For many years now we have spend the last week of the year at Bethany Beach and brought in the New Year with our very dear and very close friends from that place. Friends we have known for our entire married life. We raised our families together at Bethany which became this wonderful extended family for ourselves and our children. On Monday I was going to make the trip on my own and I was not looking forward to it.
So I got out of bed and was in the car at 5:00 a.m., having texted an apology to Julie Ann who I was going to meet for breakfast around 8:30 a.m., knowing I would be getting close to Madison by that time and should giving myself a good chance to have little problem with Chicago city traffic. The drive itself was uneventful and it was only after I pulled off the freeway and made my way into Bethany that it hit me will full force:
- Here is the place that Jan started coming to when she was just a child of 2 or 3 years.
- The Aiton family's little red cottage is where she lived during the summer and where she thrived as a child.
- It was here that I first came with Jan in the summer of 1963 as I would be working for her father prior to our marriage in August.
- It was here that we would bring our kids every summer so that they could have the kind of "growing up" experience that Jan had treasured so deeply.
- Now here I was driving into this place for the first time without Jan being with me and going to our house alone.
- I pulled into the driveway and sat there for a bit trying to think of any reason not to go inside.
- Here was my problem: Jan could not imagine doing life without Bethany Beach as part of the equation. I was sitting in the car trying to imagine how I would be able to do Bethany Beach without Jan as part of the equation.
In so many ways Bethany had become the place where Jan was able to most fully express her personality and gifts. It was here that she strongly believed was the finest place in the world to raise children during the summer season. It was here that close friends provided an extended family and many sets of parenting and grandparenting eyes and arms loving your children. It was here she could walk the streets and know the history of each household and "family tree" connections of everyone. It was here that her ability on the piano and organ were maximized to the fullest in the Sunday services in the tabernacle and where for years she worked on the committee planning the worship services. It was here she could go to the beach and enjoy on beautiful sand beach of southern Michigan and the shores of Lake Michigan. It was here....I could go on for pages...that Jan could package all the best elements of life and revel in what she was experiencing. Bethany Beach was for Jan a "bit of heaven" and I suspect she felt that God was saying "walk around this place and you will have an idea of what the next life is like."
So now she is experiencing that next life and I know it is wonderful and good and blessed. And I continue to experience this life and I know it too is wonderful and good and blessed. It's just that here at Bethany I am trying to understand how to make it all happen without her. I look outside and the skies are blue and the sun is shining, it is a beautiful day. BUT!
BUT: I am maudlin and blue in a sad kind of way and what I see are trees without leaves, grass that is not green, flower beds without color, streets that are mostly empty. I read Psalm 23:4 which says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" and that is what I see: the shadow of death. I am afraid that this will be a week to live in the shadows and slog through what has normally been one of the happiest weeks of the year.
YET: I know Who is my Shepherd and I know He will bring me to "green pastures" and He will lead me to "quiet waters" and He will "restore my soul" and He is the one who gives me comfort.