Early in the morning of September 20th, Bob Johnson slipped away to the promised presence of the One that had brought him new life many years before. Bob was the father of the Poet I have lived with for 30 plus years. And he has been like a father to this fatherless girl. I have heard many times the story of the night so long ago when the darkness in Bob's life had grown so large that it was suffocating him and he sought to bring all to an end. In the process, Bob found instead redemption. His life and that of his family would be forever changed. Oh how he loved to tell that story.
Bob and Verla were married just a few months shy of 60 years. They were utterly committed to each other and so very in love. How fitting that his last words to her on Monday night were "I love you."
We walked through last week first facing the shock of the unexpected event, then making funeral arrangements including the fact that his son, my husband, would be doing the funeral service, and then those challenging hours of saying a formal goodbye. I found myself strangely silent in my attempts at prayer but found solace in the fact that I was seeking and did feel God's presence even if not in the form of words.
I looked around and saw Verla's heart aching at the thought of never sharing morning coffee with the love of her life. I saw a poet son who had never known such ache in his sensitive and gentle heart. I saw a daughter/granddaughter all grown up but feeling much like a lost little girl. And I saw a son/grandson who grieved over the loss of the grandfather who truly understood him. And there were others all with shattered hearts held carefully in their hands. What does one do with such abundance of sadness? I'm a fixer. I wanted, I needed to fix it. And yet, there was no fix.
I found exhaustion waiting for me when we arrived home last weekend. Sleep did not bring rest and days did not bring accomplishments. Tonight the Poet observed, "Well, you always take on everybody else's pain." Ooooh Yeah. I forget to remember to be aware of that.
I was called to be present, to encourage. The discovery that I have again taken fixing on as a profession brings with it the need for prayer and confession. I am reminded that the only way I was called to carry others is to bring them in word to the throne of grace. True carrying can only be done by the One whose arms were big enough, wide enough, strong enough to carry the whole world. How could I think I could gather them all up in a basket like scattered laundry? How could I imagine to be a fixer when I am myself in need of being carried?
Comfort can be felt. Hope can be known. Strength can be realized as I allow those wide as a cross arms to carry both me and those I love.