The thing with life lessons is that they often come when you’re not looking and when you least expect them. And, much of the time, you don’t even realize a lesson was taught until you have had time to sit back and reflect on things later.
One of the first lessons I remember my granddaughter, Haley, teaching me happened on the evening of May 27th, 2008. Haley was all of 15 months old at the time and our family was standing on a hill in a cemetery.
The days leading up to this had been filled with tears, decisions, and shock. My husband, Gary, had passed away unexpectedly on the 16th from a massive heart attack. We had no warning. From all appearances he seemed to be in perfect health. Only those who have experienced first-hand such a loss can fully understand. No one got to say a final goodbye. No one got to say a last “I love you.”
This particular day was the first of our year-long list of family celebrations and holidays that we would have to experience for the first time without our husband, father, grandfather, and son. And it was hard. Impossibly hard. It was Stasie’s birthday. Although we had the usual cake and ice cream and a gift or two, very little celebrating took place. Before she left the house that evening, Stasie asked if I would go with her to the cemetery. We invited others and, knowing a typical spring storm was approaching, 7 of us quickly loaded up in 2 cars and drove the couple of miles to the cemetery.
As we stood on that hill reminiscing, a gust of wind took us by surprise. Fifteen-month-old Haley immediately raised her arms in the air and began laughing and twirling around. The 6 adults just stood there, frozen in place, looking at each other — all fighting the urge to react the same way, but keeping our feelings in check. Was this appropriate? Should someone try to stop her? Almost as if on cue, we all turned our attention from little Haley to Gary’s then 93-year-old mother. What was she thinking?
To our relief, we saw her smile turn to laughter as the wind continued to blow. Soon others joined, not only in the laughter, but in the joy of the wind as well — complete with raised arms and twirling around. To us it was like an infusion of God’s Spirit, reminding us that death is not the end but, rather, the beginning of a wonderful, glorious, carefree life.
As the sky grew darker and sprinkles of rain began to come, we left the hillside. Less than an hour later, after the storm had passed, we were blessed with a glorious rainbow — yet another reminder of a God who loves us and who cares enough to make his presence known, especially in our darkest hours.
So, thank you, Haley, for taking the lead and reminding us grown-ups how to live. Death’s sting has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Hallelujah!