For the past several weeks I’ve been wishing someone could just hit a fast forward button. Even if it is a little irrational I don’t want March 2nd to come. In some strange way it feels like Anna’s final hour is about to happen again only this time we know it and it is frightening. I’m not sure why I feel this way when obviously the worst has already come and gone. I think the anticipation is far worse than the day will actually be and part of me wishes we could just skip through. I’ve been keeping busy, keeping distracted, keeping exhausted.
I’m not at all sure what is so frightening. Perhaps it is fear that the suffering might change or get worse but then I have to ask, “So what if it does”? I don’t think it’s possible that it could be as hard or as awful as March 2, 2013. And if I’m honest, I wonder, “Is it really the worst thing”? Here I am. Alive and well. With fruit to show for my troubles. My Surrender comes more readily, my Trust is more certain, my Faith is stronger and my Hope is a force to be reckoned with.
Why are we so afraid to suffer? It’s hard but we embrace so many things that are hard and we do it for mere worldly gains. Truly when the pain is the worst I throw myself before God, into Him. I live more intimately with Him and that is not a bad place to be at all. In that way my suffering brings my greatest Joy.
March 2, 2014 will simply be day 365 without Anna, no better or worse than the day before or the day after. I know there is much to gain and be learned in these weeks of fear and anxiety and sadness and overwhelming loss. I know this time of trial is fleeting. And because I am called to live in the world my time of living purely and deeply in the heart of my God is fleeting as well.
For the past year I have been confronted time and time again with thoughts of how fragile and temporary this life is. Sometimes I carry on business as usual without giving it a thought and other times I cannot escape the simple profundity of that truth.
Anna left the house on a Friday evening and called goodbye. I didn’t drop what I was doing to give her a long hug and a kiss goodbye. To her that would have just been awkward. (And it wouldn’t have been enough of a goodbye anyway) How could we not have known it would be her final hour? There was no sense of it. No warning and ultimately no final Earthly goodbye. She walked out the door full of life and hasn’t walked back in.
“But about that day or hour no one knows…” (MT 24:36)
I know for a fact she had every intention of walking back in. And waking up in the morning. And taking pictures of her first clients for her budding photography business. And seeing friends. She had a journal next to her bed. Was she about to write in it or had she already? I don’t dwell on all the things she left undone. That list is too long to wrap my head around. But it does always lead me back to the same thoughts.
What if this were my last hour? Am I ready? Am I afraid? Am I excited? What if today I meet God face-to-face? How am I living for Him?
Anna’s famous last words have become “Live a little”. She used it as her senior quote in the yearbook and it’s become a mantra among her friends. And I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe Anna’s philosophy of life. She wanted to Live and by all accounts she certainly did. She found the fun in every situation or made her own. She was kind, generous, loving, intelligent, compassionate, talented and the pain of losing her brother gave her a unique perspective of the fragility of life. She simply wanted to ‘Live a Little’.
I can’t help but wonder in her final hour if that philosophy served her well? Was she living for HIM a little?
Certainly no one wants us to ‘Live a little’ more than God does. After all He is the creator of “living”! He sent His son for exactly that purpose. In Jesus’ own words
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)
Jesus wants abundance for us, not mere existence. He came and served and suffered and died so that we might live life to the full. He knew human suffering well. He experienced it himself even before the cross, and rightly wants us to know that our suffering is not because of Him or the Father. Our trials are because of the enemy, but God’s plan for us is living!
As we go through these days I just can’t help but be reminded of these days last year. It truly seems like yesterday we were in the same spot with a high school senior. Waiting anxiously everyday for those college acceptance letters and planning college visits for March and April. The drama department at Westhill is getting ready to put on their musical production. Last year it was Footloose and Anna had fun designing the poster for it. Just like last year, the boys and girls basketball teams are making a sectional run and the seniors are excited to cheer on their team. There are so many plans being made for the near future and it’s such a fun and busy time for Seniors. Lacrosse starts soon. Spring break. College. Senior skip day. Yearbook. Ball. Graduation. Anna was riding on the high of earning Four Gold Keys at the scholastic art awards and her work was on display at OCC for the month of February. She was busy getting her portfolio together and was able to take it in person for a review at SU where she received high praise and constructive criticism. She had been accepted with scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design and was on top of the world about making that dream come true. Then and now, there is so much living going on and it’s good. It was an exciting time for Anna last year and this year feels much the same for Nichole. Business as usual.
Only there is a new awareness about all of it. We will all have to face a final hour.
In this hour before the anniversary of Anna’s final hour I turn to my Mother Mary as I so often do for her example. During her own son’s final hour she walked beside him, every painful step. She endured until the end. She loved, prayed, wept. This son she thought would be a great King was murdered with criminals. Her hopes for a savior for her people apparently shattered. And Mary trusted.
Oh Yes I will take a page from Anna’s book, my beautiful daughter. I will Live a Little. For Him. With Trust.