Advent Devotions 2018

Life and Death, Sorrow and Joy

Posted by Cori Brantley on

In Spring of 1998, Chris and I learned we were expecting our first child together.  We were beyond excited, especially me!  I had wanted to be a mom ever since I could remember.  The next several months were filled with joy, and I loved seeing and feeling our baby grow.

Unlike me, Chris was born and raised in Tennessee.  His parents and sister live here, and so did his grandparents on his mom’s side. We spend a lot of time with Chris’s family and had a tradition of going to church on Sundays, then eating at his grandparents’ house with the whole family and spending the day together.  I couldn’t wait for our baby to be a part of this and get to know and be a part of this family, as I had.

In October, a few months before Cameron was born, Chris’s grandfather (Pa) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  Now, instead of dreaming of Cameron helping Pa in his garden, or going for rides in Pa’s blue Ford pickup, I found myself just hoping that Pa would live long enough to meet his great grandson.

Soon, Pa was hospitalized and we spent that Christmas at Summit Hospital.  We took all of our gifts and shared Christmas day together in his hospital room, just loving each other and trying to cherish every moment that we had left with him.

Pa’s health began to deteriorate.  On January 14, 1999, Cameron made his entrance into this world.  He was beautiful, he was healthy, and he brought us so much joy amidst a time of great sadness.

Soon after Cameron and I were released from the hospital, we made our way to Summit hospital to see Pa. I handed my newborn baby to my mother-in-law and she placed her new grandson into her Father’s arms.  By this time, Pa was very weak and not very responsive, but we watched as his fragile hand patted Cameron’s tiny bottom.  A few days later (exactly a week after Cameron was born), Pa passed away, surrounded by his whole family…including his newborn great-grandson.  I will always believe he hung on to life until he could meet our son.

I often tell people that I never truly knew what the term bittersweet meant until I experienced life and death and joy and deep sorrow all in the same week.  I hadn’t understood until that week that joy and sorrow aren’t opposites, but partners.  You can’t really know one without the other.

It makes me mindful of a great truth that Christian joy does not die when sorrows abound. Joy and sorrow, in the Christian life, do not happen separately but together, hand in hand.

I tried to put this in words, with a poem I wrote shortly after Cameron’s birth and Pa’s death:

Circle of Life

A tiny bud blossoms 
Its beauty ascends 
A tired sun sets 
Another day ends 

Beginnings and endings 
Like hand and glove 
Joy and sorrow 
Both stem from love 

A tiny new life 
Welcomed to Earth 
Joyfully anticipated 
From conception to birth 

At the same time 
Another life fades 
"It’s time to come home," 
The loving Father bades. 

Hearts open wide 
Accepting new life 
And hearts letting go 
Overwhelmed with strife 

One life ends 
As another one starts 
Both etching memories 
Deep in our hearts 

The circle of life 
From beginning to end 
Each on the other 
Always depends 

A tiny bud blossoms 
Its beauty ascends 
A tired sun sets 
Another day ends.



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