These are rough germs of posts--unfinished, unposted-- that I started when I felt the need to quickly write something, or, more likely, the need to avoid something I should have been doing instead of typing. They had no place, and I didn't know what to do with them, so I bundled them all together in a big, sloppy sheaf.
I'm friends with two older women who, for the last couple of years, have unknowingly taught me what marital faithfulness looks like. It can be hard, gritty, and often thankless. They've shown that love is not showy and requires the deceptively simple act of setting one foot down, and then another-- over and over again-- even when that seems impossible.
After tending to his failing health for years, one woman recently lost her husband, and the other looks to a future, perhaps near, without hers, living the lonely work of moving from comrade to caretaker as his bright mind reshapes with Alzheimer's. These couples were pillars together, tall and strong, but in later years, old age and ill health made it necessary for the wives to carry the husbands.
I'm thankful that John and I are best friends and that, for this time, are well-matched in health, both of body and mind. We delight in one another and laugh a lot around the grumps. The hard times are small, bare patches to move through in an expanse of green. Someday, though, the bare patches will spread, and one of us may lose a companion by degrees.
I am glad for men and women who show us younger ones the steady face of love. We need to see the hard faithfulness to which we might be called, and that it is good and admirable and worthy.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
I've said some pretty stupid things to grieving people, and I only realized it after Dad died. All well-meaning, I spoke too glibly of truths I understood intellectually but that had not yet pierced my heart. Mostly, I simply spoke too much.
I am sorry for that.
In this missing, I've been thankful for all prayers and words extended on our behalf and especially for the comfort found in small words with large meaning given by those who know.
"The question is not,--how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education--but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?"
(I think I put this quote down in order to flesh out a post. Whaddya know? No post. The quote's better than the post would be, anyway.)
Ten months later, I find I can't write about Dad yet, but I think about him all the time. Some of my sister Debbie's and brother Pete's words loop around on repeat in my head. At Dad's funeral, when all of us children spoke for a bit, Debbie talked about Dad being a man of depth and substance with a mind full of mystery in the deep corners. He was, and it was. Growing up, he told us dozens of interesting and rosy stories from his childhood (he jumped off a barn roof with an umbrella and got stuck with his pants on a nail!) for every one curt mention of Grandpa's alcoholism. And he rarely talked about Grandma at all, which, in retrospect, speaks volumes.
Pete's words honored Dad's mind, too. Dad was Pete's best friend. They regularly talked for hours on the phone, and Pete spoke of missing Dad's mind-- that keen, sharp intellect that informed all of his conversations and interactions with others.
We all miss his insatiable curiosity, the driving force behind his lifelong accumulation of knowledge and the reason why, after popping in to divert both himself and me from chores, he could diagnose what was probably wrong with John's broken car before introducing me to string theory, immediately following it with theological applications too cerebral for me to even grasp. It's the reason he bought used field guides whenever he found them, half a dozen devoted to mushrooms alone, and the reason why he could never get rid of books, even if that meant they grew mildew in basement boxes (which they did).
That curiosity was the reason I could ask my Dad a question about any topic imaginable and be confident he would give me an informed answer, and it was the reason he called each of his seven children every week, often multiple times, to see what was going on in our lives. I never had to call any of my siblings in order to know exactly what they were doing in any particular week because he connected us all with his conversation. I feel cut off these days and realize that it takes a lot of work to maintain relationships with the brothers and sisters I love without him carrying us all in the center.
He was unusually involved in the lives of his adult children, which explains in part why his absence still gapes all unseemly. It doesn't seem right to not know when my brother Andy and his family are flying from one bush village in Alaska to another, and at exactly what minute I should whisper a few prayers for the Father's protecting hand. It doesn't seem right to not know with what cleverness Haven has quietly astounded, what humorous naughtiness Simeon has unpacked, or what mountain Pete is biking down as I chop the vegetables for supper. These days, I don't know to what country Luke and Jae-Ryong are preparing to travel or when her parents are visiting; I don't know the bachelor food Joel's been eating or how far along-- or not-- his philosophy dissertation is. Thank goodness I talk to my two sisters more regularly, or else I'd be wondering what on earth they're doing, too.
Dad's conversation and curiosity were not idle. With them, he sent tendrils outward to connect himself to the world. To link people to people. He didn't think many people would show up to his funeral, so he directed Mom to a small funeral home. That Thursday night, we stood in the receiving line for over four hours. The next morning, the place was overstuffed to the point of discomfort, and, later, at the meal, the people who loved Dad and us packed the church gym full, because superceding all of Dad's flaws was the knowledge that he cared for people.
His curiosity, his worry, his involvement, his unsolicited advice, his care for us-- these were sometimes an annoyance and a nuisance.
I miss that nuisance.
And now I've written a few words that barely plumb the surface.
Some days, Dad's absence still seems like a bad dream-- the closest blow of death so far-- and this while living in the comfort of my family, the comfort of my home, the comfort of our safety, and the comfort of knowing He's with our Father. I'm swaddled in comfort on all sides. It is not fair that death after a long life is the greatest of griefs when horrors such as this wound others all over the globe. Pray for the least of these, our brothers and sisters.
I write each of my children his or her own lullaby within a few weeks of birth and sing it through the years, no matter how big their bodies grow. Lucinda means "light." Aidan means "little fire." Both of their lullabies exhort them to light up the night and to illumine the corners.
I hope this for all of my children.
The Abrupt End.