There seems to be a general consensus that 2016 was a heaping pile of poo pellets. If you are not in this majority, save yourself now and don’t let any of us drag you down. However, I would ask that you please allow me a few moments to process through what I’ve been referring to as “my dark year.”
This is the year I went through extended periods of time forgetting what it felt like to be passionate about something. This is the year I slid down several notches on the scale from extroverted to introverted, which was painful and exhausting. This is the year I mixed myself up a dangerous cocktail of introversion and paralyzing FOMO that left me in a constant state of: “I don’t want to hang out, but I don’t want anyone else to be hanging out either.” This is the year I learned what depression feels like. This is the year I watched my husband writhe in pain in a hospital bed, unable to help him. This is the year I owned my obligation to be an ally in the world, and also the year I felt suffocated by shame in my complacency and privilege. This is the year I let envy and longing cripple me. And in its final moments, this is the year I lost my grandma.
Four days before her 85th birthday, my grandmother passed away. Given the tone of the rest of the year, it made sense that this would be the final darkness of my 2016, but it also feels odd to think of 2016 as the year we lost her. It feels odd because Alzheimer’s is the kind of greedy thief that doesn’t snatch all at once. He takes, gradually and painfully, over prolonged periods of time. The truest version of Sherrill Ann Aubrey slipped away years ago, but the woman who remained continued to be a delightful shadow of her former self. Throughout it all, she was a human of value, and my mom made sure the world saw her that way.
The fact that she hadn’t been herself for years doesn’t make her death devoid of sadness. It’s healthy for death to be accompanied by grief and lamenting, and there has certainly been room for that these last few weeks. However, in processing and reflecting on her passing, I have found joy in the thought that she has been reunited with herself. The pieces that had been taken from her, and taken from us, have fallen back into place and she is whole again. I am grateful for that. Death is such a hard thing to wrap our minds around.
But the thing I have strangely come to love about loss is the opportunity to learn about and be inspired by a well completed life.
I have spent more time this year in reflection and introspection than ever before. This all culminated, in a way, over the last month. This advent season has been more meaningful to me than any other year. The season of advent is all about preparing a dark world for the coming of the light. I got to create the advent service of my dreams this year, and not only did it reacquaint me with passion and affirm my creative spirit, it hit my dark year in the face with light. Those themes of darkness and light kept popping up as we planned for the service, and on one particular day as I was praying for the upcoming event, it suddenly clicked with me how very relatable advent is to my own life and to our current world. My desire to be rid of the darkness of this year had grown desperate by the start of advent, and in that moment of prayer I felt overwhelmed by a promise for light.
I've been clutching that promise and singing these words to myself every day:
I heard the distant battle drum
The mockingbird spoke in tongue
Longing for the day to come
I set my face, forsook my fears
I saw the city through my tears
The darkness soon will disappear
Be swallowed by the sun
I am coming home
I can feel that new and glorious morn about to break through and I am on the edge of my seat waiting for it. There has been much healing and there is more to come, but I really do feel like the home to which I'm returning is my full self. I’m ready to bid farewell to 2016, but I carry with me many life lessons learned and a sense of self rediscovered. Here’s to 2017, to living a life that exudes inspiration, to pressing on and starting fresh. Much love to you all and may your new year be so very bright.