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Lowe column: Welcoming life, and letting go

Yogi Berra has a way of turning phrases. One such phrase is “it’s like déjŕ vu all over again.”
I experienced this recently on a trip to Durham. I exited I-85 in Durham and turned left. I crossed the bridge toward Durham Regional Hospital. I got that déjŕ vu feeling as I proceeded down the street. It seemed that so much was exactly the same as the last trip I made along the same route. I was traveling the same road in the same car with the same sweater on and the same shoes on. The sun was out and traffic seemed to be the same as it was before. I was playing the same CD as I was before.
My last trip was to witness and celebrate the birth of my first grandchild. My son-in-law Ed came out to the lobby to say “It’s a girl!”
He knew that we already knew that, but proud papa just wanted to say it.
I had to come back from my memory and watch the traffic as I approached the hospital. It all felt so familiar, so connected to a good memory.
It all seemed so familiar until I passed the hospital to go to my destination on this trip.
I was headed to my son-in-law’s parents’ house to try to console them. The police had found their 30-year-old-son Steve dead in his apartment the day before with no explanation as to why except that “foul play” might be involved. Two-and-a-half months after I had taken this route to celebrate something, I was going to participate in the aftermath of one of those mysteries of life that leave you wondering.
What do you say to parents who are grieving the loss of a 30-year-old son?
I said “I am so sorry for your loss,” but that seemed to fall way short of what was needed in the situation.
As we left, there was another round of sentences that were hard to put together and hard to speak. We were able to share our love, though, no matter how inadequate words seemed at the time.
As I headed home, I realized that what had seemed so similar an experience at first was as different as different can be. In the two-and-a-half months that had passed since my earlier trip, my car had more mileage on it. I was a few days older. It was a different time of day. My hair was a bit longer.
I could go on and on about the small differences.
The main difference, though, is so obvious it shouts.
It is the difference between life and death. It is the difference between the deep joy of birth and the heart-wrenching grief of death. It is the difference between welcoming life and letting go of life.
As I rode down the highway I have traveled so many times, something dawned on me. The only thing that was truly the same on both trips was God.
God was in and with both situations, as God always is.
Yogi Berra is right. When it comes to the presence of God in our lives, “it’s like déjŕ vu all over again.”
nnn
The Rev. Vance Lowe is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in China Grove.

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