Broken Hearts and the Glue of Joy

She felt a little nervous about this; “for it might end, you know,” said Alice to herself, “in my going out altogether like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?” And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember ever having seen such a thing.(from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

The sun dropped down into the trees behind her shoulder and not even the last, defiantly fiery blaze of scarlet rays could ward off the chill I felt inside at her words.

Fell down…
skull fracture…
ventilator…
We just don’t know…

I stumbled through clumsy words I hoped were enough, even as I knew they weren’t. No words are sufficient or right in that situation. This I know. Then I stumbled home, tears filling my eyes as I crossed the short stretch of yard that separated our houses. It hurts too much; I can’t take anymore. The broken pieces of my heart crumbled a little more at knowing my neighbor lay hurting in a hospital.

More bits crumbled inside when, later, I tucked my daughter into bed and listened to her sweetly childish prayer, “Bless Mr. C, God, and make his head better.” I fervently echoed her words then leaned in for the warm hug she squeezed around my neck. She doesn’t know it, but I depend on that hug every night to pull all the broken bits of me back together, to spread the glue of her love and compassion and joie de vivre across the fissures inside, to press my shattered heart gently back together, at least enough to manage another day.

Like Alice, I’m a little nervous right now. I worry that I’m disappearing, that the me I was is no longer and I don’t know about the me I’m becoming. Lots of days, the spirit is battered and the flame is weak and I cling to God’s promise that He will not break the bruised reed or put out the flickering wick (Isaiah 42:3). When Kevin died, grief split me wide open and all the wonderful bits of life were shattered by cancer’s heavy-handed blow. I struggled then – I struggle now – to gather all the pieces we’ve left and put a life back together, a life with my daughter that honors the spirit of her Daddy, that keeps his love swirling around us and inside us, linking us forever as a family. It’s not easy – this keeping on.

And this life alone…some days I wonder if I’m strong enough for it. I feel lonely and lost. I miss him so much. I want to hear his voice booming through the house. I want to feel his lips brush mine in a good-night kiss. I want to see him cuddle our girl and read her a story. And I wonder, if my heart keeps breaking over and over again every day in grief for him and sadness for the world, what will happen?

Will enough be left to keep hope alive and love beating steadily?

Yes.

The confident voice rises from somewhere deep inside the heart that my daughter’s hug has gently pressed back together.

Yes.

God knows broken hearts. He knows overwhelming grief. He knows the sadness in this life and He knows the darkness death brings. He knows we will feel overwhelmed and exhausted and our hearts will be frayed from being broken open for others.

But He also knows hope and love and peace. And He knows even just one small bit of joy found each day will be enough glue to hold me together for a little longer. When tiny fragments of joy collide with jagged shards of despair, they don’t shatter into crumbs of dust and blow away. No, all those specks and smidgeons gloriously scatter and, like magnificent God-filled-up prisms, reflect even more of His light into my life, multiplying the joy. And the joy is glue, more glue, enough glue to patch the pieces of this broken up heart, strengthening it for another day. The joy grows and my heart heals and it’s slow, but it’s enough.

Hope is alive and love beats steadily.

Updated to add: My neighbor passed away, and my heart cries again for the loss his family feels. Thank you, Mr. C for sending over a guy to blade the snow from my driveway. Thank you for mowing an extra strip (or two) of the grass between our yards. Thank you for generously sharing your tools as this stay-at-home mom tried some DIY projects. Thank you for waving each time you saw me in the yard – sometimes it was my only human contact on a hard day. You will be missed.

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