i keep trying to remember what we were discussing that day, all those many years back, she and i sitting there wrapped in our pre-baby bodies and spouting the sorts of grand ideas you have about marriage before you actually walk the aisle.
before the men we imagined became the reality of husband-provision. before the kids’ names we hypothesized became swaddled in damp blankets and laid upon our chests. before the crow lines of grief walk –7 months now of hard living — were etched beneath our eyes.
no, i can’t remember what we were talking about – might have been some melodramatic Oprah episode for crying out loud – but i can remember, word for word, something she said that seemed so wise and at the same time so irrelevant, young and invincible as we were.
we talked of tragedy in hypotheticals then, and my soul-friend, she said, regarding the fear of the unexpected:
you can’t let yourself be paralyzed with fear. sure, maybe that thing – the one you can’t imagine that you’d ever make it through – maybe it will happen to you, some time, in the future. but to live your life in debilitating fear of tragedy is to suffer twice. you suffer now, with anxiety – and you suffer then, when it actually happens.
i can picture us, the us of back then, nodding solemnly to that. giving it a moment’s faraway gaze before flipping over to sunbathe our backs – before switching topics back to the mundane, the dinner plans, the mindless gossip.
but even the words spoken in the most ordinary of moments sometimes stick with us – attach themselves like cockleburs to our clothing, hitching a ride to a future time when we’ll find them, unsuspecting, and be ready for the wisdom they offer.
every time someone asks me about my pearL, wanting to know how long, how many months now, we’ve enjoyed inhaling deep the smell of her skin, the view of that wide, wide smile through crib bars in morning’s first light, i choke on the reply:
and i’ll never be able to go back to a time when that length of time doesn’t catch in my throat, doesn’t send a jolt of fresh grief to the brims of my eyes. i’ll never be able to un-know that nine months – or three days, or even less — is sometimes all that you get.
and so i beg your patience in these weeks when the writer’s ink runs dry and the eyes run wet and i beg a God whose perspective is timeless to help me walk the courage of those words my soul-friend spoke so long ago.
to beg strength, for it is no easy task – living this life, not flinching in preparation for the impending tragedy that waits round the corner with my own name on it, but in appreciation for every single day – each day the gift that it is — until then …
and in knowledge – deep knowledge, the kind that seeps down into bedrock of belief – that His promise is true, come what may. for this nine months and the next and the next …
come what may.
is there a place, dear friends, where you need to plead that the thorn of fear might be pulled from your side? a place where you need to surrender the illusion of control over the future and live in this moment, this one right now?
if so, i’m joining you in that prayer … and leaving you with the imagery of Wendell Berry and the wisdom of Christ himself.
“When despair for the world grows in me,
and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear
of what my life and my children’s lives may be —
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
outside your Father’s care.
And even the very hairs of your head
are all numbered.
So don’t be afraid;
you are worth more than many sparrows.
–Matthew 10: 29-31