(This is a guest blog written by my bride and true companion. Sending Christmas joy from our home to yours).
I realized this morning perhaps why I felt moved to write our letter this week in particular, which turns out to be the last week before our clocks “fall back,” the final week of waking in total darkness with no shred of evidence that morning’s light is on its way.
I woke around 6:15 and noticed the sky was still meticulously dark. The almost full moon had already set behind the impenetrable Front Range and the night was lingering long. Not until 7:05 am did the eastern sky begin to brighten, a beautiful stain of pale blue light spreading slowly above the dark, jagged bluff behind our neighborhood.
By then, Joshua (8) and Abigail (5) had woken, though still arrayed in their Monday morning sleepiness. Abs in fuzzy green footie pajamas, her amber and honey-colored hair cascading out of an unruly pony tail like spring run-off, too wild and vivacious for its banks to restrict; Joshua stretched out comfortably on the family room floor in his boxer-briefs only, beautiful boy-body exposed, testimony to this man-child who is still somehow so unselfconscious and young at heart.
And then it happened: within moments, the pale-blue color transformed into a sash of iridescent rose hemmed in gilded apricot and blazing gold. Joshua exclaimed; “Mom, come look at the sunrise!” And I stopped my morning scurry to turn my face to the brightening sky and the two sleepy children beholding it as well: this overwhelming, unlooked-for moment of beauty suspending us all in breath-catching-wonder.
So it has been this year: such moments of lingering night, darkness extended over sorrow deep, and yet intertwined with moments of such beauty that catch our hearts, resuscitate us and fill us again.
Sorrow deep: Morgan’s brother, his beloved Lance, passed into Eternity earlier this year on April 13. What sorrow, what loss, and yet in the midst, what unimaginable beauty of a family drawn together, woven with threads of undistilled love and pain: loving, living, being, holding, weeping, remembering, hoping, believing. We give thanks for every moment that we were able to share with Lance and with our family during this season. Mom and Dad, Francine, Ashley and Parker: it is to you that we dedicate this letter. Thank you for the way each of you revealed the face of Love to Lance and to us. (Link to my eulogy for Lance)
Swathes of light: In the midst of heartbreak and wrestling with a story which we so deeply hoped would include Lance’s physical healing instead of his premature death, there have moments of great light.
For Morgan, some of the gifts have been so beautiful they can only be understood as Divinely arranged. Rich experiences in the backcountry with his bow that continue to open and expand his heart and passionate appreciation for wild-spaces. Continued fulfillment in and appreciation for his work, watching restoration and life flow into and through the lives of many men. Pain-filled yet beautifully timeless moments with Lance, Francine and his parents and siblings in the months and weeks preceding Lance’s crossing over.
Morgan’s passionate embrace of the words of a mentor, Aldo Leopold, who said, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger in supposing breakfast comes from the grocery and the other that heat comes from the furnace” has been the basis for much seasonal liturgy in our home.
Learning “where heat comes from” has involved treks into the national forest to put up firewood for the winter, with Morg joyfully wielding his new chainsaw and Joshua and Abigail oscillating between carrying aspen logs to the truck and slurping up hot chocolate. Experiencing that food ultimately comes by the “grace of nature” has come through processing wild game meat in our kitchen; Morgan in his meticulous Snyder craftsmanship working right alongside his trusty 5 and 8 year old sidekicks. In the midst of a complicated and often frenzied world, Morgan has fought to restore a true connection with the natural world and preserve the fleeting yet timeless moments of adventure and play with our kiddos; I am so grateful!
For our ever-inquisitive, gentle yet strong Joshua: discovering a passion for fishing and the power of a canoe paddle in his capable 8-year-old hands, his delight in throwing a spiraling, soaring football, the joy of friendship, the thrill of “treasure-hunting” with his daddy in the wilds of Colorado, honing his innate gifts of patience and attentive focus whether in fishing or fixing the axle on the pop-up, and also moments of cuddling and reading-aloud with his grateful-for-his-still-affectionate-heart-momma.
For Abigail, the continued thriving of her agile and coordinated little body, her bright mind and her playful heart; joy-filled moments with beloved cousins, hours of dedicated coloring, more monkey-bar exploits, swimming sensations, and hundreds of cartwheels on the trampoline; composing spontaneous worship songs on the way to the grocery store and her daily routine of vaulting into headstands against the closet door, not to mention playing “hard-to-get” with her Daddy and lovin’ on her momma.
And for me, more “growing up” as a woman and mother, beautiful moments with our kids, Morgan, our parents and extended family and friends, rediscovering my love for “words” and the thrill of wading deep into their etymology and connotations, and the weekly joy and privilege of teaching Holy Yoga and the wonder of this beautiful, mysterious, self-revealing, generous and near God who chooses to come and fill that time, week after week.
It has been a hard year; it has been a beautiful year. Darkness and light. Lingering night and beauty-soaked sunrises. In all of it, we are very rich in love and so much of this goodness is fruit of your love and prayers all these months and years. Thank you; we love you!
One closing thought from our experience with hospice: a forerunner of the hospice movement, Dr. Ira Byock, suggests that what it means to live “well” and die “well” are inextricably connected. He does not mean “well” as an adverb, as in “to do a good job,” but “well” as an adjective, as in “to be well” as we live and as we die. He insists that there are eleven simple words with profound reverberations that can help us be “well” in both living and dying. These words are:
Please forgive me
I forgive you
I love you
These eleven words are now taped to the front of our fridge. And this is our prayer: Oh Beautiful God! Help us to live in and through these words and the posture of heart they express every day, that true wellness might abound in us and among us and through us. Amen and amen.
Wishing you moments of joy and unlooked-for beauty in seasons of painful darkness; wishing you moments of true presence and intimacy with those you hold dear; wishing you wellness in all of your living and letting go. Again, we say thank you and we love you.
With all our hearts,
Cherie, Morgan, Joshua and Abigail