So, I had to find my shoes today.
Literally. I had no idea where they were. I haven’t really left the house lately and today was the day when I told my wife I’d ride with her to the next city… about 30 miles away. I found the shoes in the corner of my closet and slipped them on… thinking that what I was about to do was really no big deal. I was wrong.
After loading my family of six into the car I slithered into the passenger seat and felt myself melt. We start driving… one mile away from home and I am ready to return. I don’t want to be in this car and I don’t want to be driving to the next city and I don’t want to be wearing these stupid shoes!
But… I do.
I stare out of the car window at the desert. My dad loved the desert. He hated the heat… but loved the desert. He grew to know its beauty and appreciated it. He would love to hop on his motorcycle and go on long drives through the desert highways. It is one of those highways that I find myself on today and a lump enters my throat.
My ambition is gone. My energy is gone. I sit with my hands folded and my arms weighted down. I stare behind sunglasses into nothingness. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know how to fix me…
Maybe I’m unfixable or not meant to be fixed. Maybe this is the new me.
As we drive I tell my wife that I’m not going into the doctor’s office… I tell her I’m staying in the car. I hear a voice come from the backseat. It is my six year old. He says,
“I am sitting in the car with daddy.”
I don’t even think… just speak in a flat, unearthed tone.
“OK. But I just want to let you know that I’m not talking to you.”
My wife gasps and I realize what I just said. When my words register in my consciousness I start to laugh.
I really laughed. It felt good. Who am I anymore?
I told my son that I was kidding and that he could talk my ear off if he wanted. He continued to play in the backseat… unaffected by me. And then I thought again…
Who am I anymore?
I mean… I know my name and my job and my position in life. I know my faith and my voice and my past, but who am I?
Death does that?
I am a son… No, I was a son. Now, I’m a father of sons… but I have been that for years. It is hard to stop being that which you have always been when there is nothing there to take its place.
A Toyota truck loaded with tires sits in the passing lane as we continue down the highway. The tires remind me of days at the park with dad and my favorite attraction… the tire swing. I could play on that thing all day. I remember wanting to be pushed and pulled and spun in every direction. I remember getting so dizzy that I thought I was going to puke. It was sickening and fun at the same time. I remember leaving that park and looking down at my arms and legs. They were marked black from the tire. The rubber had left its mark on me. I didn’t notice it when I was playing… but now could easily differentiate each and every one of those marks.
My life with dad has been like that. Our relationship has been pushed and pulled and spun around in a million different directions. We have had our fights and arguments and hugs and special moments. We have disappointed and forgiven… made mistakes and apologized… loved and loved some more. Our relationship has been like my time on the tire swing. Scary and fun and filled with laughter. But now the ride is over.
There is no more swing and no more park and no more time for us to share. It has ceased to swing and I have climbed off and now I look down at my life and see the marks that have been placed on me. Marks from our time together… our talks… and from the life that has passed between us. Except these marks won’t wash away, but have become etched into my soul like grooves that lead somewhere… someplace meaningful and everlasting.
I thought it would be easier. I thought the pain would systematically subside each day until it just simply disappeared. But… it doesn’t. It shows up today worse than yesterday. I can’t stand the unpredictable tides of my life. I just want it to be methodical… like time. The clock ticks each second which leads to each minute that passes the hours. Grief should start like a full hourglass that loses it’s power over you in time. With each tick becoming weaker and weaker. But, instead, it chooses to hide around corners and jump out when you least expect it. It chooses to live in the songs you hear and the things that you see and the silent whispers in the back of your mind. It comes like a mouse one moment and a tidal wave the next. You are never safe.
And so you simply sit and wait for it.
Then you sit through it.
Then you wait again.
On my way back home today I couldn’t wait to get there. I wanted my shoes to disappear into the back of my closet again. I wanted to close the door. I feel safe at home. I know where all the mice hide and the source of the tidal waves there. I know how to control it… I know how to check out… I know how to breath.
It’s hard to breath when there is a lump in your throat around a crowd of people. It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest while your body is paralyzed. I have never, ever felt this way before.
I am present… but I am vacant. My family of 5 whirls around me as I become the sun in their solar system. They all move around me as I simply sit still. I love them. I just don’t have any strength to circle around them right now. But, I guess the sun wasn’t designed to circle.
This is my moment to be the sun. This is my moment to be still. I can’t feel guilty for it or bad about it or wish that I was anything else right now. I have to allow myself to feel this. I have to let the elephant sit.
You see, broken isn’t bad.
I am not created to be perfect. I am not created to always be happy. I am not created to be flawless. I am created to feel and love and hurt and cry and laugh and rejoice and be paralyzed by grief. It’s OK. God has me in his arms. I am starting to learn things that can never be taught in a book… see things that can never be viewed with an eye… and feel things that I have never felt. And… in that… I trust my Creator is going to get me to the other side.
A wonderful person shared a song with me yesterday that was so powerful. It was by a group called “Shane and Shane” and the song was called Though You Slay Me. The lyrics were timely and deep and ended like this:
Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me
Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need
I know this this too shall pass. I know that my God will restore me. But, I also know that God is changing me through this season. I surrender to His love. I surrender to His hand. I surrender to the One who’s all I need. I surrender to the work that He is doing.
Thank you for sitting Shiva with me today. It was a hard one, but it’s easier with each of you.