One year ago today, in these exact dusky minutes under a navy blue sky, I set plates and candles and glasses, hosting for the first time in our new home.  But this wasn’t the occasion I expected as a house warming.  It was a night heavy with anticipation: in the morning, my mom would undergo open heart surgery and none of us knew what the next hours and weeks would bring.

The news that our healthy mom had a failing heart (again) was a shock to us, and we were all swimming in the current a bit differently.  But it washed us up that evening, around our table.  The smell of garlic and cabernet, the noise of littles playing and the glow of candles saturated the room as we memorized the conversation, the expressions, the moments that so often fade by unnoticed. We watched dad as he watched mom and, for that night, we remembered it all.

The food was ordinary but the presence of God and good and peace was weighty and wonderful.  Perfect love really does extinguish fear.  After dinner, as we huddled around our mom, our sister, our wife, our grammy, we prayed plain prayers: help, peace, and please.

And the next day, as we were gathered in the hospital’s bad news room with no windows and lots of tissues, I was certain the surgeon was about to tell us the thing I feared hearing my whole life.  So I held these moments, this sacred dinner and these scared prayers, like a rope in my blistery hands.  And I decided that the God who met us around that table the night before would still be God no matter what the surgeon said. And as I weighed my heart, I agreed with the verses my mom had shared that night, her voice calm and steady against our broken ones,  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1)

As I have typed these words, the sky has faded to navy blue and I remember one year ago and I again pray plain prayers: thank you, thank you, thank you, and I vow to remember the ordinary moments, to memorize the mundane and to view each gathering as sacred.  It has been one year.  My mom is here, and I am immensely grateful.






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