This morning, September 11, I watched as people gathered at the National September 11 Memorial, site of the new One World Trade Center. I noticed the water in the two fountains streaming down beneath the names of those lost on that horrific day. I couldn’t decide if the waters symbolize continuing tears of sorrow or healing rains of hope.
September 11 is a hard day for our nation, a difficult day for me personally. It was September 11, 2007 when my beloved husband Dennis was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctor’s words tore into my life – my world – causing catastrophic damage to all we had built and shared. Eighteen days later, Dennis was gone. And my world came tumbling down.
Finding myself surrounded by nothing but rubble, my first instinct was to search for every piece – any shred – of what had once existed in an attempt to rebuild. I wanted what was familiar. Known. Comforting. Loved. I wanted my life back. My husband back. My world back.
With a newfound appreciation of their grief and heartache, I found myself thinking of those who had lost loved ones in the attacks on the twin towers on that other devastating September 11th. I remembered their faces, streaked with tears and etched with grief, as they posted photos of their missing loved ones, desperate to find the lost who had defined their lives and colored their world.
After days, weeks, and months, the finality of Dennis’ absence hit the core of my being. He wasn’t coming back. Neither was the world we had known and shared. It had been true for those who survived the hell of our nation’s September 11th. It was now true for me.
For a season, death and life coexisted, battling for preeminence. On many days, I didn’t really care which won.
But day-by-day, piece-by-piece, I did the only thing I could, clearing away the rubble left in the aftermath of Dennis’ death. Finally, when the last pieces were gone, I gazed at…. nothing. A blank slate, an empty canvas. Insert your own metaphor here.
In that moment, I realized redemption would not be found in rebuilding the life we had shared. That life, that world, was gone. Irreplaceable.
Instead, redemption was possible in building a new life. My own life. A life that draws from the well of all Dennis and I held dear, raining down hope for a refashioned life – one filled with purpose and people whom I love; who love me in return.
I’m still thinking about the images of the fountains at the National September 11th Memorial. Waters flow down, even as the new One World Trade Center reaches toward the heavens. The truth is, those waters symbolize both tears of sorrow and healing rains – sorrow and hope springing from the same well.
This is what redemption teaches.