And even if I don’t return to doubting this new reality, I will refuse to make peace with your death- and with death itself. Your death will remain an absurdity.
As Professor Nicholas Wolterstorff, whom I’ve quoted before and who lost a young son writes- anyone wishing you can make peace with the death is wishing fruitlessly. And why should we?
“We cannot live at peace with death,” he writes. “When the writer of Revelation spoke of the coming of the day of shalom, he did not say that on that day we would live at peace with death. He said that on that day, ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away.’
I shall try to keep the wound from healing, in recognition of our living still in the old order of things. I shall try to keep it from healing, in solidarity with those who sit beside me on humanity’s mourning bench.”
And so the challenge is, to acknowledge the new reality, while at the same time warring with the enemy that took you. Putting down those arms will not happen as long as I’m honest with myself and don’t run from the pain, but with it on the rest of life’s journey. To forget the pain would be to forget you, despite what people want to believe about being able to let go of all the horridness and just smile happily at frozen photographs. Instead, to live like a calm, waiting, warrior.
You see, what I realized recently, is that no matter what I do to push forward in the physical world, I will as much make peace with death as an amputee makes peace with a lost limb, the overused analogy in grief circles. You don’t accept…you adapt. That leg is never coming back. “It’s the neverness that is so painful,” writes Wolterstorff.
The amputee will feel the “phantom pains” in the lost limb. We will envision the Twin Towers as they stood in our mind’s eye- just as the blue laser beams that memorialize them yearly reach up to the heavens…and I find, even though your clothes are packed away in bins and each drawer in this dresser is mine now- I will still open it up and know it is yours- I am still just tossing around my disheveled clothes in your
I quoted 1 Corinthians 15 in the tribute I got up and spoke at your funeral. I’ve thought about that quotation quite a bit since then. I had inserted it quite intentionally right before my last sentence, the one where I told you I would see you again, even though it stuck out and didn’t quite fit with the flow of the short tribute I’d written. (which can be found in one of my July 2010 posts I believe.) Why didn’t I take it out? I often ask myself- it didn’t fit. And the sting, the sting was everywhere- it permeated the church where I stood speaking a few steps above your casket. Was I being untruthful in my words- something I strive against? I have asked myself. But they are not untruthful, I see now. They represent, as our old pastor used to say often, the living we do here in the “near…but not yet” of the kingdom. Speaking those words on the most horrifying public speaking engagement of my life- I see now-was the calm warrior in me quietly dressing for battle.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”