The expression “one day at a time” is a familiar truth. Jesus speaks to its importance in Matthew 6:24 when He instructs us not to worry about tomorrow. Yes, taking things one day at a time is a necessity. This call to focus on each day as it comes can become more personal after loss. Perhaps the most pressing time to heed these words of wisdom is at the holidays. This is something I am having to learn for myself as I face the first Thanksgiving and Christmas season without my big brother. As the leaves change colors and tumble off the trees, I continue to process the loss of my only brother. The tears still flow freely on a regular basis and I turn to the Lord with desperate pleas – sometimes consisting of only one word: help– because I cannot do this on my own. At the same time, I am continuing on with life in a way that I know is honoring to my brother. As I put on sweaters and pull out orange ceramic pumpkins, yellow taper candles, and my floral front door wreath, my heart and mind begin to turn to the pending holidays. The thought of my big bro not sitting in his usual spot next to daddy at the Thanksgiving table eating loads of mama’s cornbread dressing or laughing with my toddler daughter as they play with new toys on Christmas morn are unbearable. In these times, I have to press a proverbial stop button as if my mind is a VCR (remember those?). I simply cannot continue on with the trajectory of my thought as the pain is too great a burden to bear. So, I pause myself in my tracks. After thought stopping, I ask the Lord to help me take things one day at a time. After all, grief is a journey without a destination. While it may lighten, it will never end. Some days will be better than others. Some moments will be better than others. And some will be worse. Thinking about the future without a loved one is tough. Sometimes, it is too tough. Taking one day at a time helps because it takes our attention away from tomorrow’s sorrows and brings us back to today. Today – including its sorrow – is all I can handle. The Lord knows that. That’s why His words at the end of Matthew 6 are so wise. He knows that we cannot fully take in the future all at once. Focusing on what He has for us in this very moment is sometimes all we can muster – all we shouldmuster. As the season of pie baking (and eating!), Christmas tree decorating, present giving, and family spending is upon us, I am clinging to Jesus in many ways. Perhaps taking things one day at a time is the most important way. If you are suffering as a result of grief, whether it’s fresh or just feels fresh, perhaps trying to focus on today alone, with God’s help, would be helpful to you as well. On the special days, this year and every year, I will remember my brother fondly and I will do my best to smile through my tears knowing he would want our family to celebrate the reason for the season and cherish the time we have together.
In loving memory of Jacob Calhoun Stephens, 9/25/1976-7/21/2019