I would go back, if I could. I would go back to August, when I was worn out from my CPE summer and looking forward to a weeklong silent retreat. I would go back to anticipating my second year of seminary, an exciting internship, and more time at home than I had last year. I would go back to being the mother of three living children ~ irritated at one of them for not making it to his cousin's wedding, sorry that another could not join us in North Carolina, curious about another's new romance. If prayer offered magical solutions, I would pray to go back. That life we had ~ it didn't seem that we were asking so much. No boat, no vacation home, no fancy cars; not even the needed plumbing repairs. Three healthy children and the prospect of their futures to enjoy. That was enough. Everything else could have fallen away and that would still have been way more than enough.
But prayer is not magic. Prayer is God with us, us with God. Prayer is listening and noticing. So we don't get to go back but, maybe, in the light trying to break through in December, I can notice some things.
And here is what I have noticed this week. I have, as a consequence of my son's death, received what I think must be some of the most extraordinary missives ever written. Emails, cards, letters -- the form of transmission doesn't matter. The words do. Some are about my son, some about those of us left behind, some about God. There is apparently something about magnitude of loss that drives ordinary people to eloquence.
I literally carry some of this writing around with me. There are moments, many of them, when I think that I will not make it to the next one, and then I read what people have sent me. I read them as prayers, regardless of how they were intended. I look for what God might be saying, in a phrase or a paragraph, and sometimes I see them, small clues to the mystery that binds us together, whether the people who articulated them knew what they were doing or not.
If you have a friend who is longing for someone else this Advent, especially someone who died in the last year or two, sit down this week-end and write a note, or send an email. It might be the most important thing you do this month.
(Cross-posted from Advent blog.)