It's late and I'm tired, but as I sit here looking at the Christmas tree, I can't seem to make myself go to bed. There is something in this moment that is too sacred to let go of easily. When someone you love dies, the first night is the hardest because you think, I don't want it to be tomorrow. You don't want it to be possible that a day could exist without that person in it. Someone somewhere is feeling that kind of anguish tonight, but there is a similar anguish in stepping away from sacred celebrations and back into the normal rhythm of life. I don't want it to be possible for tomorrow to exist without this same measure of peace and joy.
Yesterday as Quinn and I were making homemade pasta, our Christmas Eve tradition, I couldn't help but see what our family should have been. There should have been Emmett with a couple more kids running around. There should have been a swirling chaos of noise and mess storming through the house. But it was just us, and though we had a great time, it was relatively quiet and clean and predictable. I'm realizing that grief has very little to do with a loss in the past, it's a continual loss of what the present could have been.
But that story isn't to make you cry because I wasn't so much sad as I was struck by what Christ's grief must be like. Luke 19 records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem during his triumphal entry: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes" (vs. 42). In this moment, Christ expresses his grief over the loss of what could have been, if only they had known what would bring them peace.
If only they had known, and yet I, who knows and have been known by the very word that created the universe, still struggle to live as if I really know what will bring me peace. I wonder how my present, how this very moment would be different if I really knew what would bring me peace. Sitting by the Christmas tree with a fuzzy blanket, warm cup of tea, and high speed internet makes it easy to pretend I really know. But enter a few relatively minor inconveniences tomorrow morning, like a grouchy seven year old boy, an endless to do list for the house, a mountain of school work - and suddenly my warm, fuzzy peace is looking pretty fragile.
In my travels with grief, I've learned the path to real, deep, belly-aching joy involves embracing grief like an old friend and letting her walk with you. But I never expected her to open my eyes to the if only moments of the present. I'm learning to ask myself what this moment could be like if I really knew what would bring me peace. I still don't really have eyes to see the answer to that question, but at least know I know the question and that gives me courage to face tomorrow morning.