March 1, 2017, by Kristin Neva
“The burden of grief is heavy, like the snow that crushed that old barn out in the field, but spring will come and the snow will melt.” In my novel Snow Country, Louisa comforts her granddaughter, who is grieving her broken engagement.
“But the barn will still be broken,” Beth responds, having lost hope.
After my parent’s old barn blew down, my mom made barn board picture frames. The weathered wood has character and beauty. The broken barn was repurposed.
We love stories of people overcoming tragedy, such as Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident. She went on to found Joni and Friends, which ministers to others with disabilities and provides wheelchairs around the world. Joni said her ministry is why she gets up in the morning. It is inspiring when we get to see pain recycled into something beautiful.
But what if we don’t see our pain made into something new?
When a terminal disease progresses. When a marriage dissolves. When sadness turns into deep depression. When there is just brokenness, like an old, collapsed barn rotting in the field.
Todd faces ALS with courage, born out of love for me and our children. I can’t imagine him telling me he hates me or biting me in frustration, but that is the depth of brokenness some of my fellow spouses experience daily in caring for their pALS. Frontal lobe dementia. Emotional liability. Or just overwhelming grief.
Where is the beauty then, when not only the body is broken but the mind as well?
After Beth fails to see God’s goodness, Grandma says, “Danny offered to take it apart and haul it away, but I like having it there. Sam built that barn, and when I see that weathered barnwood, I think of him. It’s still beautiful, even in its brokenness.”
The enduring value of the barn is not in what it does or what it can be repurposed to do, but in the love of and for its creator.