Our first Thanksgiving without Jeanette we decided to do something completely different. Something we’d always wanted to do. Something that would be totally fun. We opted for a Thanksgiving Day ride on the Grand Canyon Railroad. It did not disappoint! Our package deal included the train ride, a fancy-schmancy tour bus instead of the shuttle to canyon overlooks, plus our hotel, and a delicious Thanksgiving buffet. It was a splurge, but worth every penny. It was then that we learned it is possible to find enjoyable alternatives for holidays.
Once more the Grand Canyon beckons us to spend Thanksgiving reveling in its magnificence. I could sit for hours in quiet stillness admiring its beauty, as I ponder the canyon in our life, the void, the emptiness of Jeanette’s absence. Perhaps I love visiting the Grand Canyon, now more than ever, because it reminds me that the void in our life is also more than just an empty hole.
Obviously, the Grand Canyon is more than just a hole in the ground. It wasn’t formed merely by a gently flowing river. Great upheavals, volcanoes, floods, erosion by wind and water carved it into the wondrous sight it is today. People stand on its precipices, hike its trails, raft its waters, and behold its majestic beauty, often without thought to the cataclysmic forces that shaped it.
Our loss of Jeanette was a gigantic cataclysm to us. It left a giant hole in our heart and life as tangible and real as the Grand Canyon. But, wait! Emerging from the catastrophe, we find a refinement and grace, a kind of beauty and tempered strength, that wasn’t there before.
“God gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that we might become mighty oaks.” (Isaiah 61:3) It’s not the ashes or the mourning, but joy and praise in the midst of the ashes that produce a mighty oak or a magnificent canyon.