When Death is a Good Thing


Death often makes room to see the past– and the future– more clearly.

I noticed the frozen creek from the kitchen window, and after a week trapped inside by single digit temps, I grabbed my camera, bundled up, and wandered into the backyard for a moment.

In the summer, my backyard is nothing but thick woods, but now it’s obvious that the vines once ran along a fence and there’s a clearing beyond the creek. Today it’s grown up, dangerous, useless.

But sometime in this house’s 90+ years of life, it was a sprawling, well manicured yard.

These fence posts reminded me of what happens when we don’t keep up with the little things in our lives. Boundaries are only effective when they are clearly maintained. When the yard was left to its own devices, a fence became a trellis and vines became thick and impassable.

But then came a deathly deep freeze. The vines that were so tangled in autumn that I couldn’t clear them now crumbled in my hands. With a little bit of work, we’ll have a backyard again and the kids will have a place to play this summer.

I never would’ve known there were both past and future stories here if everything hadn’t died. And I wondered, what things in my life need to die so I can see clearly the direction of my life? What needs to die so I’ll have better perspective on an event in my past? Sometimes, death— of a relationship, of a lie believed, of a habit or addiction— really can be the best thing that could happen.

So what do you do when the death clarifies things? There are really two choices: let things grow back up, or do the work to reestablish the boundaries and make the space useful again.

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