Happy Endings

This past weekend was emotional for our family, having decided that last Sunday would be our final one at our church home of the last four years.  Four years is no insignificant amount of time, but it is not the time that has made our church meaningful to us; rather, it is the people.  Our church family has seen us through some of the most impactful events of our lives.

When we moved to Seattle, we knew no one.  We had left our entire network of friends and family in Colorado for my husband to take a job with the church.  So when we arrived with all our belongings, a still-accruing mortgage on our unsold house in Colorado, and our 18-month-old daughter, after a four day drive, we were exhausted.  But we were met with dinners every night, cooked by the people at our church, arms to lift everything we owned off the truck and into the house, and an outpouring of love.

Our second daughter was born and dedicated in the church.  Our church prayed with us, and believed with us, for the sale of our house, until after 15 months it finally sold.  Our third daughter was prayed over in the womb, fervent prayers for healing, and when she was born and died too soon, we buried our baby by the grace and mercy of those in our church who gave us the money for a coffin and a grave.  Our friends in the church did for us what we could not do for ourselves – they made all the arrangements for a funeral that we couldn’t bear to organize; they cried for and with us, grieving our loss as if it were their own; they filled our house with flowers, leaving anonymous bouquets on our doorstep daily; they made meals for us for more than a month, and they prayed for God’s arms to surround us and comfort us when they could do nothing else.  Without their prayers and support, I know I would not be who I am today.  Our church has become so much more than a place to go on a Sunday morning, and it has been hard to acknowledge that what I have known and loved is coming to an end.

Of course, we will maintain the relationships we value with the people we love, no matter where we choose to go to church on a Sunday.  But still, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize that we are grieving the loss of something intangible yet no less real, a loss that leaves a void.  I have shared my life weekly with the people in our church, and now that it is no longer our church, I will feel less whole.

Yet, as I looked around the room during church on Sunday, my eyes blurry with tears, I saw that I was surrounded by people I love, and who genuinely love me.  And I thought to myself, I am so blessed.  This is everything I could hope for in an ending.

It really is.  Whether it’s the end of a job, a season, a relationship, or a life well-lived, the most we can hope for is to enjoy that moment to the fullest, surrounded by those we love, remembering how much our time together has meant.

Yet, so often, we want to rush past the unpleasantness of the ending to get on to what’s next.  It feels so much better to move on quickly, at least in that moment.  We want to skip the steps of grief and replace them with the happiness and excitement of the next thing.  But in skipping the grief, we also deny the value of that which is coming to an end.

In my life, I want to walk the road “less traveled by,” the one more difficult but also more rewarding.  I want to acknowledge the real emotions that accompany the end of something loved, even if that makes the present more difficult.  I want to truly live each moment of my life, discounting nothing, even the sad, the angry, or the hurt.

To experience a loss, we must first value something so deeply that we cannot imagine living without it.  There is beauty in such a loss, in having loved something or someone so much that the ache of their absence leaves a dent in our hearts.  In life’s journey, few people and experiences are meant to carry us from beginning to end.  Instead, most will come alongside us only for the season in which we truly need them.

Seasons come and seasons go, but the true loss is if we don’t even acknowledge their value until they’re gone.  So embrace the season you’re in.  Live it to the fullest.  And when it comes to an end, be grateful for what you had.