To the right you will see me and my family in an old style photo shot in Silverton Colorado. We were on our Wild West trip of a lifetime in 1992 which took us from New Orleans to San Antonio to Carlsbad Caverns to Tucson to the Grand Canyon to Four Corners, to Grand Junction and to various places in Colorado finishing in Denver. It was a terrific trip, and a good time was had by all. That’s my Christy standing behind me to the left.
But now she is gone to be with the Lord for five months, and some days it just seems unreal and impossible that this has happened. How is it possible my soul asks me? And some days I have no answers other than that life is fragile. I am reminded of a tombstone we saw in Silverton that said ‘Here lies the body of Lester Moore, shot in the back with a 44, no Less, no more.’ Some days I feel like I’ve been shot, but by the grace of God I’m still standing, still moving, still working.
There is a certain numbness, a certain emptiness that sets in when the ongoing reality of sudden death and it implications take hold. There are no do overs in such a situation, no reprieve, no going back. You can only go forward and learn to bear, and bear with your loss. Time does help, but honestly there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Christy and of course I miss her terribly. She was one of the main joys of my life, just to hear her voice among other things…. but now, quoth the raven– ‘never more’.
My friend Bill Arnold talked to me the other day about how grief comes in waves. Picture yourself on a beach minding your own business talking to a friend or family member. You are near to the ocean. Yes, you can feel the ebb and flow of the tide as it laps at your feet, but it seems inconse-quential. Inconsequential, that is, until suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you down. You stand, it knocks you down again. The tide is coming in, and you were unprepared for it. Grief is like that.
I was sitting in my office the other day just before Father’s Day and there was a card from some 10 years ago, a card 2 feet high and 1 foot wide, sitting on my filing cabinet. It was from my sweet pea Christy. She of course was wishing me a very happy father’s day. Just seeing her signature at the bottom ‘love Christy’ and thinking of when she wrote that—- well it was a big wave. There will be no more Father’s Day cards from Christy.
I guess one of the main lessons I have learned from this whole devastating experience is that we were made for relationship by God, and when one of your most intimate relationships vanishes, is snatched away in an instant, you feel the absence of that person’s presence viscerally, vitally, on-goingly. And it hurts, it aches, it nags at you again and again like the tendinitis I have in my right elbow. It is not good for man to be alone says Genesis, and how very much I feel that truth these days.
It’s a funny thing– being left alone. In one sense when you have a devastating loss you want to be ‘left alone’ to some extent. You can do without the platitudes or the pity. But in another sense you do not want to be left alone. Indeed, its unhealthy to be left alone when you have such a deep shock and grieve so deeply. Then, above all times, you need someone to give you a hug, to reassure you that there is more to life, to remind you that Christ came that we might have life everlasting, and so on. The experience of Christy taking an early exit from this world while I am ‘left behind’ has given new meaning to that phrase for me as well.
Why was I left behind, I keep asking myself? Why couldn’t I have taken this embolism for her? There are no adequate answers to such questions. None. Its important to remain honest and real in such a circumstance and not give way to delusions, but honesty in this case is a bowl of grits served cold and three days old. It leaves no good taste in my mouth and hardly seems nourishing.
As the legal process, and the process of selling off Christy’s things winds down now, there is some relief, some ability to exhale and feel that the worst of the initial disaster is behind us. But there is still the ongoing sadness to cope with, the ongoing ‘neverness’ to deal with (as Nicholas Wolterstorff says)— never to see my sweet pea again in this life, never to hear her voice and feel her hug, never to go to Carolina game with her again or share a song with her again. Never is a very long time.
Perhaps for the first time I have really begun to understand why some older people choose to live in the past. It’s because it’s the only place they can find their dearly departed loved ones. It reminds me of a song by Elton John entitled Talking Old Soldiers. One of the verses asks—-
“Well do they know what it’s like
To have a graveyard as a friend
`Cause that’s where they are boy, all of them
Don’t seem likely I’ll get friends like that again”
The other day I went to the graveyard. I touched the spot where I laid my Christy to rest. I said a prayer. I saw someone had left a vase of purple flowers below the spot. They were beautiful and Christy, the purple girl, would have loved them. I have no idea who did that or even if they were for Christy, but they sure were appropriate. You want to ask— how can the sun still be shining and living flowers still be beautiful and yet Christy is dead?
What is needed above all in this situation is love. Lots of love and understanding from remaining family and friends. And perhaps an extra measure of patience by the aforementioned group. I am not myself quite yet. Perhaps I will never entirely be my old self again. Indeed, I will predict I will not be that self again.
Christy won’t need my fatherly advice any more. She’s now got better help than I could offer. And the mundane things of life don’t trouble her any more thank goodness. She has no more debts to pay, praise the Lord. She is not hurting any more, thank God. But I am hurting precisely because there was so much love before, and right now– it’s not good for me to be alone. And that’s a fact. And that’s alright. Thanks to all who have been helping us cope with such cold hard facts, including of course God’s secret agent— the Holy Spirit.