The Night Before

The night before.

We all remember the day.  The time is very clear and the moment is fixed in our minds.  The messenger, the note and the feeling.  Deep and clear.  We can talk with great clarity about the sunset and the wind and the surroundings as if it were a painting, for in true fact, it is.  Painted in our mind like a vivid and clear multi-color rendering.  And we can describe it all.

Good news or bad, it is there to be recalled and to know.  Surety, firm knowledge and with confidence.  The moment is termed Seminal for a reason, for on that pivot the direction and actions were all hinged and the trajectory was new.  Some things were done with a familiarity and confidence that showed the strength and resolve we expect from conviction and purpose.  Things are done.  Things are said.  Actions and non-actions are intentional.

The sentence still is crisp: “It is a girl.”  “Your mom has passed.” “You got the job.”  These and many more are all the same, seminal.  Life changing.  Un-retractable.  And the day is fixed in our minds.  Celebrations and hugs of condolence and dates recorded in books are all part of the day.  Memories are written and shared and pictures are taken and sent around for all that care to know. There is an interesting back story though that is only told in vulnerable times and to close friends.  The night before.

My grandmother was recounting, one time with my wife and I, about the time that my grandfather was on the roof of the barn and the ladder fell when he stepped on it from the roof.  “We almost lost him…” said with tears, more than 40 years after the event.  The time in the hospital, and the work on the farm needing the help from neighbors to complete, the friends that came, and the waiting in the dark.  And still these many years later comes the tale and the anguish, and the questions about “what might have been…” We were surprised, and in truth so was she at the remembering, as she was not inclined to acts of drama and yet, there it was.  The hint of something more.  The night before.

In truth, we all have them.  Different in detail and degree, but they are there.  The night before the news.  The apprehension, fear, anguish, aloneness, and wrestling with the God that is silent.  Tears and hopes and plans and … nothing but fog and darkness.  We list our good deeds and worthiness for a good answer, perhaps even recount our undeserving of such great things beyond our worth, but hoping anyway.  This night, the one before the news, is where we are more real, though.  Real to our private selves, that we show no one except by error, and to the God we serve.  This night, the one before, has more reality about our motives and our intentions and our fears of truth than we are really wanting to face.  But face them we will.  Tonight, or some night yet to come.  It is the night of which Scrooge was most fearful and to be sure so with us.  This night is one we hold tightly to.  It is the one we speak of seldom, to anyone.  Even to ourselves for the telling is to remember.  And to remember is to hurt at the unknown, the night before.

Close friends may not be aware.  But if you ask them about theirs, even vaguely, they will know about the knowing of the night.  It is commonly human, and commonly uncommon to speak of it.  Personal and hidden and yet regenerative when it comes.  The tale of a friend and his father and the pain of their past.  The attempts and the failing and the fears of vulnerable moments contrive to derail the train of the telling.  You can hide it away, but it wants to be known.  To be told, if only to one that will listen.  At times, it is the one that you were least expecting to understand that does, and your template is changed.  This is the night before that is remembered now as the story that you told and to the one that listened, and the story has a new ending.  It adds the one that you were surprised by, to the end, and is now a story that can grow.

The night before has great value, but we would never use those terms to talk about it that way.  The hope of the healthy birth after several miscarriages, the hope of the transcript getting published after so many rejections that didn’t even get you a letter telling you.  The job that you didn’t get, the diagnosis that you believed would be good but wasn’t.  And on it goes.  We confront these nights before, and have confronted this night before, and we survived.  Changed, but alive.  One more day, and then again, the night...  Cancer, jail, rehab for the amputation or rehab for the abandonment, it is still an act of defiance to try recovery.  Something to say “yes” to.  There is great value here, alone in the dark of the night before the news, but we must embrace it as such.  Our fears are real, and can run away from us, with all the screaming and shouting at the wall in the dark, alone.  Honest, perhaps for the first time in a very long time.  It will work its work, if we will let it.  Getting past the walls that we alone created.  Brick by brick our expectations are placed and mortared with our fears that it may not be true.  In this very dark night before, we realize that the wall we are yelling at is our own prison. Built of the lies that we conveniently believed since we stood in the echo chambers and listened to our version of truth and righteousness.  The yelling is as real as the lies we hold tightly to.  Remember the thought that “the tree was too big to die”?  You thought it would not go away.  And then it did.  The building you went to school, the friend that helped you that one time, the girl that said she would be your friend… the bank that was too big to fail and the job that would be there forever… your pension. 

The night before the news is a place of lament.  Let it be such.  Weep, release, and then know that you are in pain so that you may know you are still worth the weeping.  When you are spent, and done, then you can hear.  It is the quite sound of deep nights. The wind in the trees, the cars on the highway, the birds. You are not alone, even as you may be alone.  You may be a vigil of one, but you are not alone.  There is a you that is apart from you that knows the you that is spent.  It is the part of you that is apart from the you that others see.  It is the you that needs to listen to another that is apart from their part that is alone.  It is the part that needs to tell about being apart from, amid the others, to another.  It is the small one that wants to tell about the time, that night before, in the mourning in the dark, to another, that has heard the sounds, of mourning in the dark night.  It is a seminal moment in time.  Travel on.


  1. This is a piece that I wrote after listening to someone talk about the "answer to prayer" in their life. It stirred the idea of the night before, the hope and the anguish and the struggle in the middle of the darkness. That struggle is real, lean into it.


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