Emilie Lemmons was a 40-year old mother of two young boys, and a long-time writer for the Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan paper for Minneapolis-St. Paul.
A year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, fought it, wrote about it, and died Christmas Eve.
Sometimes I see myself in the description of people who fight toward a specific outcome and are “haunted by the specter of failure and disappointment.” It’s the mother in me. I rage against the possibility that I might die and leave my children motherless, my husband a widower. Even though the medical odds are against me, and my rational mind knows I could die, it is hard for me to accept death as an outcome.
What if I just let go of that? What if I trust that even if I die tomorrow or next month or next year, things will somehow work out? What if I allow myself to put the outcome in God’s hands and just live intensely in the present, absorbing and embracing life as it happens? It’s not indifference or admitting defeat; it’s seeing the bigger picture.
Maybe that’s what was going on last week when I received a surprise gift in the mail from a group of friends. Inside were a book, a sweater, some candy, some stationery, all of it beautiful and thoughtfully selected.
I burst into tears as soon as I opened the package. And while I knew they were tears of joy, they felt as if they were coming from the same place deep inside me where my sorrow dwells. It was as if joy and sorrow were intermingled in an intense response to life.
Maybe that is what Rachel Naomi Remen means when she writes, “Joy seems more closely related to aliveness than to happiness.”
Maybe I am capable of experiencing joy after all. Maybe I don’t need to approach joy with resentment. Maybe that message is what my Advent light is illuminating. I pray that I can enter into the lesson God is trying to teach me.