Beautiful & Terrible

DMG skydive 3

My friend Robin C. has a new name for her blog: Beautiful and Terrible. You may know Robin from her Metanoia or Gannet Girl blogs. She is a gifted writer, a pastor, wife and mother. Two of her children are here; one is in heaven.

The title of her blog comes from this quote:

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” ~ Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

This intersection of beautiful and terrible is where I find myself right now.

“Don’t be afraid” is not always as easy as those three words sound.

Looking at the photos of David standing on the pontoon of that helicopter in Switzerland, looking down thousands of feet – knowing that he had a parachute and was strapped to a professional skydiver, but that accidents can happen – brought back the fear of 2006-7, when Katie was in the hospital, being treated for cancer. Post-traumatic stress reared its head; I felt the vertigo.

I found the photos of his helicopter ride – and the jump – both beautiful and terrible. The natural splendor of the region, the snow, the blue sky at dusk, the raw emotions of anticipation, fear, exhilaration and joy on my son’s face – these are beautiful. The fact that he could have died, that a mishap might have occurred, that the risk was unnecessary, that I felt once again the fear that my child could die, – this is terrible.

I am glad that David is not living in the shadow of fear. I am grateful for his zest and passion for life; glad, for his sake, that he had this experience. For my own sake, I wish that he would never take such a risk again.

We found out about his skydiving after the fact, and he apologized in case it had caused me grief. I told him, My fear is not your responsibility. But I tell you, it is sometimes hard to bear. I have a case of  the “after-nerves,” though I still can’t seem to stop looking at the photographs.

With the beauties of the Christmas-Hannukah-New Year season upon us, I feel the energy behind the preparations. I read the Advent scriptures, and I try to muster some anticipation. But I am falling back this year, back into 2006, when we were living in Ronald McDonald House with a very sick, frail and miserable Katie.

I can feel the fear, the anxiety, the discomfort, the homesickness, the longing for our family traditions. I remember making decorations for our room: a wreath and two artificial trees for the children. I remember the kindness of the carolers who arrived to sing for us, the cookies and cider, the Christmas-night feast laid out by generous volunteers, who could have been at home with their own families, but chose instead to share in our “not-at-home” Christmas festivities.

There are parallels which can be drawn between that time in our lives, and the journey of Mary and Joseph to the little stable behind the inn where Jesus was born. We were lovingly provided for: lodging, food, medical care, kindness, friendship, prayer. I could make a beautiful story out of these elements, drawing out the parallels, and perhaps, someday, I will.

Today, however, I am missing my daughter, wishing that she were here to share in decorating our home, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, dressing up, hosting and guesting with us. Today, I feel the emotions of longing, homesickness, grief for what was and will never be again.

I tell myself, Do not ruin the holiday with sadness. Do not waste it with ingratitude. Do not dwell on what you do not – and cannot – have. Think of others, less fortunate than you. Do something for them.  But the pain in the pit of my stomach, the sense of being ill at ease, remains.

It has been six years since we spent Christmas at Ronald McDonald House, yet my emotions are as raw and painful as if it was last year.

Christmas 2006 RMDcH4

Advent may be just what I need…if I will only open to it, rather than clinging to my sadness. “Be not afraid,” he said…and he said it often.

Heavenly Father, help me to open my broken, traumatised heart to Your love, to Your son’s coming again. Come, Lord Jesus.

5 thoughts on “Beautiful & Terrible

  1. Amen to that prayer. I have a hard time with this time of year. I find myself dissociating…trying to not think about the thing that keeps insistently knocking at the door. Saw a peacoat in the men’s section while shopping tonight and remembered my son in his. Heart pang. Then the memory of him surprising us one Christmas Eve. Heart pang. There will be no surprise this year. Oh how I wish.Then I am off–to all the sadness I don’t want to think about, all that we have lost, all that will never be. It takes great faith to trust God with these things, but we have no other choice. That is our one and only hope. Thanks for writing about it this year. I don’t even know if I can.

    Love you, dear Karen. Thanks for the hope you give. Thanks for expressing the burden of my heart so often. May God comfort you and yours with a joy that is not of this world.

  2. Karen Johnson always keeps me posted. It is comforting in what ever form you may call it to know that others are feeling, going through all you are. No pretending, just out there with how it feels and is. Baking, cooking, Angie never helped but she was always there to eat and say yummy. Trusting in God, yes that is all we have. Also felt the thought of please God do not take my son from me. I am forever grateful for you words that offer hope for the net day. xoxo Sharon

  3. Holidays are tricky for me – always have been. I am so appreciative of your honesty, in a strange way it makes me feel less alone in my anxiety of the season. I’ve come to think of it like the weather… it just happens. It is gloomy and foggy today, yet I read your heartfelt post and felt a bit of sunshine.

  4. This all makes perfect sense to me….the beautiful and the terrible as well as the fear.
    Like someone wise told me: As far as the holidays go, you do what works for you.
    Sending you prayers and love for all the strength that you need.

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