I once said that Jesus is The Giving Tree….
Today, I told him that if that was really so, I was going to need some apples. Some branches. Something more from Him. It’s the same with all of the phone calls and messages. People who want to know what I need, but I don’t even know what I need. I have a hole blown through me that can’t be repaired, and I’m bleeding out slowly.
I have recalled the days leading up to last Sunday.
I can trace the line of those days, a bread crumb trail, pointing me to the truth that time was slipping away, a silver thread quietly unraveling before our eyes.
It’s hard to think of a time where you aren’t here. A time where you won’t be every classic song on the radio, every sepia toned vinyl album cover lining the shelf. Where you aren’t the breeze on a golden autumn day; every cicada trill coming from the trees. I keep upturning all of these new memories of you inadvertently, like finding worms in the wet soil beneath rocks. I’m surprised when one thing begets another, the way the flesh of the earth triggers me.
I gather the things that I know to be true, and commit them to my secret heart. I woke up the other morning, and in those first few moments that I blinked myself into existence my body started rattling, and I realized that Sunday really did happen
It was the day after, the first day where we actually had to live out the truth that you aren’t here anymore.
I slid the glass door closed in the ICU where I left you, and realized that it was time to let it be, but that we were going to have to figure out what that looked like for each of us.
When the course of a life stops, even if you know it’s happening you don’t realize what’s coming. You still aren’t ready for feeling like you have been swallowed by grief; you aren’t ready for the crushing feeling while it pounds and digests you, melts you down into nothing for its own use.
I see every moment like it was a photograph. The hands holding on to yours. The heads bent over you, leaning against you. I put my nose to your ash-colored hair to smell you one last time, the way I want remember you. I forced myself to remember that your hair used to be golden. I reminded myself that once your skin was tan, and warm with the sun. I remembered that your hands used to be calloused and hard and strong.
I looked at the weight of you, now less than me. The body, used and abused. Bruised. Skin paper thin, gray. The narrow shoulders I once sat smiling on when things were a lot simpler, times a lot happier. But then I recalled the hurt and the anger. I recalled how we all disappointed each other.
When the floor drops away, stuff like that isn’t what’s going to keep someone afloat. It’s those silent things that drag you down.
We watched all the lines on the screen turn linear together, and Dad, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.
I see those last minutes like photographs, but I also see these last few weeks. When I didn’t pick up the phone to talk to you about the weather, or just about how the kids were doing. I see where I didn’t hug you one last time before you shuffled yourself to the car. I see how I sometimes saw you as a burden.
But nobody tells you that burdens don’t last forever. Whether it’s tiny handprints smudging your hallway walls and mirrors, or spending a few minutes on the phone with your lonesome dad who just wants to talk about…nothing. Burdens that mark you aren’t always here, and then you’re naked without them.
Now I’m near the pit, and I’m trying to hang on because all that I see down there is darkness. Sometimes, I decide that maybe I’ll just let go and fall down into the dark. Maybe that’s easier than trying to resist. Trying to resist is tiring. Choosing hope is what breaks you into a thousand pieces while everything else inside of you bids you to just let go as it tries to rip you to pieces on your way down.
The heart of hope is lined with pain, and with every thump it hurts so bad.
I’m not sure where I am going anymore. I’m not sure which direction is through. And I just want to get through. Mangled, twisted branches are covering the way, fog is blotting out the sun in a gray haze, rotting wet leaves beneath my feet slow my step.
What is the way through this forrest of grief to the giving tree, through all of this decay?
We have to choose life over decay. We have to let the body rest when it’s time, and choose the hidden life that remains in everything. But the pain feels more comforting because it’s a blanket that you can wrap yourself in and hide. Choosing life means choosing to put one foot in front of the other to find your way through to something new. It means having to decide that maybe there is something good still left.
But that’s what you did so often. You never let go until your body gave out on its own volition. How I wish I had the tiniest bit of what you had. I hope that I do, planted somewhere that I can’t see just yet.
Maybe it just needs time. I just need to let it be.