This morning, when I was visiting the school where I once taught, I had the privilege of bumping into so many old friends. One person, in particular, said to me, “It’s good to see you smiling.” At first, I thought to myself, “Well, why wouldn’t I smile?” Then it hit me. “Oh yeah, he knows about Jaime.” That happens a lot to me. People will say, “You look good” (I must have looked horrible in the past!), or “You sound good” (I don’t even know how to read into that one) and I am reminded once again that I am now classified by an event in my life. No one I spoke to today knew that today is three months since my Love quietly slipped away. I didn’t really think about it much. Well, when I looked at my phone and saw that today was the 6th, I did remember. However, I went about my day and the tasks I had set out to accomplish. It wasn’t until Felicity and I were playing that I looked over at my laptop and the saw the picture of the three of us sitting in the sand. Felicity quickly named everyone – because I don’t know who everyone is! There was that empty feeling. It’s as if someone takes a vacuum and pulls all of the air from within. I stared at Jaime and said to myself, “She really is gone.” That person, sitting in that picture does not exist in this realm anymore. My daughter’s short attention span saved the day, and off to the play-dough we went.
Jaime’s death was a crushing blow in my life. It is a permanent injury to my heart from which I will never recover but will only learn how to live and function with the pain. Yet, even in the midst of what feels like a fatal wound, there is indescribable peace and joy in my life. One day, more than likely in another format, I will share some of the most amazing conversations Jaime and I shared prior to her going away. There was such a peace that overwhelmed her prior to the news that the end was near and even the days that led up to her death. Some who will read this might find what I am to say “religious” and that is not my intention. But, because I believe there is God, I also believe that He is the one who gave both my wife and myself a peace that goes beyond our human understanding. It is His peace that quickly floods my heart when I recall her pain or when I think about wedding anniversaries that will never happen, or when I realize that it will be just me giving Felicity away when she is married and that Felicity won’t even get to have that contentious mother-daughter relationship. His peace expels the “what ifs?” and “why?” and reminds me of what is true. Some might say (and have said), “Well, it’s good that helps you feel better.” As if words could ever make me “feel” better. No, it is God’s peace that helps me move forward. Peace is not to be confused with being blind to reality. I still have moments, and will for a very long time, when the memories are like huge boulders that I cannot avoid. The pain is crushing, even debilitating. Yet, God’s grace and peace is truly sufficient in my time of need. When I think of all that Jaime suffered, I am quickly reminded that there is now no pain. When I sit in the very chair my wife couldn’t even lift herself up from, I am reminded she now dances in the throne room. When I recall how I could barely hear her final words to me, He reminds me that she now sings in the heavenly choir. God’s grace and peace (and presence!) is what makes me “look better,” “sound better,” and smile.
In Jerry Sittser’s book, A Grace Disguised, he shares, “The experience of loss does not have to leave us with the memory of a painful event that stands alone, like a towering monument that dominates the landscape of our lives. Loss can also leave us with the memory of a wonderful story. It can function as a catalyst that pushes us in a new direction, like a closed road that forces us to turn around and find another way to our destination. Who knows what we will discover and see along the way?” This has been my experience so far. I recently told someone, “I miss Jaime very much, but I choose not to let her cancer and her death to run my day.” Don’t get me wrong, I am still learning how to sleep through the night and there are plenty of times when I mourn in private. I have chosen, however, not to let this be my decision to stop living or to create a miserable life for Felicity. Instead, we are now traveling the bend in the road.