Sunday, December 23, 2007

To be absent from the body...

Last night, she lay down beside the man she loved more than anything. This morning, she awoke to an empty house.

My best friend's father died this morning, in his sleep.

He was only 60.

How do we go on? How does his wife go on? How do you go to sleep, wrapped in mingled warmth under stacks of blankets, exhausted and together, and wake up him-less? Him. Him. Him. How does a wife go on?

Kristen's father was a great man. She gets this amazing...magnetism... from him. He was the kind of guy who knew e v e r y o n e in his community, seemed to manage to make them all feel liked and known by him. I remember that he took us to this steak house in their town in Missouri once, about 10 years ago, and the chef came out to greet us all by name when he heard that BJ was there. He was what you think of when you hear the term "life of the party." People wanted to sit with him. Kristen is the same way. They don't even really have to try. It's just this... thing. Kristen's husband nailed it when he toasted her at their wedding reception 11 years ago: This thing about her is nameless...it's simply "Kris-ness." BJ had it first.

And people have to die. It's the way things work. The cycle of life and all that. But can you imagine? To wake up, shuffling to the kitchen on a freezing morning three days before Christmas, to make coffee for yourself and your partner. It's odd that he isn't up first-- he's typically the first one up and has done a thousand things already. You head back to your bedroom to wake him up, and he has gone. He's not there. He won't open his eyes.

Oh.

What were you doing when he was dying? Did he open his eyes one last time to gaze on your face? Did he know that he was going? Did he need your help? Was he afraid? What were you dreaming about? How could you be so close to him, in that cozy safe proximity of your bed, your home, and yet be so far-- thousands of dreamy miles-- away from him in the most important moment of his life. Touching him perhaps. Your head on his shoulder. Your hands tied up in his.

It makes me want to sit up all night, just watching. Making sure. Taking care of him. Listening to him breathe. I'm thinking that if I never slept again, I could get a lot of reading done. I could just sort of lie beside him with my hand on his tummy, feeling the rise and fall of his breathing. I could nudge him away from nightmares, make sure he's covered with enough blankets all night....

Right-- that's pushing it. Can you imagine living with someone that manic? Oh my gosh, it would drive him karayzee.

I can't imagine my life without this man of mine. The loss of Kristen's father has hit me on three levels: 1) I love her and wish that I could stop the waves of pain that she is walking into. I can't imagine how it feels to lose a parent, but I know that the loss has to be unbearable. She's fiercely independent, but today she is broken in half. I can't bring myself to even listen to the first message she left me this morning-- and I can't believe I didn't sense that I needed to call her back right away. 2) her father turned 60 on the 10th of this month. Mine turned 60 on the 19th. How could I cope with losing my dad? Or my mom? Or my brother? Or my husband? Or any friend at all? And 3) what can it be like for a woman to lose her husband?

It feels sometimes like God sews beautiful people and experiences into the fabric of our lives and they are only here for a season, but we want to command the divine quiltmaker on how to order the quilt. It is His to decide when this patch or that block should be moved or replaced or expanded.... Sometimes I feel like a little kid who is given a gift and who howls in anger and hurt and frustration when my Father wants me to let go so He can hand me something else, something in addition to, something better.

But how can there be anything better than that person He gave you? I have literally never known anyone as beautiful as my husband is, in every way. I mean, surely there are other beautiful people, but not to me. Not for me. How could I wake up to having lost him? How did Kristen's step mother do it? How can she have felt? Did she go completely numb? Did her brain scream in terror like you might if you were being murdered? Was she afraid to be in the room with a dead body?

And tonight... oh, tonight that dear woman will lie down in that bed (she won't leave the house-- neither would I) and be alone for the first time in 15 years.

To be absent from the body is to be together with Christ-- how could we live without this consolation? But only the Holy Spirit can hold the heart of a newly minted widow and make her able to keep living.

I cannot imagine. And pray God that I will not have to for many, many years.

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