I miss his ability to make everyone feel they were important and that he had unhurried time for them.
I miss the smell of the skin on his shoulder as I curled up behind him on a sleepy Saturday morning.
I miss him asking if my car needs its oil changed.
I miss seeing his face when I walk through the door after a long day at work.
I miss him singing or talking in the shower.
I miss how he was always teaching the kids something--always.
I miss his advice.
I miss hearing about something he wished he had invented.
I miss his prayers at the dinner table.
I miss his very long voice mail messages.
I miss finding his daily lists.
I miss his patient homework help.
I miss his spaghetti dinners.
I miss his ebelskiver breakfasts.
I miss the curiosity that filled his days.
I miss him saying, "It's going to be alright."
I miss his confidence in feeling that anything was possible.
I miss his sense of humor.
I miss all the questions he always asked the kids.
I miss debating any and all topics on road trips.
I miss his bravery.
I miss WWII shows.
I miss his steady faith.
I miss his encouragement and belief in me.
I miss his conviction to do something significant in this world.
I miss being a partner. I miss being his partner.
It's tiring work to miss someone deeply, knowing that the ache is not going to be satisfied by a phone call, a holiday visit or the reunion when someone walks through your door. You have to learn to live with the missing. As we pass by year 4 we're getting better at that. Or at least we're trying. I tell people often, he is worth missing.
In this Advent season, we find comfort in the reunion that we're promised. An infant king born into this broken and sad world who will wipe away every tear and give us the hope of a time when all things will be made right. When all this missing will come to an end. When we are reunited with those we love and the God who gave us that ability to love...and miss. Until then, we'll hang on to His promises of that reunion. II Corinthians 4:16-18
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
You've been around too much this week and I need to work through why and how you are still in our home.
You showed up at our front door as Eric left through the back. You were a stranger. We knew of you, but had never been formally introduced. You stumbled in with baggage and all kinds of messiness. Your movements, your ways were unfamiliar. You were ruthless with your neediness. You didn't let up those first days, but pressed against all our unsteadiness. You were always there, taking up space with your uncomfortable presence. You filled our rooms and our hearts. When I had sleepless nights you paced my creaky floors and each morning you were there sitting at the edge of my bed.
I hated that you had to come live at my house. I hated worse that you now lived with my children. I wanted to protect them from the hurt-filled baggage that you unloaded on us. But all my motherly love did not keep you away from them. I couldn't keep you out of their hearts or their heads. They felt different from their friends because of you. You made them quiet and withdrawn some days. You made them laugh less often. You made them smile less genuinely. You stole so much of the innocence they had known. Innocence that I had known.
I thought you would leave after a while. Those who meant well said that you'd leave eventually--5 years, maybe 10. I'm not buying it. I think you're here to stay. I think that our home is now your home.
I started this letter thinking that if I was just direct with you, then you would do the right thing and go away or at the very least stay quietly in your room. But here's the truth--although I hate, hate, hate to admit it.
Because of you, I'm stronger and more driven than I ever was without you. When you became a part of my household, I think I became my best self. I'd like to think that I would have had the strength to get there on my own, but I know I would have always pushed that off to another griefless day. I would have continued to settle for mediocre results in a slightly above average existence. Don't get me wrong, life was good before you showed up--I mean, aside from the cancer thing. I thought I had it all figured out, but I have never felt more keenly aware of my aliveness than when death moved you into my household.
Your presence in our home allows me every shape and volume of emotion. I have literally been driving down the road, having a little monologue about how well I'm handling this loss life and by the time I reach my garage I'm in tears because, because I don't even know why. You are unpredictable and unplanned most days. You make it okay to laugh through tears and cry through dinner. You've made my children sensitive. They read my eyes, my actions, the tone in my voice. When they ask "Are you okay?" they mean it. We have become realists. We realize that hard things always happen to good people. We have accepted the reality that you showed up one day, unexpected and uninvited and yet we have found pride in the in the life that we live, in spite of your joining our family.
You've been part of our household long enough that I'm not quite sure how it would feel if you were simply gone one morning. My fear is that we would feel a hole from that as well, or a guilt that we didn't give you the attention you needed and you might never come back and we'd stop feeling the way we do when you're around. You came to remind us of the loss of a part of us. You made it okay for us to talk freely about him, to laugh and cry at all the stories, to be more broken with each other. You were our common ground when our world collapsed.
I know you don't just live at my house. I see your things scattered in other people's houses and corners, as well. Some are okay with me seeing your mess, others do their best to distract from your obvious presence. You maybe showed up at their home for reasons other than death--depression, addiction, infidelity, infertility or just the simple resignation that life hasn't turned out the way someone expected. Sometimes you come in and slam the door behind you. Sometimes you creep in unexpectedly because the loss you represent isn't as obvious as mine was. I'm certainly not the only person I know who has to deal with you.
In trying to figure out how to make peace with you, I went to my Bible for a list of directions or maybe a cancellation policy. God has plenty to say about you. I could make comment on his words, but He doesn't really need my help.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. ~Lamentations 3:32
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. ~Psalm 10:14
Even in laughter the heart may ache ~Proverbs 14:13
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. ~John 16:20
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4
So there you have it, Grief. All these things are true. And because they are true, I can look you squarely in the eyes each morning and say, "Let's do this". You get to live in our midst, but you don't get to rule this home. The God who loves and protects me, allowed you to join us, but He is still the master of this house. Out of your chaos, He continues to grow us into the people that He has created us to be. His plan will always be bigger than your pain and problems.