I go through Eric's things in waves. I'll tackle a drawer, a closet, a couple of boxes and then when my emotional energy has run dry, I set it all aside for a while. Over the months it has become less painful. There are fewer tears. I seem to be more productive. My hands are loosening their grip on his things, because they're just things.
This past weekend I pulled out several boxes of paperwork that needed attention. The carbon dating set the contents from the late 80s to the early 90s. There were scripts from plays, music from choirs, college syllabusses by the dozens (and for those of you who are going all Latin grammar on me, syllabusses is just as acceptable as syllabi and it sounds better in my sentence). Among this box of treasures was a notebook that clearly had served as part journal, part notes for the classes that Eric was taking around 1989--stats, some theology course, and poetry. He was also in the middle of playing Harold Hill in The Music Man so there were lots of notes about rehearsals, fellow actors and tired vocal chords. I've seen this journal a dozen times and I had read enough of it to know that there was some mention of me as I was entering the plot line of his life.
I decided a couple of nights ago to read the notebook from cover to cover, just to be sure that I hadn't missed anything important--a nugget here or there that I could pass on to the kids or tuck away for a later day. What I found was the poem below, scribbled in Eric's unmistakable handwriting. There were lines scratched out and others squeezed in, but it was there, in its entirety--two stanzas, twenty lines. I'll admit I googled several of the lines because Eric loved poetry about death and I wondered if he had just copied it from somewhere. Nothing popped up so I think it's safe to believe that it's an E. Rynders original.
I've secretly wished that I would find some epic letter that Eric wrote for me to find after he was gone. A letter that would serve as a guide for how to finish out my life without him by my side. I also hoped to find some great testimony of his faith in the God who created him. I think I may have found them both.
My heart it pains, and I may die
I did not whimper, so do not cry.
Although my heart could not keep pace
with all the daily trouble race,
It sought quite hard to do His will
and is rewarded, for now tis still.
Now I know that I have won
for every race to me is done.
It does not matter any more
for I have settled every score.
So mourn me not, don't shed a tear
for I no longer linger near.
But mourn yourselves for you must go
into the curtain of your last show.
I paid my time, my battle's through
and now I lie and wait for you.
You may not have the courage now
to stand and take your final bow.
But when it's time for you to stand
don't worry, He will take your hand.
Today marks eighteen months since that normal December day when everything that we had come to know as normal left our house. Eighteen months of mornings that I've woken up and for a split second had to relive everything so that I understood once again why his side of the bed is still tidy and tucked in. Eighteen months of singlehandedly making decisions that should be made by two. Eighteen months of seeing his words, convictions and humor lived out in his children. Eighteen months of receiving support and love from the most unexpected places. Eighteen months of adjustment to using I and me instead of us and we. Eighteen months of being more aware of what it means to be alive than I had ever previously experienced. Eighteen months of reconciling that the hand of God that comforts is also the hand that takes away. Eighteen months of loosening the death grip that I had on the need to have this all make sense. Eighteen months of resigning to and then leaning into, even embracing the truth that God is God and I am not. Eighteen months of seeing miracles and joy unexpectedly rise up from the rubble of cancer and death. Eighteen months of mercies that are new every morning, just like He promised.