Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Remarkable Year

As we near Christmas and the end of the year, my mind seems to naturally want to drift over the last twelve months in order to see where I have been and to where I might be headed.

The year 2010 is one that will stand out in my mind for years to come and will probably still be standing when I breathe my last.

While it is true that every year can be considered remarkable in its own right, 2010 seem to hold a confluence of events that taken by themselves would most certainly constitute those events we call life changing.  They are the events that, when recalled, evoke emotions and thoughts that may have been long since submerged into the subconscious mind.  However, this year, these earth shaking events seemed to come all at once over a twelve month period that no one could in their wildest imaginations call dull.

This year produced losses of monumental stature.  It delivered shocks that blindsided all.  It also brought the joy that life craves and demands sharing.  It had nearly everything. 

In the spring of 2010, the Smith family (my wife's family) experienced the sudden and tragic passing of the family patriarch, Lloyd.  Lloyd was an uncommon man in that his gentleness and way of life touched each one of us in ways that were so very personal and tender.  He reveled in his family over the years and took great pride in all they accomplished.  He loved every member in a unique way and showed that love by simply sitting back at family gatherings and smiling at all the activities swirling about him.

I shall never forget the April morning that he died.  He had been in the hospital for five weeks battling heart disease which was only discovered upon his admission.  For nearly four weeks, he had been unconscious after his heart stop for nearly seventeen minutes late one night.  He died shortly after 7:00 in the morning of April 9th.  His passing, while a shock, was not unexpected.  I remember driving the short distance to the hospital to see him in that bed one last time as though it was yesterday.

There was an irony to the morning.  It was early spring and all the ornamental trees were in full bloom.  The hills were alive with color for the first time in months.  There was a chill to the air that morning, but the a warming breeze gently blew the delicate flower petals in the bright sunshine.  Birds were beginning to sing loudly and all throughout the day.  Earth was coming to life after a long winter's slumber.  The sting of his passing still lingers within all who knew him.  Each of us treasures personal memories as we approach this first Christmas without him.  Our sadness is balanced by the wonderful moments we recall with the passing of each day and in remembering, it doesn't seem as though he is far away from us at all.  In fact, he isn't.  He is within each of our hearts.

Later in the year, on the King side of the household, two elderly members of the family were struck ill quite suddenly and unexpectedly shortly before another monumental event was to take place.  My dear daughter-in-law's grandmother and grandfather encountered health issues that shook the foundation of the family.  Anticipation of what was about to happen was tempered with the realities of older age and declining health.  But even in this, we were reminded of the wondrous resilience of the human heart that is dependent on God for its strength and tenacity.  Both members are doing fine for the moment, but, inevitably, trouble will come once again, and yet, because of the enormous faith of this family, all will be well.

Shortly before Independence Day, I received a phone call as I was driving to work that took me by surprise.  My mother, I was informed, had broken her hip and now lay in a hospital bed.  We rushed to her side and watched her lie still for three straight days under the influence of pain medication while levels of the blood thinner coumadin lowered in order that surgery might be performed to repair the damaged bone.  Eventually surgery was performed successfully and her rehabilitation began.  She moved to a nursing home where she received intensive physical therapy.  Through it all she showed her great determination and strength.  She vowed that she would return to her home in an assisted living facility before the end of the year and just a few short weeks ago she met that goal.  Her strength is remarkable.

In the fall of the year, my niece by marriage, Becca, set off for her first semester of college.  A very intelligent and charming young lady, she looked forward to the new adventure with great anticipation.  Mom and dad had a lot of anticipation as well and looked upon this new page of life with a bittersweet glance.  Their little girl, the light of both their lives, was moving into a new world.  She was truly becoming her own person now and that was both gratifying and frightening.  I am sure that the emotions ran high on that hot August day when Becca moved away from home and took up residence in her new world.  I am happy to report that she took to her new life with great excitement and embraced her new found independence in a manner that has made us all proud.  She has now completed her first semester of college and is embracing life with the vigor and enthusiasm as only a young adult can.

Life this year, as I said before, was a very mixed bag.  Yes, there was a lot of sadness with death, illness, and accidents visiting one right after another.  But there was also the joy of new life coming into the world.  In September, little Noelliah King came into the world to join her two bigger sisters and mom and dad.  There is nothing quite like the birth of a child regardless of whether it is the first child or the twentieth.  With each birth, we are reminded of the sanctity of life and how blessed we are to have new members of the family.  We are reminded that our sadness is not something that will last forever.  Sadness will be eclipsed by the joy of new life every time even though a part of us may remain sad over a loss.  With new life there is a future and with that future the one thing the human heart craves right behind love--hope.  To see Noelliah is to see the future and to know that God is looking out after us.

And so 2010 is almost history.  It was a year of death and life that was, at times, very difficult to bear.  However, because we have a family that survives on love of life and of one another, we have kept the proper perspective of things.  Yes, we will miss Lloyd, most especially as Christmas comes upon us.  His empty chair will remind us of the empty space in our hearts left by his passing.  But we will be heartened by the room full of family because it is in this that he lives on.

Our joy of our newest little one reflects the joy and hope of the season as we celebrate the coming of Jesus into this world as a man.  His was the ultimate sacrifice and we should take comfort in the fact that He knows exactly what this year has been for us because He lived among us as one of us.  It is in Him that we place our hope and our love and know that the wounds of 2010 will be healed by this Great Physician.  We also entrust to Him the newest members of the family as well as the rest of us who continue to live our lives out and who, in 2011, will come to love Him even more deeply.

And to all of you who read this, it is my wish that you have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and that the loving Father who is God and Lord of us all continue to bless you with all good things and the promise of life eternal.