I lingered over the words- reading, rereading- wrestling with how this could possibly make sense and yet it did. The two simple words used to describe our life could be blended, speak truth and give meaning beyond the solitary day that changed it. These words did not need to deliver the sucker punch they always seemed to do but could be woven into a love language and whisper truth into my aching heart.
Before and after serve as a frame of reference, a time and a location marking the sequence of events. For me, the two words mark what seem like two vastly different lives, lived by complete strangers. “Before” and I am transported to a moment when she would cozy in beside me and I can still almost smell her hair or when our hands swung in unison as we talked about what we would do when she came home from school and I can still almost feel her fingers squeeze mine as she said goodbye. It’s in these befores where I weep and yet I can almost feel her sweet smile telling me it’s ok. And then there are the afters: “the after she died.” Afters when burdens weigh heavy and the body is weary and the heart aches deeply and the tears fall endlessly. Yet in the pain, the afters speak to rebuilding, to reclaiming, and rejoicing. Truly rejoicing in the joy my brave one’s smile brings or embracing the warm sun’s rays that fill me when I bow low in prayer or welcoming the cold air that kisses my cheeks, reminding me I am still alive.
The realization was so sweet and gentle I lingered over it’s truth, pleading for it to sink deeply into the crevices of my heart. Yes- there will always be before and afters. The befores will cause me to cry so hard I can not breathe and the afters will be triumphant milestones so great I will feel the rush of angels wings applauding. Contrary to what I had thought though- the two are not unique and certainly not divided by a date. The before and afters create our “then.” And it is in the “then” that we continue, that we emerge from the ashes and strive to live as she lived- with grace and determination. Ours is a story of how our hearts loved abundantly, took the ultimate blow and then- because of that love, loved more deeply and lived more fully. Yes- there will always be the before that calls to me to remember. And yes-there will be moments that define our after. Yet woven together they create our then, a beautiful symphony at whose beauty urges me forward.