Light and Dark

Joanna ZuidemaComment

Our lives are heavy right now — there's no doubt about that. 

The weight of Norah's absence and my mother's terminal cancer diagnosis is both undeniable and unmistakeable; it weaves like a dark thread into every fiber of our existence — present in each breath, each step, each moment.

However, we're finding that woven alongside the darkness is a lighter thread, a stronger one — that of hope.

This raw hope is what affords us the ability to get out of bed each morning and experience the strange dichotomy of our new normal where joy and sorrow can both be fiercely present on a daily basis.

This unique part of grief is hard to understand from the outside. Before Norah died, I believed that when you're happy, you're happy, and when you're sad, you're sad. But what about when you carry the long-term sorrow of the loss of a child or the anticipatory grief of a terminal illness?

Our hearts have been irreparably broken since March 6th, and we carry these new, tender versions of ourselves into everything we do. Smiles on our faces don't mean that we're not still shattered by Norah's death every second of every day. In the same way, neither do tears on our cheeks mean we're incapable of experiencing joy even with our broken hearts.

It means that sometimes the two can collide.
Like they did yesterday.

Yesterday should have been different. I should have been celebrating my birthday with my daughter in my arms and not wondering if this was the last birthday I would celebrate with my mother. 

There was a lot of heaviness.

But there was also so much joy. 


We raised $6,364 for the Ronald McDonald house in honor of Norah for the RBC Race for the Kids Family Walk. I was able to spend my birthday surrounded by friends and family honoring our daughter. Thousands of people heard Norah's name. We were the top fundraising team, Lane the top individual fundraiser.

So much good was happening because of Norah. So many people were saying, reading, or wearing her name. So many people in one place, remembering our sweet girl.

As I said a few words to kick off the 5k, my voice broke and the tears came. 
At brunch with friends, I started bawling.

Joy, pride, love, laughter, tears, and deep, deep sorrow – all in one griefy cocktail.

Yesterday was intense, overwhelming, joyful, and heartbreaking all at once.


It turns out that this deep sorrow and joy can exist together; they are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, the sorrow only magnifies the power of the hope and joy found in its presence; the highs of life appear that much higher once you've been to the bottom.

It's only once you've seen the deepest darkness of night that are you truly able to appreciate the magnitude of a sunrise. 

But even on the days we find ourselves in darkness, there are still stars.

Even in the darkness, God is still so good.