Detail of new beautiful lighted stars hanging in front of our house.

The evening of New Year’s Eve found the two of us driving down the Garden State Parkway to a wedding down the shore in Point Pleasant.  An old friend of mine is getting married.  We have known each other since we were 15.

As we drive to the wedding, I can’t help but think about the events that led up to that day.  Even though I have been friends with Tori since we were teenagers (and she was one of my closest friends), it didn’t mean that we stayed in touch over the past 35+ years.  She moved away after I got married and we more or less stopped communicating.  After nearly 20 years, we found each other again.  Having a daughter in the same class as her niece, we saw each other at various events during their senior year in high school.  And then came Facebook.  We reconnected with each other.  She came to my 50th birthday party and we visited her at her beach house during the summer.  This past year, my daughter got married and Tori and her fiance were there.

I call her the day before her wedding.  She is worried about her father.  Her 90 year old father went through surgery just a week prior, after he fell and broke his leg.   She is saddened that he won’t make it to her wedding.  I reassure her of his love for her and that he would want her to go ahead and enjoy her wedding.

Several hours later, Tori calls me.  She is sobbing.  Her father just died.  Shock and sadness rush through my being. My own father died three years ago and those memories and emotions start flooding my head.  “Hold it together”. I say to myself.  I hear my own voice stutter, trying to find the right words to say.   She sobs, “What am I going to do?  I am supposed to head to the hospital and start planning what to do…but I don’t want to…I can’t.”   Pause.  I take a deep breath and say, “You CAN do this.  You love your dad so much that you will take care of this for him.”  Another pause.  “What about the wedding?”, I ask.  “I don’t know.” is the response.  After many “I love you”s and “I’m here for you”s, we end the conversation.

Less than twenty fours later, I am on my way to her wedding, that conversation still replaying in my head.  I was one of the first persons she called after her dad died.  She relied on me for comfort and strength. We drifted away from each other and now I am going to her wedding. I didn’t know how she would get through the next few hours, let alone the next few days, but I knew she would get through them.

John Denver’s “Silent Night” starts playing over our car stereo and I listen to the lyrics and it is like I am listening to them for the first time.

Silent night, Holy night All is calm, all is bright Round yon virgin, mother and child Holy infant, tender and mild Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night Son of God, love’s pure light Radiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at thy birth Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

In the lyrics of this Christmas hymn, is a message. It is for me. It is for Tori. But it is also for all of us. It is for this very moment but also for all moments for the rest of our lives. It seems like a new message but it is a message that has been playing since the little Babe was born in Bethlehem.

Heavenly Peace.
Love’s pure light.
Redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord.

Tori’s wedding was beautiful and a celebration of love. Her father’s funeral was also beautiful and a celebration of a life well lived.

This new year has started very differently for me. There is this inner urge to look at everything with a new perspective, with new eyes, as if I am seeing things for the first time. My response can only be that of gratitude, wonder, and an eagerness for what is yet to come.

Happy New Year.

If you would like to share your version of “Thankful Thursday” (photos or text or both) today or in the future, you can link your post to my post on Thursdays in the comments section with the title “Thankful Thursday”.