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The Gift of Joy in the Midst of Grief

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Grief changes. It lessens. The edges soften. Sorrow makes an occasional appearance, but it doesn’t threaten to take me under. There are moments where tears spring forth, and it’s okay when they do, but it’s not so often anymore.

It’s only been six months since our daughter took her life. It feels like it's been longer ... and somehow it feels more recent at the same time.

I can still see the blue and red flashing lights in the dark, bouncing off the buildings around me from the police SUVs. My hand covering my face as I sob when the kind police officer tells me she’s gone and he’s very sorry for my loss.

The horror of calling my husband while he was away on a business trip and waking him from a deep sleep with this most awful news of our lives. Crying with my eldest daughter and son-in-law in the parking lot where my baby girl’s body lays just yards away. Answering questions from the officers and the medical examiner.

The dear friends that came immediately and stayed at the house with me all night until James could get on a plane and get home. Making call after call in the morning, delivering this tragic news over and over again. Hearing the heart-wrenching cries of those who loved her too.

The flood of volunteers that came to our house to make the homeschool convention happen the following week. The community of people that rallied around us. The prayers and kindness and care that sustained us.

Tragedy struck June 29, 2017. This is part of the fabric of our family’s story now. But life continues. We are still here. Living, loving, working, serving. We spend time as a family. We enjoy our precocious grandson. We deal with the mundane, the usual things of life. Some still carry a small sting. Grocery shopping has been hardest for me, but it’s better now.

New challenges and difficulties arise. Things we feel equipped to handle and those we don’t. We face them and we press on. Blessings and things that bring joy come too. We value them and we pay attention to how much good there is ... even now.

We pause more and really look at one another. There is more gentleness, more grace. We notice the sweetness more. We see God’s goodness and His faithfulness.

We will always miss her. There will always be a hole left by Alex's absence. We will remember her and share memories with one another, laughing over the funny things, wishing she were here to make more memories with. Always aware that she should be here with us. But grateful, so very grateful, that she was part of our family and also that she isn’t in pain anymore.

The enemy did not get the victory. Depression and death did not win. Our beautiful, vivacious, kindhearted, remarkable daughter is free, and whole, and healed, and restored. She is safe in the arms of Jesus ... and so are we.

I wish I could choose a different reality for those of us left behind. But we don’t get a vote. This horrific experience cannot be undone. I wish I could erase this pain for all of us.

What I can do is honor her life by living ... and living well. Not consumed by sorrow and grief. Joyful. At peace. Allowing God to heal my heart and my mind, tenderly comforting me. My identity is not grief. My identity is in Him and He is my peace.

These are the thoughts I have with Christmas just days away. She should be here, but she isn’t.

So what do we do? We celebrate and we remember.

Weeping may endure a night, but joy comes in the morning. - Psalm 30:5

I love these pictures of her from last Christmas with Hartford. He will grow up without his Auntie Alex, which is a tragedy all in itself. But we will tell him about her. He will know her through us.

 Alex and Hartford - Christmas 2016

Joy is a gift we receive. We can be carriers of joy, too. In spite of tragedy and sorrow ... and also because of these hard, painful things we’ve experienced. My prayer is that each of my dear friends and family would encounter the very real joy and love of our Savior. He is good and His mercy truly does endure forever. He is faithful still.

God bless you this Christmas season. Thank you for your kindness, your prayers, and your friendship to me and to my family.

Do not be afraid, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:10-11


For those who haven't seen it yet, here is the link to Alex's memorial service, which was held Monday, August 7, 2017

Alexandra Manos, Memorial Service


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