Commentary

How long shall we wait, O Lord?

Bob Hulteen

Bob Hulteen

I have never minded the waiting. I am not always a patient person, as my family can attest. But when it comes to Advent, I like the waiting.

I am getting better at slowing down during the holidays. Work demands are still high, but I really limit myself to two days of rabid commercialism. I try to spend additional time baking bread or making a card or two. And many of the family rituals with my kids are only becoming more meaningful now that they are adults and take some authority in ensuring that we do things like decorate the house.

This year the waiting feels different. It feels more like weight than waiting. There is a heaviness. As readers may know, my father died in May. Now, my mom passed away on November 13, after some significant health problems. Her funeral will be held six months to the day from my dad’s.

I think that, even when I knew better, Advent was the time when I anticipated going home. After the folks moved from Mandan, North Dakota, to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, I probably still had excitement to go to the house I grew up in. I knew such a visit wasn’t going to happen, but I still could feel the anticipation. And, even if we couldn’t be together, we could reminiscence on the phone.

Memories

So this Advent Season won’t include visits or calls. Memories will suffice. But at least there are many shared memories, with siblings, spouse, daughters, nephews and nieces.

But I don’t know how it will feel. I am anxious, nervous, with a knot in my stomach, a lump in my throat.

This year the waiting feels different.

I am taking refuge in a photo taken by Jenn, the wife of my second oldest nephew. As my dad was dying, she caught my parents holding hands. The photo of their intertwined fingers was a symbol of their (and therefore our) lives. Many in my family posted this photo on their Facebook pages.

The photo reappeared the morning that my mom died. This time Jenn added the message: “Six months ago, she had to let go of his hand. Today the hands reunite.”

I admit I don’t understand the concept of heaven, but I do believe that nothing, including death, separates us from the love of God. And, during this Advent Season, I think that I will be waiting, in great anticipation, of the breaking down of that separation.

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