I am forced to move forward. My landlord is still selling our place and I’ve been throwing myself into searching to either buy or rent. Our lease ends in less than three months. I don’t think I’ve ever moved anywhere without you there or helping. We didn’t really move to our current apartment by choice, and we weren’t here that long together- but it’s still the place I can picture you- coming into our bedroom quietly after work or a late gig, raising your eyebrows and mouthing “hi” as you came in so you wouldn’t wake Audrey. It’s still the place where I can picture you swaying side to side as you finished the dishes because you had to pee. It’s still the place where you played the Charlie Brown Christmas songs on the keyboard while our fifteen month old danced.
But, I try to tell myself, it’s also the place where I experienced the worst moment of my entire life. It’s where I ran to get my ringing cell phone. Where I heard, “Can you talk? Are you driving? Can you sit down?” Where I started to scream, “What the fuck happened!” And where I heard, “Dan is dead. He drowned in Lake Geneva.” It’s where I screamed again, “I’m a widow at 34?” It’s where I ripped down the tour schedule from the wall and paced around in a wet bathing suit unsure what to do next, while Audrey walked at my feet, babbling.
I try to tell myself it will be good to leave. But still. It is the first step forward in the “new life.”
Something strange happens lately. Instead of finding it impossible to recognize this woman I am now, I have a hard time understanding the old me…what was driving her and what was her center?
Your brother got married yesterday in Korea. I felt the event for the entire week I think. We should’ve been there. I “should’ve” been holding another baby while Audrey walked down the aisle as flower girl. You should’ve been standing up there next to your brother. I am sad for your family. I made the decision that going to Korea right now for the wedding would not be the right thing for us, but I feel our absence there the whole day.
We’ve gone back to our old church as per Audrey’s request. It doesn’t matter to me since I don’t get a whole lot out of any church service right now. But she repeatedly asked to go to the church we all attended together. She probably hasn’t been there for over a year, but she seems very happy there and the kids program is good. So I go. But while I’m there today, I feel your phantom more than usual. I see you walking up to the stage with the rest of the band. I see you from behind- the way your jeans hang, the way you drag your feet in that boyish way as you head up there. I see you behind the keyboard, and I hear your simple, beautiful playing. When we take communion, wet soggy grape juice bread in my mouth, I realize taking communion with you was one of my favorite things. You never went overboard with the Christianese stuff- that wasn’t your style at all. But during communion, you always took my hand or put your arm around me and prayed for us- short, simple, earnest prayers.
During the rest of the service I can’t help thinking how hard it is to be a believer without suffering in your life. I know this sounds paradoxical since I’m clearly struggling with belief, but what I see is that without suffering to part the veil of this world- you really just have to “try” to be a believer. You have to “try” to be concerned with the invisible and do Bible studies to think about your frail life and your human condition. You have to go on retreats and clasp to spiritual disciplines. Suffering and grief…are meditation. You don’t have to suck up to a God for fear that something in your life might go wrong – it already has. You realize that believing in a God has nothing to do with being spared from suffering or being “blessed.” The fruits of your life might not be on the outside at all- a beautiful family, a home where people pray together before dinner, a successful career or even ministry. Your eyes are opened. You’re off the hook.