Sleepless, I walked through the dark to my kitchen to peer out the windows at our backyard meadow cradled by woods. The strain of life had led me to feel things were more chaos than calm. Looking up, I saw the dark night sky speckled with tiny flickering lights. A moment of wonder turned into a half hour of stargazing. Stars carrying names from their Maker hung overhead. If that One, that Maker, could bring order to a sea of glimmering lights, surely He could bring order to my perceived chaos. I returned to bed, falling asleep in a room lit softly by starlight that soon gave way to dawn. Peaceful.
But, life is unpredictable. And I had no way of knowing as I gazed at the stars, that in a few hours, I would lose my closest friend. The one like a sister to me would wake up after dawn and breathe her last breath, only hours before I was to visit her. With her passing, a part of me died, as well.
Two months into my grieving, my husband decided it was time to take a trip. “I want you to get away…somewhere different,” he said. We drove five hours to a place we’d never been before, to be together, to mend a numbed and grieving heart. Get out into nature, hike along trails of dirt, dust and rock, deep into the woods. Years before, we’d backpacked into the wild, immersing ourselves in nature’s unspoiled beauty. His act of love and compassion moved me greatly. He was grieving, too, but watching me grieve deeply for one so loved, was difficult.
We arrived at our destination, a little inn perched on a hill with cabins scattered in the surrounding trees. On our first hike I stood breathless from the scenery, the otherworldly beauty a shock to my senses. Trees shot up from emerald green moss-covered rock. Bubbling alongside was a creek lined with delicate ferns that led the way deep into caverns carved into towering sandstone. Waterfalls spilled over the highest edges.
After a full day of hiking, we walked from our cabin to the inn for a quiet dinner by candlelight. Everything seemed hushed and intimate, the quiet necessary for a heart in pain.
We walked back to our cabin, hand in hand, after dinner. The trail was rocky and we’d not brought anything to light our way. We walked with eyes fixed on the path, to not lose our footing. Something made me stop suddenly and as we stood, I looked up.
Above us, the dark velvet sky was overflowing with starlight. A blanket of lights spread thickly over us like a canopy. Every square inch was covered in stunning brightness. Lights hung so low, so close, I stretched out my arm, sure my fingertips could just reach. In our focus to keep our footing, we’d almost missed it – until that moment. Beauty poured forth in starlight. And we stood in awe, beholding its intensity in a silent act of worship.
My mind returned to that sleepless night months before, the flickering stars and the reminder that God is a god of order, not chaos. He most certainly could order my world spinning from grief. Stars that were called out by name, marched into position and shone vibrantly, warming my grieving heart and reminding me that my friend is not so far away.
After arriving back at our cabin, we stood on the tiny deck trying to capture the night sky on film. No picture could do justice to those stars now shining brilliantly in the not so far recesses of my memory.
Although I wouldn’t choose the pain of great loss, it’s a part of life on this side of the veil. After grief, we’re never the same. Perhaps out of the deep ruts of grief come understanding and knowledge that simply will come no other way. Joy after grief is deeper and richer, scars and all. We become more pliable, more teachable and the muscles of our faith are strengthened. We can stand on the other side of our battles with adversity, with questions yet unanswered, more certain of the goodness of a loving God, who stoops to intervene in the smallest of ways and sometimes brings the starlight to woo us.
Angela M. Shupe writes about life and faith on her blog, Bella Verita: Beautiful Truth at www.bellaverita.wordpress.com. Her writing has appeared in Women’s Adventure Magazine, Beliefnet.com, Today’s Christian Woman/Kyria, Relevant Magazine, Just Between Us Magazine and Radiant Magazine. Her writing has also been recognized by Biographile and Travelers’ Tales.