I wish I could say affirmations of faith and hope are always met with a reversal of fortune. They’re not. In fact, since my last reflections on the uncertainty I and my family are going through right now, things have only gotten more hectic and stress-filled. Death isn’t something I’ve had to deal with much in my life, and I thank God for that. But last week I received the news that my grandfather is in the late stages of terminal cancer, and is in the period in which the only treatment is, in the word’s of the doctor, “to make him as comfortable as possible.”
Death of a grandparent is something I’ve always known would happen, but the timing couldn’t be worse. My mom — God bless her — has started to go back to work at the medical center where she practices, and coupled with her job editing nursing textbooks and caring for my father on an almost 24/7 basis, she’s got more on her plate than a sumo wrestler at a rice buffet.
I’ve taken the recent events like a little kids who drops his ice cream cone. Between the family challenges and the weekly reminders of the poor job market (still no bites in the applications) I’ve lost my temper and my cool more than a few times, and have been finding my outlook on the world becoming more pessimistic by the hour. It doesn’t help that we as a country are in an election year, with the mud-slinging and doom-and-gloom of current events reaching epic proportions. Caught in this tempest of “woe-is-me, woe-is-the-world,” all I want to do is retreat. I want to hide inside my little world of food blogging or ice cream man work, pretending the problems at home don’t exist, or don’t really have an impact on how I choose to gace each day.
It’s hard to see rays of light in the storm right now, but every once in a while I catch sight of them. Just when I feel like I’m being rocked to a new and faith-deprived low, a sudden break in the rain allows a flicker of blinding sunshine to burst through. The rays are short-lived but intense, and the key, I’ve found, is to keep your head upand your eyes open. Because with your eyes closed and your head down, you’ll never even realize that they do come.
I catch sight of them throughout the week. In sitting down to write a letter to my grandfather, reflecting on a gift of a prayer book he once gave me. A laugh from my dad watching an Orioles game, the first in years in which he hasn’t come home distracted by work or life. A heart-to-heart conversation with mu uncle on the phone, in which I find out I’m not as alone as I think I am, and that he has been in my position too. A glance over at my mother sleeping in, knowing the work I’ve put in preparing us for the day is also allowing for her to recharge her body.
These are the rays in the storm, the charging battalions of hope sent against Divisions and Corps’ of despair. I can’t help but think it’s times like these where many fall away from themselves and all they believe. Maybe you are one of those people, or maybe you’re not. Yet as I got through these times I can’t help but falter again and again, only to be lifted up again and again. Why is this? I keep asking myself. Is it me? Is it my surroundings? Is it the people in my life?
Maybe it’s a combination of some of these things, but the more and more I examine them, the more and more they seem to point at just the opposite. If you know, and if you know where I am in my life, then you surely know that ‘resolute’ is not a word I’d identify with, and that optimism, hope, and yes, even trust and faith, are not virtues I exude or even easily embrace.
And yet, I’m so moved by those virtues that I can’t help but extol this Ray of Light in the storm, and I can’t help but feel, by some first-met, long-forgotten, often-heard-whispering promise, that God’s hardest tests are the ones we press on through when we feel like giving up. So I keep my head held to the sky. Letting bullets of rain hit me, all so I won’t miss the ethereal beauty of rays in the storm.