“At first, I was shaken, but looking up, I recovered my strength…” -George Whitefield
My son has died.
Forward. That is the direction I need to be moving. Forward is where our son is. Forward is where I will see my Savior face to face. Moving forward is not the same as moving on. Moving on is putting the past behind you and trying to forget. Moving on is something I will never do.
This book is part of my strategy for moving forward. If I can document the sweetness of the past as well as the pain of the present, perhaps it will become easier to move forward. If I can get it all on paper, then maybe it will not be forgotten. Hans will not be forgotten.
But, of course it is not possible to get it all on paper. Even a short life has millions of moments. And there is much I do not wish to share, private blessings that I want to keep all to myself, treasures that are more precious because no one else saw them. Forgive me if keep these few jewels for myself. Anyway, how do you get a special look or a smell or a voice, or the sound of laughter onto paper? And even if it were possible, most of it would not mean much to anyone else.
What do I do with this?
As I began writing, it was mostly for my own benefit. It kept me from sitting and thinking too much. It helped keep me from the edge of the chasm. It helped to make constructive use of my pain, allowing me to deal with it and be distracted from it at the same time.
But, as the razor-wire anguish eased somewhat (they were right about that), it occurred to me that maybe I should share this. During the first weeks and months after Hans went home to be with the Lord, I read every book written by a grieving parent that I could get my hands on. I needed to hear from someone who had been through this and I am extremely thankful to those parents who put their own loss into words for the rest of us. Only you know what a lifeline this is. I pray this book might help someone, too.
I also read all I could find, written by reliable sources, about Heaven. I would alternate reading books about the sorrow of losing a child with books about the joy of a place too wonderful for us to imagine.
Sorrow and joy. Joy and sorrow.
For me, these two concepts are opposite edges of the same knife blade and I find it difficult right now to experience them as separate emotions. I used to think they were on extreme ends of a spectrum, impossible to experience simultaneously. I did not know joy and sorrow could be so tangled up within a hurting heart, each emotion intensifying the other.
But, now I know. During especially painful moments, times when just breathing seems too much, joy rises up through the tears, not to displace the sorrow but to engulf and sanctify it. This overwhelming collision of emotions sometimes comes hard and fast without warning. Other times I can feel it slowly building and I need to find a place to be alone before it erupts. I have given this crashing wave of sweet and joyful pain a name-Joysorrow.
What is Joysorrow?
Joysorrow is what I feel when I am nearly collapsing with grief and at the very edge of I CANNOT DO THIS! Then, at the very peak of my greatest need, the Lord sends the call of a bird, or a shooting star, or the flash of a memory, or a verse of scripture seemingly written just for me in that devastating moment. His comfort washes over me even as the choking, heaving sorrow wells up within my chest. And then I am hushed and still before Him. This is Joysorrow.
I know there will be joyful moments in our future: weddings, births, holidays, laughter, golden leaves against a clear blue sky on a crisp autumn morning. And small, every-day joys that will be infused with sorrow because Hans is not there to share in it with us. There will always be this sorrow. But I know the joy will be there, too. Joysorrow.
So, I have learned that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. One of them is meaningless without the other. My sorrow is redeemed and transformed by joy. My joy is tempered and matured by sorrow. Together they are the stuff of which life is made.
12 thoughts on “Joysorrow”
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This is such a poignant piece, Kim. You describe Joysorrow so well. I was reminded of C.S. Lewis, too, that he defined “joy” as an unfulfilled longing that is itself more precious than the fulfillment of any other longing. (There’s more joy in longing for heaven than there is in living in comfort and pleasure in the here and now.) The world doesn’t understand this, but those with “divine perspective” know exactly what you are talking about.
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When I read this post I was reminded of the film “The Shadowlands” about the marriage of C.S. Lewis to, Joy, and his suffering as he loves her and watches her suffer while she has cancer. I haven’t watched the movie in years, but I remember Joy speaking words that perhaps resonate with what you have shared. Thank you for sharing.
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Thank you for reading, Jessica. I know you are a busy lady!
Thank you very much.
“Very Good”-Your discovery I mean, I believe that you will be an inspiration to many others!
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I haven’t the words to speak to your situation, so I will offer them instead to God on your behalf, for peace and hope.
Thank you, Brandon.
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ statement: “Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.”
Mr. Lewis can say in two sentences what it takes me all night to write.