Yesterday I went up north to hang out with all but Joel so his mommy and daddy could attend the end of year preschool picnic with him.
And I cry typing that.
First of all, that both his mommy and daddy could go and then the fact that he got to actually go to preschool this last year of his pre-Kindergarten self.
But it runs deeper.
Because more than a few mornings, I got to drop him off.
Me and his siblings would pray for his day as we slowly rolled forward for our turn at drop off.
As he slipped his mask on, I would wrap my arm around him and we would all tell him he was a brave little toaster.
A teacher in a mask would greet him and the somber eyes of all that is Joel was all we saw as he turned his back to us and hoisted his back back one more time and headed in to school.
He made the most of it, to be sure, but he never liked the mask. When Rachel sent pictures of him all smiles at picnic table and running across a field and climbing the monkey bars, the joy was deep.
I don’t know what this year will leave us marked with.
My own mom was born during a different pandemic and a World War and spent her child hood in the Great Depression.
To the end of her days, she never threw a piece of foil away until it was used several times and washed in between.
The drawers of her kitchenette at the independent living center were chock full of cracker packets and unused napkins from the dining room when we cleaned out her room.
I had already disposed of a whole houseful of things that she hadn’t thrown away because you never know when you will need this or that…
Growing up she always had a bowl of candy in the family room and thought fruit was too expensive to purchase. A carry over of the days when candy was an only at Christmas treat and fruit buying was out of the question for a family scraping by on little to no income.
Those early years shaped her later years and in some ways she never got over the fear of not having enough.
I hope we don’t come away from this pandemic with irrational fears or carry scars that we don’t let God heal.
We lost some things we will never get back.
But we gained some things we would never have had if we had not journeyed through a global pandemic together.
What should have united us has continued to divide us.
Yesterday I asked the kiddos what good things had come about because of a very bad thing.
They talked about spending more time with their family and being thankful for being healthy. Things they probably would have taken for granted before this past year helped them realize how valuable these are to them.
What about you and me?
What good things came in the hard places?
I know for me I have grown in gratitude, in prayer, in faith, in hope, in compassion.
My priorities have been refined.
My purpose has become clearer.
Many of the insignificant trivialities honed in times more secure have been sanded away.
Gifts taken from a season of loss and grief that hopefully will shape me in the years to come <3