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New Year's Introspection

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
As of late, I continue to have an underlying theme in the questions that keep circling in my mind. How can so many juxtaposed truths coexist in this world at the same moment in our lives? Life and death, joy and grief, gladness and sadness, beauty and ugliness….. I am at the beach for an extended stay with all five of my children, two of which I gained custody in mid November, and my sister, who is with me for the first week. Everywhere I go, these thoughts are passing through my head looking for some understanding. (Of course, these are questions that have no real pat answer, but it is good for one to give them some thought.)

I thought that being completely away from my house would help ease the transition of entering into the year 2012 without Michael. I have now been forced to leave the last year of Michael’s life, 2011, behind me. We always spent many focused hours together in the first several weeks of each new year planning, dreaming, goal setting, and realigning our compass for life. It had always been a month of solitude, retrospection, and introspection as we continued on into a new year in our life journey together. I had anticipated that the couple of weeks following Christmas were quite possibly going to be very disorienting and grief filled, to say the least. Since the beach has always been a place where I can clear my mind, hear God’s voice with more clarity, and discern what I believe, think, and feel about life, it seemed like the logical place to bring in the New Year in a totally different way. A different house, a different place, different dynamics of family members present, different daily rhythms, different everything. So far, it is doing exactly what I wanted it to do. The burden is lighter here and I feel that I am able to have a broader perspective away from my house and daily responsibilities. I have been able to get my thoughts past the pain and look more intently at the big picture, which is hard to do when I am at home and surrounded by memories, personal items, photographs, and familiar smells that send my mind and heart reeling. It is simply beautiful here and my three teenagers and I are each seeking refreshment in our own unique ways to help us find joy in the dailiness again.

I went for a long walk on the beach by myself on New Year’s Day and found it difficult to stop. Even though I have been an avid athlete and exerciser in the past, I have not gone back to any form of exercise since Michael’s accident and have found the beach as a perfect place to begin. I began walking and knew immediately that the wide-open space of sand in front of me, behind me, and the ocean beside me had captured me. I felt like I could have walked forever. I was free to walk fast or slow, stop and watch the waves, or keep a consistent pace without thinking about where I was going. I felt as if I was all-alone on the beach that day and had all the space in the world to explore my thoughts. As I watched people play catch with their dogs, jump the waves, build sand castles with their children, and visit with their friends, I became totally absorbed in my questions of the coexistence of truths such as life and death, joy and grief, gladness and sadness, and even beauty and ugliness. These are the kind of thoughts on which it feels impossible to put words, in order for them to make sense. I am only able to have these thoughts, and not go crazy chasing my tail about them, because I have a Savior in my Lord, Jesus Christ, I know that God created the heavens and the earth, I know that there is a place prepared in heaven for me, and I know of God’s plan of redemption, which I walk in daily. I also know that all these questions exist because of the fall of man (before the fall it was just life, joy, gladness, and beauty). Without this belief system, it would be easy for one to get confused and difficult to find any purpose in life.

You live and then you die……

When discussing my current “grief status” with someone just two weeks ago, in an attempt to encourage me to get over it, he said to me, (without much compassion, I might add), “People have been living and dying for millions of years. It is the cycle of life. It is just a part of life. We live and at some point we die. You’ll get over it and you will be just fine.” Basically, he was saying, we all have to experience it at some point. Accept it and get over it…. What is the big deal?..... This is nothing new…. Love lost is always a big deal. God thought it was a big deal when man turned his heart away from Him in the Garden of Eden….it was love lost. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried….it was a love lost, even though he brought him back to life…..He cried because he was experiencing what it feels like to lose someone and he felt the pain. It hurts even if you know the ending. The loss of a human being that will never be duplicated exactly the same is a big loss to the whole world. We all have our own unique place and purpose in life and, when we are gone, there is a void. The void can and does get replaced but never in the exact same way. Lives are not interchangeable, but, as a potter works with his clay, lives can be molded into something different. That is what makes each life so special. It is only created once exactly as it is. We miss that unique soul in our lives.

Life and death….. The life I speak of is gone, and yet, I am here still, walking on the beach, and the other lives that once surrounded that life are going on and must go on….. painful, but necessary because we continue to live with a purpose and a unique role to play. I feel like it is intermission between Act 1 and Act 2. We are clay in the potter’s hand becoming a new, and different piece of art.


believingthomas Says:
January 5, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Jene, Just wanted to encourage you that you are doing great! Wishing many blessings on all of you this coming year.

Thomas Stewart

kim Says:
January 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM

jene, you are prayed for!

Vince Says:
January 15, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Yes! This is a beautiful work of art... and love, and healing.. Your smiles are real. The joy not only exists, but triumphs over the ever present sadness and does ease the pain in the bewilderment of their co-existence. So glad you are able to begin this new year with happiness..
Love to all!


Anonymous Says:
January 20, 2012 at 9:37 AM

What wonderful family picture! So glad to see the smiles as well.. prayers continue for you all..

Anonymous Says:
January 24, 2012 at 6:43 PM

JENE------I BELIEVE MICHAEL IS SAYING. "BELLE BELLA " as he looks at at HIS FAMILY.....WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE......WE ALL KNOW HOW PROUD HE IS..........GOOD JOB JENE!!! You keep Michael alive for everybody, in everything YOU do and say..........WHAT A GIFT YOU HAVE!!!!

joyesteenkamp Says:
March 6, 2012 at 2:13 AM

Hi, Jene,

This is Joy Steenkamp. I have thought of you so many times throughout the past year. I even was on the same flight with your brother. I wish I had let you know when I was thinking and praying for you- please forgive me. Louis and I were so saddened with you when Michael left this world.

I love how you talk of the juxtaposition of opposite truths. It is amazing to be able to be joyful and sad at the same time. And, I agree with you that we share these emotions with our Heavenly Father and the Son. To be able to say something like, "Well, everyone must face death one day," makes me wonder if the person has ever experienced it, and if so, did he/she ever give his/her heart away. Or, was it locked safe in a "casket" as C.S. Lewis writes. Well, regardless, I can't imagine the grief you've faced without the love of your life. I also can't imagine how much of a blessing you've been to others by sharing your story.

Thank you.

And, on another note, Louis and I are coming to Jackson. Please send me your email address: joywiman@hotmail.com.

With love,

Joy Steenkamp

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