???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression.

I know these four stages of grief very well. They have been my acerbic companions these past eleven years. They lace my morning cup of tea with salt; they lengthen my showers and slow my stride; they chap my cheeks and etch my crows’ feet deeper into my skin; they gag and loose and befoul my tongue; they terrorize my affections, blitzkrieg my hopes, and make a ground zero of my expectations; they tax my strongest relationships and spoil my family reunions; they even follow me to church and laugh at my Faith.

Yet, every few months, my grief cools its stinging heels in the fifth, epsom-salt of stages: acceptance.

Acceptance, that clairvoyant mirror which reflects my reality in 3-D.

I look in that mirror and see an empty quiver. A fruitless tree. A childless crib. An heirless family.

I see a barren woman.

I see the truth, and I don’t like it. I really don’t like it.

But, I don’t ignore it. I don’t fight it. I don’t haggle over it. I don’t wear it as a millstone around my neck.

I simply live with it.

That is, until a grief alumnus comes knocking on my door to pour me another one of those briny cups of tea.

O Lord, Father of all mercy and God of all comfort, You always go before and follow after us. Grant that we may rejoice in Your gracious presence and continually be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

(Collect of the Day for Proper 6C from Lutheran Service Book, copyright Concordia Publishing House)