This is a slightly revised re-post of something I originally wrote on 2 April 2008.

What was it about today? I think it actually started yesterday. April. April is a difficult month for me. Whenever the anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death comes, the anniversary of Patrick’s death isn’t very far behind. They’re like book-ends to the month of April. And everything in-between is colored by loss and by grief and by profound loneliness.

I thought, I hoped, that this year might be different. But at the very core of things, it isn’t.

I tried to just stick it out [at work], to just turn my mind to other things, to pray… but it was impossible. I felt like a trapped animal. Just like I did in those early days. Panic. Rage. Aching to cry, aching to scream, aching to break down in tears–anything to let out my pain! But not being able. Not there. Not in front of other people.

Finally, I went outside. I wanted to be alone… but I didn’t want to feel lonely. And lonely is what I felt. The sky was misty and grey, just barely holding back its rain, just as I was barely holding back my tears. It was quiet, and the wind was soft–not an invigorating wind. There were unusually few people out. The world seemed empty. I just began to walk.

I walked from the library all the way to the art museum–a pretty fair walk. The whole time, I was trying to pray… trying to pray… but my emotions got the best of me. What did my grief counselor used to tell me? “God knows you better than you know yourself, so you shouldn’t try to hide your feelings, even if you feel angry at Him.” And I did feel angry at Him, just as I used to. And I didn’t hide it. But I was more despondent than angry. And more lonely than anything. I even had moments of shock they way I used to–when I would stop, completely dumbfounded, and ask, “Is this really my life? Can this really be my life? How on earth could this happen?”

I climbed the steps up to the sort of elevated plaza that wraps around the front of the museum. It was very empty, and the sky seemed very large. Still that flat, opaque light grey. It looked much colder than it was. I walked all the way around the building. Along the sides are pretty little plantings with pretty little fountains. All kinds of shrubs and herbs and flowers and trees. I never noticed them before. Normally, they would have filled me with all kinds of delight… but I was just on the margins today. Just barely catching the fragrances and the sounds and the colors.My yellow tulip

Until I saw the yellow tulip. I was drawn by the little spot of bright yellow. I walked over to it. I found that it actually looked rather tired and sad and lonely. There were other tulip plants around it, but none had flowers. I sat down on the ledge beside the tulip. I looked at it, and it waved its weary petals at me. I understood it. It was all alone in that still, grey world, with nobody who could relate to it, nobody who could understand what it was going through. Even though I could sit with it and look at it lovingly, there was really nothing I could do for it. Awkwardly, I said, “Don’t worry, little tulip. The others will soon grow and bloom. God will provide for you. I know you can’t see it now, but He will.”

Then, sadly, I stood up and began the walk back to the library. And both the tulip and I were just as sad and lonely as we’d been before. If I could have, I would have brought the tulip up from its bed and carried it with me. But that wouldn’t have been right at all. It would have only hurt the tulip, maybe inflicted an early, painful death. I could do nothing. I had to entrust the tulip to God and His providence.

And then, just as I had spoken to the tulip, I heard a voice speaking to me:

If you know that I will provide for the little tulip, why do you fear that I will not provide for you, my own cherished daughter? If your heart feels compassion for it, do you think I do not feel for my own child? The tulip is not my own child. The tulip is something I made for you.

And that… that changed everything! I felt peace and calm. I felt like the world was right once more, and that I was fully part of it. I also felt terribly ashamed of myself and my earlier behavior and crazy emotions. But He laughed it off, and sent me on my way. The office was quiet and calm when I got back. Suddenly, it was pretty much just like any other day.

Only, I don’t get to hear His voice like that every day. Not like that. It made this day special. And that was the most shocking thing of all!

I think I shall have to go visit my tulip each day now, to see how it is faring. I know I probably shouldn’t get attached… but, of course, it’s already too late for that!

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