Wednesday, October 2, 2019
The Turn of a Page: Living in the After
After Jack's sudden death, I couldn't bear to see all of his activities for the entire school year, which I'd dutifully filled out in Sharpie as soon as school, practice and scout schedules came out. Things as mundane as dental appointments screamed LOSS and UNFAIRNESS and DESPAIR. What about the Bible study I was supposed to lead, but I'd cancel, along with any other activities of mine outside of work and caring for my lonely little girl? Did I even believe what I once taught?
What about the day itself, September 8th, mocking me with its normalcy? Nothing unique there: the cleaning lady, packing for a camping trip, a work meeting with a pastor friend, a Walmart run. Nothing notable on a day when my world shifted on its axis. When I stood in the hallway of the church and shared with a friend a strange foreboding I had about Jack and his friendships, then laughed it off, all but forgotten a few hours later when it might have mattered. How do you recognize rumblings of a cosmic shift when you speak the language of Sharpies and calendars and soccer snacks, not souls, heaven, life and death?
I remember saving my mother's check register after her sudden death at age 46. I looked at it to marvel at the stark before/after of a full life and then an absence. Everyone else's life seemed to be going forward as usual, but ours had stopped. I could see that four days ago, one week ago, one month ago, she was paying bills. Bills! For that same reason, I suppose, I saved this one calendar page.
To remember a life before the after.
Our calendar today doesn't look much different. It hangs in the same spot in a different house, that is remarkably similar to the one before. Sure, preschool swim lessons, and Margaret's college breaks take the place of elementary school busy-ness, but there are still grocery runs, vet visits, and hair color appointments.
And life is very, very different.
I have learned to live in this new life, to lean into it, and to embrace it as much as my sleep-deprived self will let me. How did I get here, to this place of being able to live in the mundane again while being keenly aware of the spiritual reality of my loved ones being by my side every step of the way? How do I now experience joy in the land of the living? I have no easy answers how this shift happened. Time. Hugs from Heaven. You. Gratitude. Letting tears flow.
If you are living in the shocking, stark AFTER right now, all of those things sound trite and meaningless. I know. I remember. I honor you and that reality.
But I will just whisper, I'm still here. I may not know exactly how I got here, but I'm here, just a bit farther down the road, and if that helps at all, I'm grateful.