“Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”
― Stanley Gordon West, Growing An Inch
The above quote requires some contextual clarification; at least as far as it applies to those who at times find smiling harder than pulling a diesel locomotive by hand. But let me step back a bit and preface a few things as it pertains to the above assertion.
I have been on a journey of reconciliation for the past 23 years. It is a journey that has no earthly destination, and it is one I did not start of my own volition. I did not save up or plan for it, but ironically I find I am still paying a price. The elements of expenditure along this journey are not monetary in nature, and while the price is a costly one, no amount of money will ever alleviate the sense of being stripped of the essence of who I am.
Twenty-three years ago, my youngest child was born. My wife and I felt the name Isaac would be appropriate. The name Isaac is derived from the Hebrew name, Yitzhaq. Literally it means "he laughs." Isaac embodied his name fully and for 19 months he redefined for us as a family, what pure unabashed joy looked like. His laughter was always surface level, and it caused his brother and two sisters no small amount of merriment. Through his infectious nature, he also kept permanent smiles on the faces of his parents.
Twenty-one years ago, the laughter grew still. For a time, the energy required to express the positive emotions usually associated with smiling, symbiotically faded from view. Smiles are not meant to be emotionally depletive. It has been said it takes more facial muscles to put a frown on your face than it is to smile, but when you have been exposed to the emotional fallout of loss, energy levels recede to a subterranean level, totally out of sight.
It would be callous and insensitive in the extreme, to expect anyone suffering loss, to just bounce back and be the same as they were prior to their loss. Even well-meaning friends, family or associates may encourage “getting over it” or “moving on”. A distinction can be made between “suffering loss” as opposed to having “suffered loss”. One is ongoing while the other indicates being in the past tense; as if the suffering is not currently in the present. In time the sting of the loss may diminish, but it will be impossible for it to ever fully go away.
Today is Isaac’s 23rd birthday and I am smiling with tears. That is the unique contradiction of reconciliation. Experiencing sorrow and happiness at the same time. How can that be you ask? The hurt is still there, but I am ever so grateful I had the opportunity to experience the joy and laughter my son embodied. Society tends to be uncomfortable with those who grieve and mourn, and will not easily companion with those of us who graft smiles with tears, but that is ok. This strange reconciliation surrounding the loss of a loved one gives us permission, and the opportunity to heal, while never forgetting the treasure and beauty that we were blessed with 23 years go.
Happy Birthday Isaac. You are missed and loved immensely. We will be together as a family again one day. Mom / Dad / Rebekah / Naomi / Ethan
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.