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Gift Exchange

By Belinda (leaning into the archives tonight, with a post from November 2008. The woman in the story, Paula, has written her story here herself since then: see The Valley)

Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The plaque on the kitchen wall said, Life Is All About How You Handle Plan B. I smiled at first, thinking how true the words were, but they were also poignant, for the one in whose kitchen I sat, was mourning the death of a much loved husband, who died just a few months ago; a sudden separation and all too soon.

Outside a winter storm was gathering strength as the afternoon drew on, but the kitchen was cosy and welcoming, with sunshine yellow walls and white painted cupboards. Interesting nick-nacks stood on window sills and shelves and the air was filled with the aroma of the evening's supper cooking.

We sat across the table from one another and talked the minutes and hours away until the late afternoon was darkening and it was time for me to go. I asked if I could pray before I left, and found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I did, thanking God that he has no "Plan B."

When I finished, she looked up at me and said, "Thank you for that. I was wondering what I would write in my letter this year and now I know. It's only Plan B to me."

Before I left she showed me sea glass; sea softened shards of lavender, green and milky white, gathered from the shores of Prince Edward Island. And a beautiful heart shaped piece that she found on the beach after her beloved husband died and which a friend had framed in silver and made into a lovely piece of jewelery. She told me that on the island they say that if you find a heart shaped piece of sea glass, it is a message from the Creator that you are loved.

She smiled wryly as she talked of her own training in death and grief counseling, and of the phases of grief and how they come randomly and sometimes all in one day. And then she told me how she had learned how important it was to notice and honour the small deaths that people suffer. She said that if we did that, we would stand out as very different to the rest of the world.

It was my turn to reflect deeply on the implications of her words. I thought of the deaths this could apply to: the death of certain expectations, hopes and dreams or the death of a marriage.

These deaths may go without the conscious mourning that is the path to good healing. There is no wake, no gathering of supportive friends and family, and yet it would not be hard to be a better friend when such times come, if only we knew that we could and should.

I was so grateful for the insight she had shared with me, and thanked her as we hugged goodbye and I prepared to step from the front door, out into the storm. "You gave me the line for my letter," she said, "and I gave you this." It was the first gift exchange of the season.


Marilyn said…
I recall this post and appreciate the timeliness of the repost. Last year it was the "there is no Plan B" that resonated with me.

Right now, in the midst of chronicling big and small griefs in a parent's life and how they were contributing factors, it is this: "she had learned how important it was to notice and honour the small deaths that people suffer."
Belinda said…
Yes, Marilyn. So often those small deaths aren't grieved or acknowledged fully enough. A friend has just made the tough decision to pull out of a PHD program because the timing isn't right and other factors. There is grieving in that decision.
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