Just heard the news that my mother in law passed away in the early morning hours of her sleep. It is difficult to keep focused on the ordinariness of this day. She was a jewel of a human being on this planet. While the inevitable event of death awaits everyone of us and while old age brings conditions that one cannot recover from, the moment of life’s closure releases a variety of responses for those who remain. Relief. Sadness. Memories, like Easter eggs that appear in the most unexpected places. Conversations. Pain. Regrets. Questions. Not knowing the lost stories of the past. Searching for meaning. Grasping to hold onto what was so freely given ~ her love. Wanting that love to change me. In some grief support circles the idea of looking for the gifts of grieving is encouraged. I would agree with that advice. The first gift I appreciate this morning is that I knew a woman whom I will miss. The sadness over her absence is not the gift, but rather that I had the privilege to know her and be loved by her is my gift. Somehow grief enlarges the value of this gift. Another gift that I am holding is that I desire for how she touched my life to keep living in me so I may touch others with similar graces. Thus her life’s work will live on. Even regrets have a positive gift for me. There are no “do overs” in this life, so another gift to open is the freedom to make new choices in future relationships that would reduce regrets. I welcome God’s forgiveness and grace to become more aware of other’s needs while they still live. Without the pain, the closure, the finality of life, these precious gifts remain unopened. It is kind of like how the heat of a forest fire is the only element that can open a pine cone to release its golden seeds and plant a new forest.