On November 4, 2012, my family celebrated one last Christmas with our Mom. She died the next day. The day that followed that was my forty-first birthday.
On that birthday/funeral planning morning, as Facebook greetings poured in on top of condolences, one sweet friend wrote that she hoped I would one day find some meaning behind the proximity of the date of my mother’s death and my birthday. For many months, that meaning eluded me, and yet I knew there was something to it. I love finding connections in books, movies, and nature…symbolism and metaphor are kind of my language and they are certainly how I make sense of life and the world around me. It was just beyond my grasp until one day recently in yoga, I put the pieces together. I had been focusing on two dates: November 5 (a day of death) and November 6 (a day of birth). I had forgotten all about Christmas (November 4). That was the day that made the difference.
In receiving this epiphany one day during a warrior pose, I almost exclaimed out loud. It finally made sense to me that there was a pattern to it all, and in fact that this pattern may repeat itself many times over in my life, or maybe just once in the broadest possible way.
Christmas, Death, Birth
A “Christmas” season of life is all about gifts; receiving, opening them and giving them away. Recently, a spiritual mentor told me she felt I was entering a time like this in my life. I hope so, and believe me, I am on the lookout for the gifts that God is trying to give me. In a Christmas time, we rejoice, spread joy, and feel how special and loved we actually are. It’s a feasting time.
A time of “death” is just the opposite. It can involve actual dying, but it need not. A season of death can feel like sacrifice, like letting go, like pain and sorrow. It can be a time in which we shed things that we need to release, but wish we didn’t have to. It’s loss and change and it’s terrible. It’s a time in which hope and faith are absolutely needed but elusive. It is struggle.
A season of “birth” always follows a time of death. That reality is hardwired into nature. Spring follows Winter, a flower emerges from a seed, and God is always creating something new from what has been lost. A time like this is about new horizons and opportunities, new possibilities that had not yet been imagined. It’s about fresh air and wide open spaces.
It’s possible that people experience this pattern once a year, or decade, or even many times in a given week. It sometimes seems that way for me, and maybe especially so during this Holy Week. My moods can be flighty, but I know this is about more than a mood for me. It’s a pattern I can look for and to, and in the end it may be the only thing that matters.
My mother experienced Christmas, Death, and Re-Birth on those three days that November. From Heaven, I know she is rooting for me to finish my race in the same amazing way she did. As I see 11:04, 11:05, and 11:06 every day on clocks, phones, and literally everywhere I go, I remember that there is a time for everything, like it says in Ecclesiastes, and that “this too shall pass”, as my Mom always said.
Receiving, Letting Go, Being Reborn.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday
Christmas, Death, Birth.
In these seasons of life, it looks like I’ll get lots of practice.