And my heart is so heavy for her and for her family. I have been thinking about them so much. They live close and every time I drive by their house I get a pang of sadness. And now, this morning, someone good and kind and thoughtful tied ribbons around every tree along our street. Ribbons that remind me of that sorrow, yet give me hope of all the love that surrounds this family.
I realize more and more how many people are going through sorrow.
Sure there are good days. Days that are light and bright and everything is going your way.
But there are so many other days. Things that happen that shred our spirits and knock our breath out. We all have them. Those secret sorrows. That heaviness. It comes in so many ways. A troubled child, mental illness, separation, relationships mangled for one reason or another, silenced friendships, memories lost, darkness where sometimes we can see no light.
And death that leaves such a gaping hole.
I was brought somehow to this post I wrote a couple years ago when another dear friend was suffering from loss. And I’m reposting those words because they spoke to me again this morning, and perhaps they’ll speak to you too:
My heart opens wide and my throat tightens but I feel powerless. Sometimes it feels like the whole world should stop for a moment of silence.
Often nowadays with so much going on in the world.
But of course it cannot. And it does not.
And we go on with making dinner and propelling children to practice the piano and take the dog for a walk.
So it was fitting that I would come across some Sunday notes today from a lesson a few months back about finding “beauty for ashes.” It is in Isaiah 61:3 and it says:
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Those lines make my eyes well up every time I hear them. Maybe it’s because my sister Saydi brings this thought of beauty for ashes up a lot, and she always makes things even more beautiful (she gave a pretty beautiful talk about this that I posted HERE).
The thought of The Lord exchanging our ashes, all of them, for beauty speaks to me in so many ways.
If we hand over those ashes that make our hearts heavy…whether they be ashes of sorrow, of pain, of embarrassment or pride, and leave them at His feet, we find that He has already changed them. They are transformed into beauty. That’s what the Atonement is all about.
It is interesting to think that sorrow is the tool that can transform us into “trees of righteousness.” I envision a tree with strong roots and protective branches. They don’t grow that way without troubling winds and sorrows coming their way, forcing their roots to dig deeper, their branches to be unyielding.
In my lesson notes from church a few weeks ago I wrote down “sorrow creates holes to be filled with JOY later.” Not sure if that was something the teacher said, or a quote from somewhere else, but it made me think.
And although in the depths of sorrow, the word “joy” seems so out of place to even be situated in the same sentence with sorrow, I love the thought of sorrow digging wells to be filled with gold later.
Maybe much later.
But sorrow makes a home for that joy to be planted and to grow. Because otherwise that joy may just slip by, unnoticed and unappreciated, nowhere to hold it and grasp it tight.
My prayer today is that the wells of sorrow riveting this family will be filled with love. From Above. From neighbors. From me. From my family. And that all that love on those rocky riverbeds of sorrow can become a velvety home for joy and understanding in the future as those dealing with such loss transform into trees of righteousness.
We all have secret sorrows. May we all remember to whom we can bring our ashes that blind our way and require us to heave our hearts forward, stumbling and staggering under the weight. And may we find the beauty that God exchanges them for.