes seems too simple. Or worse, joy seems like forgetting, forgetting the father I lost, forgetting the need for a future.

But joy is not forgetting, joy is remembering. Habakkuk didn’t forget the evil surrounding him, but rather he chose to remember the goodness of the Lord and to trust in that goodness to carry him through the hardship, to allow him to tread on the high places, to give him hope and a future.

To quote Voskamp again: “Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing– and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! This day! Surprise!”

I will take joy.
“LORD, I have heard of your fame: I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…” –Habakkuk 3:2

Winter Sustenance

imageToday in northern Colorado, we had a mini heatwave, and thankfully, I had the day off. So I brewed some chai and rushed over to the place I like to call my walking lake.

To get to the lake, I have to climb a stone staircase. Before that, all I see are the walls of earth that make up the basin in which the water flows. I’ve been to this lake countless times since I moved to Colorado and still, each time I reach the top of those stairs, the view takes my breath away. Sparkling blue waters beneath rocky mountain shadows surrounded by amber waves of grain.

This morning, I saw a most unexpected sight.

I felt as though I’d stumbled into something… magnificent, secret, natural, and holy.

My walking lake had been taken over by flocks upon flocks of waterfowl. I’d never seen so many in one place before: walking on the ice, swimming in the patches of thawed water, calling to one another under the snowy mountains. A gentle breeze, life on the ice. An abundance of LIFE in this frozen winter…

As I walked, I listened to The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album (click to download for free on Noisetrade). As birds flew, singing, overhead, the music blasted in my ears: “Oh come let us adore Him.” As the breeze rustled in the leaves and the sun glinted on the icy waters, I heard, “Fields and floods, hills and plains, repeat the sounding JOY.”

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy.

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These plants are so dry and brittle.
They look as if one touch could crumble them into dust.
But I reach out, I touch them, and they are strong,
Made to endure this death of winter.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she writes: “Manna today, or I starve.” I must have eyes to see, to behold the glory in each day, I must take in the manna, my daily bread, or I won’t make it through the day. And God, oh He’s so gracious, He provides that manna in abundance.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!
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What I’m taking in these days… part 2.

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Back in July, I wrote a post about some of words I’d been taking in during my first month of grief. We are coming up on the sixth month soon, and here are a few more things I am taking in these days…

The other day, I watched the movie Shrink, and it was beautiful, I recommend it. In it, Kevin Spacey’s character, a shrink, undergoes a tragedy and still tries to help his patients while not really knowing how to help himself. When his friends get upset with him about the unorthodox way he tries to cope, he says:
“They want you to have some kind of normal response to grief. So they don’t have to watch. But it’s mine.”

Those words just really struck me, and I found myself nodding along in tears…

At the end of the movie, Spacey talks to another character in the movie, a young girl who also suffered a loss. The conversation goes like this:
Spacey’s character says, “It’s never going to go away, is it?”
And the young girl replies, “No. But we’re still here. That’s something.”

*   *   *
I’ve shared many times before how much I love The Lord of the Rings. I found Tolkien’s stories just before my mother died, and I’ve clung to them ever since. I feel such a strong connection to these stories written by a man who also knew loss, who also sought Christ–and found Him– in the midst of darkness. I’ve been rereading the trilogy for the past few months, and last week I finally made it to Mordor.

Sam cannot find Frodo in the dark orc Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Tolkien writes: “The torch, that was already burning low when he arrived, sputtered and went out; and he felt darkness cover him like a tide. And then softly, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing.” This is his song:

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In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done
nor bid the Stars farewell.

Then, in the next chapter, “The Land of Shadow,” Tolkien writes, in one of my most favorite passages in all of literature:
“Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of that forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope, for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.”

There is Light and high beauty forever beyond the Shadow’s reach, and because of that, we can walk unhindered in this darkness, knowing the Light will never truly fade.

*   *   *
I would like to share one more thing. After the deed is done, the ring is destroyed, Frodo and Sam return to the world of men, and Aragorn brings forth a minstrel to sing of all the terror they passed through and all the strength that kept them going to their victory in the end:
“And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

evermind. <3