So have any of all you Orthodox out there ever looked sideways at your calendar? Squished up your forehead when we celebrate things like the beheading of St. John the Baptist?
I have, man. I have.
This convert sometimes takes those feasts and goes, um…okay. I only kind of got it until this month.
I’ve been waiting for October for a long time, it seems. Not really looking forward to it. Not dreading it either, at least not in a simple sense–it’s a complicated emotion I’m not sure how to describe. This year, October marks a number of anniversaries that are either distinctly unhappy or just flat out hard to define.
The first: October 7th (this Wednesday) marks the five-year anniversary of William’s diagnosis.
The next: October 16th marks one year since the start of my first miscarriage, which was a pregnancy I didn’t discover until it was too late.
The last, and the freshest wound: October 26th is the date we were expecting our little Mary. She died at 6 weeks gestation, but I carried to 10 weeks, when, after two failed attempts to expel the pregnancy by medication, we finally had to resort to surgery. That was the day before my birthday.
Today I was thinking of all these hard moments, and while I don’t really have any desire to throw party-hat events on those days, I suddenly understand the celebration of feast days for martyrs and those saints who died peacefully.
We remember. We consider their acts, their struggles, their sufferings, and their transformations that show us the way.
It’s more complicated than a celebration. Sure, we’re thankful for their faithfulness and their stories, and for their entrance into heaven, and we celebrate that, but there’s pain in it too, and we remember.
So I remember William’s diagnosis. I remember the pain of that moment, but I celebrate his courage and work ethic and his tremendous progress. Both bring tears to my eyes, of opposite kinds.
I remember Nicholas, who I met through his death. The pain I feel over him is flustering and confusing, and I sometimes wish I just felt it or I didn’t. I thank God for his life, though short, and I hope he will pray his mama through the rest of this life.
I remember Mary. This time around, I just feel her absence and it takes my breath away. But I hope that Octobers to come will bring a more nuanced, complicated welcoming of the 26th–the way I’ve come to feel about the 7th.
Through the prayers of the saints, O Lord, have mercy on us and save us.