The missing begins.
People would say in the early days, “You must miss him so much,” but really the missing hadn’t begun. I was in total shock, trying to figure out what strange dimension I’d stepped into when I picked up my phone around noon on July 6th. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, just trying to get up and take care of Audrey until others could come help. There were holidays to “get through” and late evenings to stare at his chair and try to process this strange reality. Mostly, I’ve been trying to grasp the fact that you died in this horrifying manner without warning, and how very real and permanent death is. “You died,” I say nightly aloud.
But the missing- that has only begun. Because I now get it all, at least intellectually, space has been freed up for me to realize how desperately I’d like to see you. It enters like a brand new idea- wow I’d really like to see Dan. Or when I’m sitting in church and see a man with his arm around his wife during the worship, I think- wow, you’re not here. And I miss you so much.
The other day I opened up some photos your dad brought me- they were taken when you visited Korea after your Australia/Japan leg of the tour last May. Though I see your face all the time in the photos we have displayed everywhere, looking at these photos had a profound effect on me because I’d never seen them before. They were the most real I have gotten to the words “new” and “you” being combined since you died. And they’re mostly candid shots- so you’re not just smiling, but you’re interacting with others, making different subtle expressions- each one, one that I recognize and love. It’s as if my eyes are gulping down water and quenched as I click through these photos. My fingers reach out to the screen to touch your face. I realize how long it has been for the first time.
There is still not the continuity. I wonder if it’ll ever come. Based on the words of a widow ten years down the road, it may not. There is no common thread running from that life to this one. You changed- you experienced death- I wonder what it was like a lot. Audrey changed dramatically. I am not the same. God Himself would be the only thing unchanged- the continuity I suppose. I tell a friend that for the first time in church on Sunday, I felt something toward God- other than – well, maybe he doesn’t exist like I thought. I felt betrayal. She tells me this is probably good- to feel something finally. “How could you?” I think, how could you…
Throughout the day, it’s like a video montage of you is always running in the background. With every sentence I speak, it usually brings to mind some phrase you spoke. “Thanks for helping me,” I say to Audrey as we get out of the car. “Am I helping?” I hear you ask eagerly in the past. I move my tongue to the back of my teeth at dinner to get a piece of stuck food out and see you doing the same. I feel as though I am you for a second- you know the way you do when you find yourself mimicking someone else’s body language or personal dialect? Whenever I get dressed, there you are. Most of my shirts are gifts picked out by you. So are my pajamas. I realize you bought me so many clothes, even though I think I kept telling you not to (not because I was humble but because I was picky).
The integration is happening. I hear your voice Dan in my head almost 24/7. When I’m shopping and thinking about buying something I usually hear, “eh…kinda tacky” and put it back. When I was cutting giant cardboard boxes yesterday with a box cutter to make a stacked washer/dryer for Audrey, I heard you telling me to put that box cutter back in the tool box right away and not to do it so close to where Audrey was playing. When someone sang way out of tune at church on Sunday, I felt your hand squeeze mine in a shaking way saying, “ahhhhh…”
To be frank, it gets irritating sometimes that you get to have your say so much still when I don’t get to say much to you- I suppose that’s why I’m usually addressing this writing to you. I didn’t get to say a damn thing.
Even the one thing that comforts me- your whispering voice that woke me up in the middle of the night that first week you died, is unfair. Why did you get to say your last words to me, but I couldn’t answer back? Then you were gone. I realized I firmly believe that was you, because everytime I think of the last time I heard from you- I don’t think of the Skype conversation we had the day before you died- I think of that night. I think of the way your voice was so strong and loud it interrupted the cacophony of dreams I was having. And how I shot up out of bed and felt full of joy. And how your words were few but the most pregnant words I have ever heard uttered in my life. In them, I knew many, many things instantly.
The other night there was a loud roar of thunder out of nowhere before it started to pour. My very first thought when a loud noise startles me from outside and I’m not sure what it is, is always that the world is ending and God is returning. The gig is up. I can’t wait for the explanation. I feel excited. But also, this is what it feels like when you truly believe in every fibre that it’s the end for just a moment even- absolutely terrifying. We’re always asking to “see God” in the church, but do we realize how truly frightening that would be? Still, I went to the windows bracing myself, but hoping.
Yesterday, while walking through the parking lot, Audrey picks up a few of the fallen pale pink petals from the tree blossoms and feeling it between her cute thumb and finger, tells me it’s like a tissue. I know you would’ve loved that so much Dan.
And now to get to tonight’s chore- printing out the contract for the headstone so I can sign it, write the check and get it in the mail by tomorrow. “Be not afraid, only believe.” says the verse. I chose the KJV because the NIV says “Don’t be afraid, just believe” and I felt rather than starting with the negative, “don’t” I liked the strength in starting with the word “Be.” I also felt there was a subtle but important difference between saying “just believe” and “only believe.” As in, not only should you believe, but you should do only that- only believe. Put your energy and focus into that one thing.
35While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
39And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
40And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
43And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.
I am so sorry for your loss Jo Julia. I'm so sorry. God is with us all the time, especially when we are sad, I know it's true. Thank you for writing and sharing so that so many others know that they aren't alone grieving. I love what you wrote about the moon, that it is like God – sometimes you see Him and sometimes you don't but He is always there.
God bless you and your sweet daughter and your best husband. Hold onto hope and love.
I'll keep you in my prayers lots and lots.
You are an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing it, you have helped me in countless ways through your words. I'm facing the 'missing you' thing a lot lately too, and you describe it so well. Sucks.
Verily, the King James version is almost always more profound and beautiful than any others, in my experience. Lovely choice.
Re: Being terrified of The End. Highly recommend you get a paperback copy of Annie Dillard's "Teaching a Stone to Talk" and read the essay "Total Eclipse." This is some of her most powerful and evocative writing about death and terror. (But not at all depressing or anxiety-provoking.)
Peace be with you on this Easter weekend.