He was dying the day a butterfly alighted on his shoulder and stayed for several minutes. He was dying as he twirled his small daughter around on the dance floor during the reception of a beloved unbiological sister (a term my family uses to describe two of our siblings the good Lord gave us through friendship and not blood) a short while later. He was dying then, in August of 2015, and my mind cannot stop replaying old moments lately. I’m sure it’s because I am spending much of my time digging into the hardest parts of my life, writing out moments-turned-memories. For whatever reason, this image of the butterfly is the one that lingers. Perhaps it’s because of the symbolism we attribute to the butterfly with all of that big change they go through, the turning from caterpillar into goop only to be reborn as a winged creature. All of that gruesome, otherworldly death-like experience that leads to new life business feels accurate to what I now know we were about to experience, I guess.
I have slept little and poorly for many weeks, often awakening with tears falling fluid down my face. I keep dreaming he is gone. I keep dreaming of the loneliness, of the ache, of the thousand little things he does that fill the quiet places that will be left screaming after his soul goes home. I dream of him often-when I was me and he was him. The real him. The one before brain cancer stole him away. I wake up to his stuttered breathing, and everything comes rushing over me as it has done for years now. This cannot be helped. It cannot be conquered. It can only be endured. That is the reality of grief. It does not go away. It changes, yes, but it does not relent. I will carry this ache until the day I live truly, outside of this flesh. And that is okay. One of the very last things Christ did when he was still free and in the midst of the people who loved him, before he was taken away, was grieve…face in the earth, sweating blood, begging His Father that he not have to suffer the coming pain kinda grief. He took it with Him during his willing surrender, too. “Not my will, but yours, be done”, said He. Then off He went, still weak and aching from grief, to break the bondage of all mankind by the breaking of Himself.
So I wake up in the night a dozen times, Jesse still by my side, a hundred fears and worries on my lips. I put my face in the proverbial earth and beg the Lord to take this cup with one breath then turn and beg Him to let me hold onto it a bit longer with the next, to let us bear through until the kids are grown, until he holds his grand babies, until his beard turns gray, until my hair turns to match. Maybe that will be our story. Maybe it won’t. Seems unlikely. But it’s like I told a good friend last night, like I keep saying in all of my writing spaces (private and public, because preaching to self is the hardest mental task I perform most days):
No thing that plagues us here carries over into eternity. No sickness, no sadness, no undone circumstance follows us into life made whole with Christ. And because that is true, no time here is wasted time because time in eternity does not diminish with the weightiness of this present life. If anything, the coming peaceful freedom sings a sweeter melody because of the harsh tone of today. Wherever you find yourself, however you ache; it won’t last. Defeated death means defeated every other thing. Every other thing, y’all. What a statement of long exhale. Breathe, beloved people. This is not the end. We only stay a pile of goop for a little while.