November 1st hit hard with an assault of emotions that came on much stronger than I anticipated. I’m not often pulled back into the recesses of my memory, recounting every moment of what I was doing this time last year. But this month … I can’t seem to stop it. Toeing the line between remembering. So desperately trying to hang onto every last memory we had together. Yielding to the pain. And getting too comfortable in the sorrowful.
November 1st, 2012 – we cancelled everything on the calendar. Fall portrait sessions. Design projects. Work meetings. Life. We packed our bags for an indefinite amount of time, and left the house for the 2 1/2 hour drive west. As we pulled out of the driveway that morning, I knew life would be dramatically different the next time we pulled back into it. I knew that she would never walk through my front door again. And that three months before was the last time we would sit on the back patio laughing and playing cards. She was so sick that day.
For the last five days, my brain keeps pulling me back there. Back to those 23 days we had with her before she died.
God, I want to remember. And in doing so, I want to turn this month that will forever be sorrowful for me into something joyful. How do I do that? November is a month of thanks at every turn. One of joy. Celebration. I don’t want to be that woman that goes into a deep depression every single November of every single year.
So I pray … make these bitter waters sweet. Help me to remember the sweet moments through the pain, sorrow and tears. I beg You LORD … I can’t feel like this every year. I can’t. Step into the midst of this with me and make these waters sweet. (Exodus 15:22-26)
The Greek word for bitter: ‘mar’ – bitter, bitterness, pain. Also used to describe Hannah in desperate want of a child in 1 Samuel 1:10: ‘… she was in bitterness of soul … and wept in anguish.’ Then later in chapter 15, Agag was approaching Samuel cautiously saying ‘surely the bitterness of death has passed.’ I don’t remember the context, but I remember those words.
LORD … help the bitterness of Shawna’s death to pass.
‘There is a bitterness in death, it is terrible to nature. ‘Surely death is bitter’ so diverse versions read those words of Agag; as the Septuagint read the former clause, ‘he came trembling.’ Death will dismay even the stoutest heart.’ (Matthew Henry commentary on 1 Samuel 15:32)
Death IS bitter. But I do not want to be stuck here. Teach me how to remember fondly and not sadly. Teach me to remember the sweet memories. Peace in the midst of pain. Tranquility in the midst of healing.
‘… the waters were made sweet.” (Exodus 15:25). Greek: ‘mathaq’ – to be or become sweet. To be or become pleasant.
‘How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’ (Psalm 119:104)
How long, O LORD? … How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? … Enlighten my eyes to see Your face through this, LORD. To trace Your steps as I remember my own this month last year. So that my heart may rejoice and not weep. Help me to remember, LORD. To remember that when I’m overcome by the sorrow of life and the words of Psalm 13, Your word enlightens my eyes. Your word sweetens my heart. Brightens my memories. And makes bitter waters sweet.