Joy and Sorrow

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At this very moment, all I need to do to experience joy and sadness at the same time is to turn my attention towards an unfolding experience in the life of my extended family.  There they are, waiting for me, smiles and tears, exuberance and grief, lots of pain and compathy, lots of gratitude and amazement; all swirling around and within me.  Do you want to see what this looks like?   

Drop a plethora of drops of many colors of paint on a piece of thick paper.  Spin this on a wheel.  See what happens. 

I have been able to access this mélange of feelings at will for the past three days.  I have chosen to access it a couple of times each day, though it is an exhausting experience.  I keep making this choice because…well, because…, I guess it is all about what love requires.   

Details please.  What’s going on? 

There are these adults and children that I love, though a few of them I have never met and a few others I have only just met.  They are all passing through this extraordinary, and quite unusual, medley of joy and sorrow. Just Love invites me, blesses me, with the free choice of traveling with them.   

By the way… 

I hate roller coasters.   

We are traveling on an emotional roller-coaster.   

If you tried to get me on roller coaster at King’s Island, I would fight you to the death. 

If you tried to keep me off this emotional roller coaster, I would fight you to the death. 

This emotional roller coaster is a God-given, love-enhancing ride that I will not miss.   

More details.  My daughter Lauren, her husband Jeff and their two children, Makenna and Maxton, are a foster-care family.  Talk about an emotional roller coaster!  They have been riding together with various children for a couple of years.  They have piled up mountains of joy/sorrow experiences.  Love, let go.  Love, surrender.  Take on, pass on.  Change a life, release a love.  Laugh/cry.  Hope, love, unabated. 

Saturday, I stopped by, carrying in lunch from Wendy’s for the family.  Three other children, siblings, were visiting for the weekend.  I had been told they might join the Aker’s family.  But something did not add up.  These three were extra-awesome kids–happy, polite, enthusiastic; no signs of the wounds many foster children carry into a new home. 

After demolishing lunch and heading off to play, I moved closer to my daughter and speaking softly asked, “What’s with these kids?  They are too good to be true.”  “Yes,” Lauren responded.  They have been in a very loving foster family for a couple of years.  However, it is time for them to be adopted and with their current family, that is impossible.  They need another home until adoption becomes possible.” 

Slowly, I began to understand that the Aker’s family might be that adoptive family!  I might become the grandpa of three more children, a total of 12 grands, almost overnight.  Wow!  I love kids!  Three more?  Awesome.  Exuberance.  Joy. 

As the dust of understanding began to settle and as the conversation continued with Jeff and Lauren, I began to see more clearly the mixture of feelings that love must experience at a time like this.  Loving parents who have no choice—they must let these children go.  Makenna has always wanted a sister.  She is as excited as a bouncing super-ball.  The three children have already become friends with their two new playmates, and vice-versa.  What fun!  The three siblings, however, think they are away from their home and loving parents only for a wildly witty week-end.  They have no idea of the story that will be told to them by their precious parents on Monday.  Heart-break. 

I type those words and once again immediately move deep into the sadness. 

As the tears begin to subside, I remember a most emotional event.  A falling in love moment.  While the youngest two boys of the sibling trio were taking a nap, their sister, plus Maxton and Makenna, and Lauren and I, all went to the playground.  Makenna asked me to play, “Grandpa Monster.”  Grandpa chases the kids.  Gruesome monster noises.  Grandpa feigns exhaustion; then springs from his seat, and the pursuit is on.   

Eventually, however, a wearied grandpa must quit the game.  The seven-year-old sister sits next to him and a dialog begins: 

Child:  You’re not really a monster.”   

Grandpa:  Oh, yes I am.  

Child:  No, you’re not. 

Grandpa: Do you see this big belly of mine?  Inside there lives a little monster—he kind of looks like a monkey– who controls everything I do.  

Child: (With a penetrating stare, she looks deep inside my story and belly.) 

Grandpa:  The monster is an alien from space.  At any moment he can make a baby monster to live within someone else’s belly.” 

Child:  She quickly slides to the other end of the bench, but, safely separated, looks straight into my eyes and probes…) Did you just make that story up? 

Grandpa:  Absolutely yes, and I made it up just for you? 

Child:  Why would you make us a story just for me? 

Grandpa:  Because I like you. 

Child:  I like you to!  (She darts off the bench shouting…) Catch me if you can! 

Is it possible that that dialog tells the story of a child and a grandpa beginning to fall in love?  Quite possibly. 

Just a slight glance in the direction of that the possibility is enough to plummet me into that joy/sorrow thing.  Laughter/tears.  Just by thinking about it. 

This joy/sorrow thing, this laughter/tears thing, may be too difficult for many people to handle.  To volunteer to feel a great joy and a great sadness, at the same time, may require that one must first be converted out of our culture’s fear of suffering and especially our deep-seated fear of death.  It is not at all uncommon for people to dodge the fear of loss by never choosing love. 

What in the creation is so wrong about dying!!!??? 

Everything that lives also dies.  No exceptions.  No bad news here; that is no bad news here if you believe in the eternal reality of Just Love. Reality always moving forward towards what love requires. Within such a Reality, everything that is constructed is de-constructed; then construction begins again.  This is the way of all things, even within the entire universe.  You and I are alive because–for heaven’s sake, by heaven’s purpose–stars died billions of years ago and in their dying created all of the building blocks of life, like carbon.  We are stardust. 

If I am to allow into my life the birth of a new love for a new child, as heaven’s purpose, I must also allow, even welcome, the sadness that the inevitability of loss also brings into my life.  This is the meant-to-be of all of our lives. 

My grandchildren, Maxton and Makenna, by way of their parent’s love and their many experiences of saying hello and goodbye, are learning to not fear letting go, surrendering, dying.  That means they will be able to live well no matter the circumstances they must live through. 

How about you? 

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