Life is good

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There have been a lot of conversations among our friends and others about the year 2020. It was, for so many, a difficult year. In March, the pandemic caused so many activities and events to be shut down for a year and more. We have not yet fully returned to our ways of living and doing business that we practiced pre-pandemic. We may never return to all of our pre-pandemic ways. As we near the midway of 2021, conversations are turning to the process of returning to normal. Yesterday, during a virtual fellowship time following worship, we got to talking about what people are looking forward to the most about being fully vaccinated. A common answer was “hugs.” People missed personal contact with those who mean the most to them. Another answer had to do with being able to go out for coffee or a meal.

2020 and 2021 have been challenging years for us in some ways and we certainly don’t want to minimize the loss and sorrow that have accompanied this pandemic. However, the fact that we retired nearly a year ago and we moved during the months following our retirement has meant that we have had stresses and grief that we might have had were there no pandemic. I don’t know how we will remember this past year, but I don’t think our memories will be all bad. There have been some moments of joy and reunion as well as those of sorrow and separation.

Our years are like that. I often cite 2011 as a year of grief for us. Susan and I both lost the last of our parents. I had not fully recovered from the grief of the death of a brother ion 2010. But 2011 was also a year of great joy in our family. Our first grandchild was born. Our daughter was married. We were granted a sabbatical that involved, among other things, some extra time to go for long walks and process our grief and joy. Not everything worked out the way we had planned, but it was a good year for us in some ways even though it was difficult.

Here is one measure of 2021 for us so far. We have four grandchildren. In 2012, we took vacation and were able to be present for the birthday celebration of our oldest grandson. We have made a few other birthdays over the years, including the special joy of being with our son and his family at the time of the birth of their youngest. We planned to be present for the birth of our daughter’s son, but he arrived early so we arrived late. Nonetheless we were able to visit when he was a tiny infant. 2021, however, will be our first year of being able to be present at the birthdays of all of our grandchildren. Yesterday we celebrated the third birthday with our son and his family and plans are in place for us to celebrate our fourth grandchild’s birthday with his family in July. That is a treat that means a lot in a world where people travel so much and we live so far away from parts of our family. We only have two children. One lives in Washington State. The other lives in South Carolina. That’s almost as far apart as you can get in North America. However, we consider ourselves to be lucky. At least they are now both on the same continent, which hasn’t been the case for several years when our daughter lived first in England and later in Japan.

Birthdays are only one way of marking time, but they are times of special memory for us and a good time for thanksgiving. We are so fortunate to have four grandchildren and to have the joy of watching them grow up.

A birthday celebration was only part of our day yesterday. We also had the formal membership welcoming ceremony at our church and became members of our congregation here. Even though the worship was virtual, over FaceBook, we felt warmly welcomed and enjoyed the Zoom fellowship time that followed.

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And, in the evening, after the birthday celebration, we were able to take a walk on the South Bay Trail in Bellingham. It had rained earlier in the day, but we enjoyed a dry walk along the historic walk around Bellingham bay with views of the bay to the west and parts of the city to the east. It was a new trail for us and we only covered about half of it, so we still have another walk of discovery ahead of us, but I am sure that it is a walk to which we will return again and again. It is a convenient stop on the way to or from our son’s farm. The long days are giving us more options in terms of what time of day we take our walk. Since we have made taking a daily walk a discipline of our lives, we have learned to appreciate the time together. Sometimes we have a lot to say and talk with each other for the entire walk. Other days we walk part or much of our walk in silence, appreciating our surroundings and the joy of just being together.

Returning to the question of what we are most anticipating now that we are fully vaccinated, returning to in person worship has to top my list. Our church will have its first limited gathering later this month. I’m eagerly anticipating that, but I know it will take some time before we will fully return to worship at the church building and I also know that for some people worship over the Internet will become the new normal of their lives. Hybrid worship is here to stay and just because the pandemic eases its grip on gatherings does not mean that the church will return to a pre-pandemic way of being. Part of the newness brings excitement. Part of it brings sadness. Life is like that in good years and in bad. Tears of joy mingle with tears of sadness on our cheeks.

Still, life is good. And a worship service, a birthday party, and a walk all remind us of how good we have it.