Sometime during the last few weeks, winter lost it’s final tenuous grip on our region and spring slipped fully through the door. I wasn’t entirely present to the coming or going. I was blissfully unaware of winters final exhalation and the sharp inhalation that fully breathed life into yet another spring.
Thirteen years ago, each of those breaths were measured, memorized, and forever marked to memory. In her battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, my mother held on to see the birth of one final spring. While medical science gave her a prognosis of no more than six months, faith and the human spirit willed her a full two years.
I was 40 the spring Mom passed, only four years removed from my own cancer diagnosis. For all she taught me about life, perhaps her greatest lessons came in the months immediately before and after her death.
I learned the true meaning of faith, courage, and acceptance in the face of lifes greatest challenges, and that laughter and tears water the soul like a passing spring shower.
When I railed at God and felt my prayers had been neither heard nor answered, she had faith each and every one had been, even when the answer was no. We were both in unfamiliar territory with no path to follow and no trail of breadcrumbs to lead us home, yet she climbed that mountain with unflagging faith and grace.
We laughed and cried and talked long into the night; of leave-taking, transitions, and keeping in touch. Neither of us knew about God Nods, but that didn’t stop us from planning them.
Less than an hour after Mom’s passing, I happened upon the following quote in a booklet left on a pew in the Hospice chapel. It’s a beautiful metaphor of our transition from this life to the next that instantly resonated with me:
“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.” -Henry Van Dyke
The passing of a human life is not unlike the passing of the seasons. Both die by degrees, and neither cease to exist simply because we no longer see them. Beginnings and endings then, are merely words we use to describe transitions that defy human description.
Those God Nods I mentioned earlier? They’re heavenly affirmations that those we’ve loved and lost live on in more than just our hearts. I no longer keep count of the actual number I’ve received. Yet two were so magical and miraculous they made every hair on my body stand on end. There was no denying their origin or meaning.
I’ve come to believe that all prayers are heard, and all are answered. The answer may not be what we want to hear, and it may come in Gods time rather than our own. Although I have no expectation in this life of understanding the reasons, I have every faith I will in the next.
If you’re missing someone who’s passed, I encourage you to look for God Nods. They happen when you least expect it and they ask you to look deeper. Not only do they bring joy, hope, and healing; they’re touching assurances of undying love, everlasting life, and goodbyes that never really are.
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.” -Kahlil Gibran
Do you have a season that invokes special memories? Have you lost someone close who will always be with you? Have you ever received a God Nod? If so, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!