Alchemy in sorrow (2017)

Statue of a fisherman's wife and child, Katwijk, the Netherlands, March 2007

Statue of a fisherman’s wife and child, Katwijk, the Netherlands, March 2007

“Sorrow fully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmitted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.”
Pearl S. Buck

Dear readers, as always when I take even a short break, I find myself far behind on urgent tasks. In addition to caring for Matt by myself now, I am dealing with tax returns and extensive paperwork related to the aforementioned issues with the Veterans Administration. This kind of thing is why I used to stay two weeks ahead with my posts (and back then, I was posting DAILY, so that meant staying 14 posts ahead! wow) but since Jeff died, I have not managed to stay even one post ahead. I hope you will excuse my re-posting a previous entry. I also thank all who have commented in the past week, and apologize that I am so late getting to the comments. I sincerely hope to answer each and every one within the next few days! Thanks so much for your patience. For those who were with me the first time this was published, perhaps you have forgotten enough of it that it will not seem repetitive.

I believe that true optimism must include comprehension of the role sorrow plays in all our lives.  A positive outlook is not a form of denial; rather, it’s a conviction that even our deepest grief has meaning; that our trials and tragedies bring understanding and transformation more than superficial knowledge ever could.

In the years since Matt was born, Jeff and I have dealt with sorrow upon sorrow as the medical and developmental challenges continued one after another, and practical daily support was often scarce.  It has changed us forever, in more ways that we can describe or even know.  But I truly believe that our lives have been made richer for all Matt has taught us, that we could never have discovered without him.  It’s no coincidence that the author of the quote above walked a similar path years ago, and left us a priceless literary legacy as a result.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard Jesus referred to as “the man of sorrows.”  I didn’t understand how profound and ultimately beautiful a concept that was, until I experienced recurring sorrow for years on end.  The terms “God with us” and “man of sorrows” are now linked in my mind, as I contemplate the full implications of a God who, in granting humans freedom of choice, allows us to undergo suffering — an omnipotent God who chooses to walk beside us and share in that sorrow, rather than render us powerless to choose our own destiny.

There could be no deep joy if we did not know sadness, just as a person who has never gone hungry is unable to appreciate food as fully as those who have been without it.  It’s a kind of paradox; a mystery we can’t fathom.  Yet its truth has sustained people through circumstances far worse than the ones we now face.  If you are in a time of suffering or grief, I pray you can hold on to the belief that your sorrow may yet be transformed into happiness deeper than you could have imagined.

44 Comments

  1. You should not fret about responding to comments – I for one do not need you to respond. You have other important things to deal with. In the future, you will have more time and more energy, but for now just relax and accept the friendship and caring thoughts.

    • Thank you so much for giving me that encouragement and understanding…it really did help when I read this comment. I do read the comments daily, even when I’m busy, and they comfort me. I don’t usually answer immediately because I like to be able to respond with more than just rote one-and-two word answers…which maybe I should re-think? But what I love best about blogging is the interactive nature of it. I so appreciate the friendship and caring thoughts!

  2. Take your time Julia, we are always here waiting. Faith is a powerful gift for those of us that choose to believe. You have had to endure so much sorrow but your strength in your faith has been a guiding light to many. I continue to keep you and your family in my daily prayers. Hugs. xo

    • Thank you, Patricia. Your encouragement, understanding and prayers mean so much! I’m so happy you are here and I love those Italian hugs!

  3. Veronica Brown

    To share encouragement & expectation of joy in the midst of such sorrow is truly a blessing to your readers. God bless you, Julia. We love you and pray for you.

    • Thank you so much, Veronica. I truly need and appreciate the prayers and love and encouragement!

  4. Carolyn

    I am with you friend. Just take all the time you need . Take care of yourself and Sweet Matt. Love and hugs . Carolyn

    • Thank you, Carolyn. ❤

  5. Julia, Your re-posts are like a fine wine that gets better with age.
    Good Friday had seemed a strange label for the day Christ died. But the lesson is this; that suffering’s purpose is in that it results in a greater Good. And no greater good is there for the sake of all humanity than the joy that is Easter Sunday. Hence, Good Friday.
    -Alan

    • Aw, thank you Alan. I’m glad you don’t mind my re-posting once in awhile. I’m approaching 1000 posts now, and even I don’t remember them all. I do remember that as a kid, it totally confused me that the day Jesus died was called “Good Friday.” I suppose it’s too profound a concept for a child to grasp, just as I couldn’t understand all the fuss over the birth of Jesus until I began to get some hint of the implications of the incarnation of God. Now Easter…that’s something I always understood, however incomplete that understanding may have been. In fact, my favorite hymn in childhood, the first one I ever remember loving, was “Up from the grave he arose.” The very notes rising higher and faster sounded like victory, and even as a very young child (I would guess I was four or five) I knew the song was about a big victory. Luke 24:5 has always been a favorite verse of mine, but now that I am grieving the loss of the person closest to me, I understand it more than ever. Can you imagine the confusion, then the elation, they must have felt?

      • “Up from the grave he arose.” – What a victory it was. His followers were confused until the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. Remember not one of the Apostles were at His tomb awaiting His resurrection. They were in hiding. As Jesus said: The shepherd will be slain and the sheep scattered.
        -Alan

        • Yes, it’s hard– probably almost impossible– for us to imagine what it must have been like for them. Even so, it’s interesting that Jesus appeared first to the women– who were disbelieved at first when they brought back the good news to the men.

          • The women were the bravest of His followers. Veronica wiped His face as He carried His cross. Women were at the foot of the cross, save for John. But he had a purpose to fulfill; “woman behold your son. John behold your mother.” And the women who brought spices to anoint the body at the tomb. Good reason why they were to see Him risen first.
            -Alan

            • Yes, Jesus valued women equally, long before it was expected or even encouraged. No wonder they loved him back.

  6. MaryAnn

    Dear Julia, Please take as much time & as many breaks as you need. Remember to breathe & rest to take extra good care of yourself.
    Love,
    MaryAnn

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. Taking care of myself is easier said than done, especially when I am taking care of someone else first. But I appreciate your reassurance and understanding in encouraging me to take as many breaks as I need. Hard to know where “need” stops and “want” begins! 🙂 Love you!

      • MaryAnn

        Do both the need & the want! That’s my prescription, so no guilt will come! You will know “when”.

        • Good idea, Mary Ann. Thank you!

  7. Harry Sims

    Easy Does It.

    They tell me this means to take the action and leave the results up to God.

    Harry

    • Harry, that’s good advice. It can be hard to do, but sooner or later we come to the point where we realize we have no choice but to leave the results up to God. As Anne Lamott has said, “It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right.”

  8. Beautifully written for anytime of life. Contrast is always necessary to bring clarity. Those with no sorrow will never know the full measure of joy. I have given up the notion of posting with a great deal of regularity. It adds stress where I need to let go of some stress. Life is a dance and sometimes it has to be a slow dance. Saying extra ones for you still. Hugs.

    • Marlene, I agree with you about slowing down. I am feeling more and more that “slow” is the appropriate speed for me at this phase of my life. Sometimes I think we tend to confuse speed with accomplishment, but in my case that seems to be, at best, an illusion. Better to accomplish a few things slowly than fret myself into distraction that keeps me from getting anything finished. Thanks for those extra ones. I still need them. Giant appreciative hugs!

  9. Sheila

    Good morning, my friend! I know you will find joy and happiness again. It will be different, and will never be the same as you’ve shared with Jeff in the past. What a foundation Jeff has given you to build on! It must be so difficult, as I think of your strength that you must search for constantly. I am so proud of you, and hope to follow your example! Your friendship is my gift. I love you dearly! 💛🌸🌺 Sheila

    • Sheila, thank you for your faith, encouragement and hope. When I read your comment I thought of this favorite song that I used to listen to during the years Jeff and I were dating, never dreaming that it would be playing in my head during those last few days in the hospital with him nearly 40 years later. You are right, Jeff has left me a foundation in so many ways. Thank you so much for your friendship. It means more than I can say. ❤

  10. Godspeed as you work through your tasks.
    This is ‘sadly’ true: There could be no deep joy if we did not know sadness. I have found that after the rain, comes the sun. 🙂

    • Thank you, Timi. It is encouraging to read your words of hope, and your smile always lifts my spirits!

  11. Fine remembrance of an essential lesson. Blessings on you and your son.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. I appreciate your presence here.

  12. Susan

    Julia, may you have the strength you need for each day. May God carry and hold you and Matt. Thanks for all your years of inspirational blogs. Just going for a walk to soak in the Spring blooms can work wonders, and hot tea! Even though it is all very overwhelming and awful now, please try to find bits of time to restore yourself. Blessings and prayers for you!

    • Susan, thank you so much for your understanding, prayers and encouragement. The hot tea and spring blooms are definitely a balm for my worries, fears and sorrow. I appreciate your kind words about the blog. I find much comfort in this community and I appreciate all who join us here, including those we never know about.

  13. Michael

    Tomorrow is the viewing for my son’s coworker who was killed last week in los Angeles who!e on vacation . Marietta fireman.only 23 and engaged for one year. Such a waste at the hand of adrunk driver who ran aredlight and escaped unscathed. Went to Norah’s class today

    • Michael, isn’t it surprising how often the drunk driver goes unharmed while others are killed or badly injured? It was the same story with the man who hit my family. I am glad you were there with your son during this time. I’ll bet it was great fun to be at Norah’s class! I imagine she is still a cutie and I’m guessing she enjoys her class.

  14. Michael

    Yes take all he time you need. As Raynard would often be heard to say “be blessed.”

    • Thank you Michael. Your encouragement and presence have been a real blessing for many years now.

  15. Michael

    Yes Norah is unbelievably cute. Along with a generous spring kling of four year old typical tantrums. How did we ever get through that. Went to a family picture shoot last night at the Bulloch house in Roswell. A cute title town. Had fried green tomatoes for first time at crabapple tavern. Excellent. also had cheese grits for the first time. Not so sure about that combination. Rather have brown sugar and raisins on my cream of wheat. I had forgotten that T.Roosevelt’s mom was from there there. She was a southern belle in the finest sense of the word. Please include Marietta fire dept in your prayers. They are in the process of healing. We fly back today to seattle.very sad

    • Michael, believe it or not (unless my memory is off) I’ve never had fried green tomatoes. I grew up eating them vine-ripened and sliced, on sandwiches or just a la carte with other garden veggies. Now surely you can develop a taste for a delicacy such as cheese grits. Just think of them as polenta; basically the same thing. I’m glad you had some fun times in ATL and I do pray that the fire dept. will find healing as they cope with this sudden gap in their company.

  16. Michael

    Not so sure about these Kindle touch type pads. Much prefer a real click in real time. What is ur take on term southern bell? Is it a perjorative? My dil is reading Americanah in her book club. I read acouple of chapters while there and it is very good about the interface of American Nigerian experience. don’t ask me to tell u the authors name.but it hadnghosi in it.

    • Michael, I can’t stand touch pads and their totally off-base substitutions for words it thinks I am misspelling (plus I can’t figure out how not to hit the wrong keys). YES it helps to hear that click. I don’t find the term Southern Belle pejorative at all, but those who misunderstand Southern culture might intend it as an insult. If the reference calls up those never-true stereotypes of antebellum days, all anybody needs to do is spend a few days in Atlanta or anywhere else in the south to be brought up to date. Or for that matter, watch Steel Magnolias which is a more accurate impression than can be found in bad fiction. GWTW notwithstanding, Scarlett O’Hara is not a true Southern Belle. One need look no further than Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee and Carson McCullars to re-adjust one’s idea of what Southern females are like. Y’all just have a glass of iced tea and chill out, bless your little hearts. I think the author you must have in mind is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I haven’t read the book but it sounds interesting. Sooner or later we’ll make Georgia residents out of you and Mrs. B!

  17. Mike

    I think there will be some picts of us and Norah at her school outsideof Canton at Hickory Flat UMC. Not sure we are face book associates? I put a note on Upper Room site today about the wonderful LA fire department who came out for Ron’s service in Marietta. They were all magnificent through this tragedy. The chaplain also came out. I really can’t stant these touch pads. My little Acer chromebook has real keys and no detachable pad. The two survivors whom were in the car are dealing with heavy survivors guilt.
    I can’t recall ever Watching Steel magnolias, so will have to get a redo. Yes that is her name Chamamanda. Reminds me some of Chinua Achebe- a personal favorite.
    I am already missing my sweet tea at Chick,Fil-A- the nicest fast food restaurant I know of. The fried green tomatoes had a cheese remoulade sauce on them with bacon. To me anything with bacon gets 5 stars on the Michelin scale.

    • Mike, I share your aversion to touch screens. One reason it often takes me awhile to get to these comments is that I will ONLY use a computer to type unless it’s absolutely necessary to use my not-so-smart phone. I wish I could send you some sweet tea and Chick Fil-A, but that’s just one more reason for you to move to Atlanta. Of course Norah and her little sis are the most important reason- they are ADORABLE!!! Norah is even cuter than I imagined her to be at this age. She has grown up so quickly.

      • Mike

        Norah is taking ballet at Woodstock Baptist church. Northside hospital has a new facility just south of Canton,so hope to get a job there, why can’t I get my bearings around Canton? I always feel like I am in a maze; but there are three three silod outside of roswell,I meant silod which are similar to the big chicken, silod. We did get to stone mountain but have no idea how we got out there.

        • Mike, I’m not familiar with Canton, so I can’t help you there. I bet Norah looks adorable in her ballet garb. Stone Mountain is pretty much due east of Atlanta, I think. East on I-20 ought to get you there, or pretty close.

  18. Mike

    Yea it would be hard for her to be any cuter at this point. Sugar and spice with lots of -or a medium serving of spice.

    • That’s a good combination. Medium is about right.

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