Whether your song is happy or sad, God is listening

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on August 27, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/whether-your-song-is-happy-or-sad-god-is-listening

In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing.

“It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There is no escaping that,” said Stephen Colbert in an interview with Anderson Cooper on grief. He went on to say, “There is no other timeline. This is it. The bravest thing you can do is accept the world as it is.”

As a depressed teenager I had lost sight of hope. I couldn’t come up with any reasons to live. To stay here. I didn’t understand how treasured I was. By God. By my family and friends. It’s beautiful to discover that you and I were born into this world for a purpose. That life is good even when it comes with suffering. You can’t separate joy from experiences of sadness. To experience happiness, you must also experience loss. A colourful mix of emotions makes us human.

I have been blessed with many graces to thrive as I live in Vancouver. Being surrounded by lush nature. Family close by. Fulfilling work. Diversity in dining. A welcoming church community. Friendly neighbours. And I am grateful that I can enjoy it all with my healthy body.

I’ve missed running for a month. I’ve been avoiding the summer heat! So one cool evening, I lace up my runners and off I go. Breathing in and out quickly. My muscles stretching like a cat’s after a nap. The view as beautiful as ever. Passing cyclists smile and nod, affirming my effort. Stopping at a crosswalk, I think about quitting to get dinner. But I know that further along there is a better view of the water. I push on. In slow mode.

Once at the oceanside, I breathe in deeply. Music twirls in the air as the community piano is played. After the young woman finishes a classical piece, I rush to it. Beads of sweat fall along my hairline as I play. In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing. God doesn’t leave us in the darkness. The light rushes in. Growth happens. And we can emerge stronger than before.

Having lived in the pit of despair gives me the capacity to connect with people on a raw and profoundly human level. Empathy, a gift of understanding someone else’s suffering; you have felt it too. Everyone experiences grief, loss, or pain. When we can share a moment with another, we promise they are not alone.

A French-speaking man smiling and moving towards the piano says, “Bravo.” I ask, “Do you want to play?” He sits and sings, stroking the keys of the brightly painted outdoor piano. Each of us giving a free concert to an intimate crowd. Making a gift of ourselves, we are “not simply a ‘being’ but always a ‘being for,’” as I heard this year at a workshop by the Pacific Institute of Family Education.

“You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:11-12).

The longer I live, the more grateful I am for each breath. I will bless the Lord with my comings and goings, knowing how deeply he loves me. Knowing that he suffered too. And what joy awaits us in the kingdom that he has opened to us.


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