“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 22 – 24
With every attempt at elegance, we sat in the peace of high tea at O.Henry Hotel and sipped from fine china. To my left was the joy of our day, to my right was the inspiration of our day. The dainty Ella had no way of knowing the import of the moment, but jabbered heartily to sweetly break the silence and the bitter; the joy. My darling Mom had coordinated our tea time, introducing all her girls to the beauty that is an afternoon of high tea at O.Henry; our inspiration.
In between the then and the now, this afternoon has proven to signify so much more than just sisters-and-Mom-and-niece testing rooibos chai.
In the stillness that was that grand room, we basked in the glow of family in a season of change.
We pretended to be giggling at Ella’s antics, but we were covertly marveling at the adorably ancient lovebirds across the parlor from us. The staff seemed to know them well, the waitress didn’t even bother to take their order — she just let them cozy in to their favorite two chairs and brought them their favorite round of tea and scones. In all the wrinkles and the gray, a story wove together: a story of changes, of challenges, of testing, of trials, but – most of all – a story of triumphs and victories together.
As we spent our tea time watching them, those presumed pillars of legacy and heritage, we melted at the cuteness that was a love sixty-years-mature, a love that didn’t need words, a love that held hands even at eighty-five-years-old, a love that was routine tea times at the O.Henry.
Oh, yes, we were giggling at those sweet antics of that joy-of-our-hearts and light-of-our-dark-days, but we were also imagining the intricacies of a life story of that adorably-in-love set of great-grand-parents who were so obviously infatuated with one another and had been for many a year, many a trial.
Our smiles weren’t forced, we four-plus-one. But the smiles were weighted, sweetening the bitter cup that was the week together, more precious because of the challenge of the day.
I wonder if that’s what made that nameless couple so much obviously in love. I wonder if their love had been forged in a fire of life’s troubles and built on the foundation of life’s changes and cemented in the process of life’s challenges. I wonder if their love was that much sweeter because of the bitterness of the pills they’d been forced to swallow.
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
“I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.”
“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.”
Sipping tea at the O.Henry was the very epitome of bittersweet. Sweet was the time together, bitter was Gram’s Memorial Service we had gathered to attend. Sweet was the Ella giggles, bitter was the prospect of scattering across the country back to our respective homes. Sweet was the joy of family time, bitter was the looming realities of chemotherapy and radiation. Sweet was the elegance of sipping tea with cute hair styles and adorable dresses, bitter is the hair loss and sick days that comes with fighting a battle with that dreaded c-word.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
It feels poetic that I’m finally [emotionally] able to share these photos and this story right now. See, it’s been several months since we were all together celebrating and remembering the life of Gram, hunkering down to start fighting the next battle, and reveling in our time together with a pot of tea.
I’m heading back to North Carolina this week and will be happily (finally!) reunited with my Mom. She has finished her first set of chemotherapy and will be starting radiation right after my visit for Kristen & Matt’s wedding and will be finished with radiation by the time we are all together again for Joanna & Peter’s wedding in October.
The season isn’t preferable, it certainly isn’t what we wanted, but it’s good knowing that God is good.
Plus, with our Ellabella dripping sweet in her every smile, we are able to enjoy a healthy dose of sweetness in this otherwise bitter season.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.