Beauty Through the Pain

Kathleen M Peters, Speaker/Author

Life is funny. And not always in a ha ha way.

I recently wrote a blog post about empathy, Quoting Scripture is Cheap Drive-by Empathy.  I didn’t realize then the darkness of grief strolling up to my front porch preparing to knock on my door. Just days later I would be catapulted unwillingly into an opportunity to not only express empathy but to deeply need it myself.

We lost a dear friend and family member suddenly two days ago and are reeling from the shock and the intense profound loss that comes from knowing you won’t be able to hug their neck, hear another adventure story, laugh at their dry humor, or watch them love on your kids this side of heaven. They are unreachable. You will never get to see them roll up in their truck with their beloved German Shepherd in tow or sneak back into the house at your son’s birthday party to grab another 2, 3 scoops more of ice cream. You will never get to worry how in the world their lactose intolerant body will manage all that dairy. Nope. Death steals all of that. It’s robbed me of the chance to say good-bye on my own terms. And I have to say, it feels incredibly unfair.

As I stumble around trying to gain my equilibrium, my own words from just days before reverberate in my ears. “The one guarantee we have in life is it will come with it’s own pain, loss, and heartache. No matter what we do, none of us will escape. None of us. But what we can do is look for the beauty that surrounds us all. The beauty will always be there.”

You see, just days before, as I was driving through the thick Canadian blown forest fire smoke across the I-205 bridge from my sweet friend Josephine’s home, I wondered in awe how she was still upright. How is she walking around? How is she able to not only clean her house, but love on and care for her 2 toddlers all while her 4 month old son lies in the PICU recovering from major heart surgery. Her husband just left for a long haul, and there she is continuing on, frightened, but nonetheless she proceeds. And then I thought of my other friend whose husband lost his job and rent is due. Or the woman in my group who’s birth dad was found but refuses to see her. Or the mama who just found the ultrasound picture of a lost child.

How are any of us still upright?

The heaviness of this life threatened to crush me and then I looked over my shoulder to see the magnificent Columbia River flowing right below me. It was as if God was saying to me, “Yes, sweet girl, everyone will face difficulties, but when you are ready, when you have no more tears, or even in the midst of them, I’m right here. I have provided you a treasure map of beauty and goodness all around you. When you’re ready to look up, I will show it to you. I will help you see me even in the heartache.” And that’s when it occurred to me: I can choose to be overcome by the pain of the world or in the middle of it all, I can look for beauty.  I can be a Pain Depository or I can be a Beauty Collector. I will choose the latter. The other is too heavy for me to hold.

I will still cry. I will still feel the pain. I will choose empathy over detachment, but I will look for my rivers through the smoke.

I must.

How about you? Are you driving through thick smog? My prayer is you too will see His hand reaching through, friend. We can do this.

All my love,  Kathleen

P.S. Please don’t misunderstand my need to be a Beauty Collector. I don’t pretend to think a Pollyanna attitude is enough to make-me-all-better. Finding beauty in the haze is not a solution to grief. Grief is not something to be fixed; it is to be felt. Beauty finding is a tool that keeps me from going under. It keeps me upright.

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