February. I can hardly believe my Anna would be nine this month. Nine. Nine years since I held her in my arms. Nine years since I kissed her sweet face and sang to her one last time. Nine years since we let go.
Even now, February makes me nervous, as if something awful is getting ready to happen. This is the dread that comes with anniversary loss. It is the unstoppable fear in grief.
Of course we celebrate. The children love Anna’s birthday- the balloons, the pink, the traditions and special annual ways of honoring her. But there is so much more to it than that. It’s painful and I am not a sweep-it-under-the-carpet kind of girl. I allow myself to go there, to acknowledge and feel the reality and to give it a home, at least for a season. It is an unfriendly part of my life, but a part of it, all the same. To deny it for me would be denying a person that has had a greater impact on my life than any other. To deny it would be to reject the sacred moments of divine comfort, strength and truth that come on the heels of my pain. Anna Kelty is a treasure worth every ounce of suffering I must feel as I engage in fully remembering her.
In February the box comes out, the one holding all of her treasures. In February the pictures come out, and I study our moments together, her nose, her eyes, her uniqueness and yet also the likeness to her brothers. I watch the video and for a brief moment, I am there. I can nearly feel her. And when the video is over, I am left with an insatiable ache to hold her, to know her and to love her. But in my lifetime, this will never happen. Anna is dead. Yes, February brings pain.
I cannot stop this present wave of grief and yet, I cannot allow fear, dread and sorrow to take me out this year. What am I to do?
At the end of every February, I sit back and look at the cards, the emails, the gifts, the flowers, the encouragement, the meals and all of the other kind, creative and precious ways so many reach out to my family. I sit back and marvel at the new ways I have come to know the grace and love of God, uniquely experienced in suffering. And it always occurs to me that this month of so much pain is also the month where we feel the most loved. And so, this year I want to add giving to the grieving. I want to combat the dread with joyful anticipation, comfort and love. My family’s mission, “Give Love Back” is our way to attack the heaviness of February with some intentional love and light of our own. And I feel…excited. I can’t remember the last time I used the word “excited” to describe my February feelings. There are meals to cook, prayers to pray, cards to mail and friends and strangers to bless. My life is filled with those who are poor in spirit, those who are in need of the richness of God and the compassion, generosity and support of another. I have a general plan and an eager heart to be led by God’s spirit in this endeavor.
I will be recording our journey here and updating the blog as often as I can this month with whatever God lays on my heart. I can’t promise it will all be roses- but it will be honest and I pray it will once again be a journey to greater hope and divine love.
So now I have to ask:
Does anyone reading this feel sad? Does anyone feel dread or pain over circumstances outside of your control? Does anyone feel like a hostage to a season you cannot put the brakes on? Why not join me in adding joy and love to the circumstances you cannot change. Why not take this month and add giving to your grieving and see how being the hands and feet of Jesus might radically effect your own sorrow?
To all of you who have loved our family over the past nine years, I thank you. You have ushered light into the darkest spaces of our lives and comforted us beyond measure and we love you.
Grief. Grace. Gratitude.