Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Holy Experience

Today, there was no need to look at the calendar as from the moment the sun rose, I knew that today was leading us into January 12th. Seven years ago, on this date, the earthquake hit in Haiti where three Wartburg Seminary students Renee Splichal Larson, Ben Splichal Larson and Jon Larson  were presenting as part of their January term class. At that same time, I found myself gathered with my small group as we strained to listen to one of Ben's songs "Mourning into Dancing." The words echoed through my ears and heart.

That afternoon, as I lay in my hotel room, the news of the earthquake quickly spread. Yet due to the vague reports, we found ourselves waiting and yearning to hear more about Ben, Renee and Jon. For days, there was much confusion as we tried to learn more about the earthquake. Then on Thursday morning, it was confirmed that Ben had lost his life in the earthquake. 

I still remember picking up my phone that morning and answering it. As I held the phone in my hands, my heart began to sink as Shera asked if she could come to me. I hung up the phone and waited for her to arrive. From the moment I put down my phone, I knew that the news was not good. Shera and I stood and embraced each other in the cold of a January Pennslyvania day as her roommate stood in the cold with us. We walked to the refectory where we had to break the news to our new friends. I remember my voice being on auto-pilot as all I could repeat was "Ben is gone". The tears quickly began pouring from our eyes and wouldn't stop as we all held each other in the midst of our grief. It is a holy experience I won't soon forget.

So I always begin today with a heavy heart and soul. I also always begin and end January 12th listening to Ben's song Mourning into Dancing which holds these dear words from Psalm 30:5 "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning." After the dark nights of weeping, joy does indeed eventually come again. But we are forever shaped by the losses in our lives.

My blog friend Janel shared this quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and it has been ringing in my heart and soul today as I remember Ben and all who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake. Ross writes, 
"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to." 
Our experiences--good and bad--shape who we are. They help us to live our best lives and remember the ways we have been blessed and changed.  In the words of Romans 5:3-5 "And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

So today, as we remember Haiti, Ben, and all who lost their lives that day, we cry out and sing, "God's peace to us we pray."--a peace that is born and grounded in the hope of God!

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