Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Pain Now is Part of the Happiness Then
C.S. Lewis said in his book about his life with his wife who died of cancer, that "the pain now is part of the happiness then." The play caused me to cry off all my make up when I saw it as a young woman on the stage of a theater in London. I knew that it was true - all happiness is tinged with the sure knowledge that when we choose to love someone, we know that we will lose them at some point and we will be in pain.
My sister-in-law, Karen Marie McCarthy Quinn, went from us, from this life, a year ago, September 19, 2010. She was 55 years old. It was not a choice to love her, you just did.
Karen was charming, intelligent, and funny and she contributed richly to all of our lives. She talked about putting her hand into Jesus' hand before she died, just like her mom had told her to, and she lived the last, most difficult portion of her life with grace. Hers was a life to celebrate having been a part of. To have loved her and to have been loved by her was a sweet thing.
The fact that she was so lovely is the very thing that makes this reality so hard. Particularly this month containing both her birthday and the day she died.
And it's stunning to think it's been a year - because it's all so fresh.
We got a call saying that she was gone and headed over to their apartment to spend some time with her before they moved her body to the funeral home. We stood and prayed over her, thanking God for the time we had with her and feeling pretty stunned. It was surreal to have Karen there, but not there. The hospice folks came in and did their jobs, quietly bringing a level of order into the midst of our sadness.
My brother-in-law's family drove down later that night, which made us not so uncomfortable to leave him alone. We went together for dinner to our youngest brother's home and ate. Trying to figure out conversation and still stumbling. We were exhausted and knew that the days ahead wouldn't get better.
At the end of bible study Monday, when we were talking about our prayer needs, the only thing I could think of was to ask for grace over the trip we'll make to Wisconsin in a few weeks to bury Karen's ashes. It will be another hard day.
We'll look back on this from the end of time with understanding, from a place of unimaginable wonder, and most importantly, we'll look back at it together with Karen. Blessedly do not mourn as those without hope. But we do mourn.