A few months ago, the building services coordinator at my church informed me that one of the three lilac bushes planted in memory of a friend’s mother the previous spring, was dying. This particular Sunday in September was a Sunday that swept in the first snap of winter on its gusty wings. Its grayness was the kind of gray that tugs on your step, removing any bit of bounce or swing to your swagger. In short, it was gloomy, and I wanted nothing more than to return home and sink into my couch for the rest of the afternoon with a good book.
On my way out of church that day, I walked past these three lilac bushes and stopped to reach out to the one that was obviously not doing well. It had only a few very wrinkled leaves left on it. As I rubbed one of the cold leaves between my fingers, I suddenly felt a bit unsettled as I realized the threesome could very well symbolize my friend, his mother, and his father, who had only passed away a short time prior to his mother’s death. As I turned towards my car, I tried to shake off the feeling that something unfortunate would be occurring soon that would affect my friend.
Last week, I heard the news that my friend’s brother, who had battled alcoholism, had finally been won over by the disease and had died, robbing his brother and himself of his life for the past 30 years. The next day, a call from a different friend, 30 days into sobriety, asking to attend church with me, made me realize what a wonderful, sad, and joyous place this place we live in is. Heaven is right here, right now. And the evidence that the universe bears witness to every teardrop that falls and every laugh that is heard can be found everywhere – even in the cold leaves of a dead lilac bush.