I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.
I don’t say this to be morbid (no need to call the suicide hotline). Rather, I say this in a reflective sort of way. To the unsaved masses, death is such a permanent sort of thing. You’re gone. You’re done. You might get to come back as a ghost who haunts your friends and pulls some pranks or, if you’re in a Hallmark movie, you get to set your exboyfriend up with the girl of his dreams. But outside of that bubble, you don’t get to see your loved ones again. That’s the end of the story — death is permanent to those who have no hope.
And, for a long time, I was one of those. I admit it freely, and openly. I thought for the longest time that you were just gone. I wouldn’t get to hear your voice again or see your face. That night in April 2007 was the end of it all. It was the end of your story.
Oh, me of little faith.
I wrestled a lot with God over the last decade. It’s so weird saying that, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you in a decade. When I was little, ten years seemed like such a long time. Even back then, when you first left us, it seemed like a long time. Like forever, really. Another lifetime entirely. Like that song — you know, the one I listen to every year. In the song, it’s four years, but no matter the span of time it will always feel like another world… a lifetime ago.
But I’m getting sidetracked. You know how easily that happens to me. My thoughts are scattered. I have so many of them, so many things I want to say and feelings I want to communicate. It’s easy to lose track of them all — especially lately, when it seems like I’m happy one minute and sad the next. I think that’s a side effect of your absence, though — one that rears its ugly head around this time every year. And it’s been ten years of feeling like this.
Ten years. Forever.
For a time, I questioned God’s providence. His sovereignty over the situation. I wondered what good it did me to serve Him when all it got me was heartache, when He’d taken you from me. But of course, that did me no good either. Who am I to question Him? Who am I to second-guess the same God who saved me when I was little, and you prayed in spite of the odds that were stacked against me — and, later on, the same God you clung to when you knew that the end was near?
The short answer is… I’m no one. In this grand scheme of things, this life that I have been given, this universe that I inhabit, I am no one. I am a speck. You were a speck, too. Not to me, of course. To me, you were the center of the universe. You were mom, the healer of boo-boos and the ever-knowledgeable boy whisperer. But in this grand universe, you were a speck.
A speck that God needed more than I did.
I suppose that’s why I’m writing this, mom. Not to reminisce — though I’ve done that on more than one occasion lately, remembering you with Christa and Betty and MomMom, and talking to Artie about you — but to let you know that I know. I know you’re not gone. I know you’re still alive. You’re just not alive here. I may never know why He needed you more than I did, but I know that He had His reasons. And I know that those reasons, mysterious as they may be, are okay.
Because I’m okay.
I say this about once a year (the 15th of every April, to be precise) but this year, I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it’s been ten years, or maybe it’s just finally true, but I’m okay. I miss you more than I could ever fully articulate. My heart aches knowing that you won’t be there on my wedding day, and won’t be around to meet your grandbabies, whenever I get around to having them… but in that heartache, I’m okay. Not because of my new workout regimen or the fact that I stopped drinking (though I suppose that did help things), but because I finally realized that holding onto my heartache was what was making me not okay. God told me one day that I just needed to give it to him… so that’s what I did. And ever since then, I’ve been… okay.
Even when I’m at my lowest, when I’m crying my eyes out and I feel like the tears will never cease, I know I’m going to be okay. Because my heartache is with Him. And you are with Him. And you don’t hurt anymore. You aren’t waking up in the middle of the night wondering when it will finally all be over, or scooting closer to me so that you can warm your feet, or wondering where you are because you’ve forgotten again. You’re okay (for lack of a better word), and you have been for ten years now.
So… I guess that’s really the point of this letter. This last letter, I think — because I can talk to you any time I want, really, and though I love a good letter as much as the next person, I think you’re a little busy up there. The point is that I’m okay. And the reason I’m okay is because you’re okay. And the reason you’re okay is because you didn’t really die. Yes, you left your earthly body — the one that was riddled with cancer and aches and scars — but you, the fiercest, bravest woman I ever knew, you’re still you. You’re alive. You’re just not alive here. And there’s a hope in that, a peace that I have in knowing that I’m going to get to see you again one day.
It hasn’t been easy getting here — as I’m sure you know — but this road that I’ve traveled… I wouldn’t trade it for anything. You’ve sent me songs over the years that have helped me to cope in losing you. You’ve sent me people who have loved me so fiercely that it almost felt like you were still here with me. You’ve whispered in my ear, and shown up in my dreams when I needed you most. And I thank God every day that He let me see you when I needed you most. But I finally got to the point that I was meant to get to all along. I finally came to terms with what happened to you, and stopped questioning it.
Because I think the thing I was supposed to learn from this was not that you died, not that you suffered, not that you had cancer. I think what I was supposed to learn was that when life and God hand you lemons, you make the best damn lemonade you can. You have a luau for Valentine’s Day. You climb on the back of your brother’s motorcycle and flip off the camera. You tell your niece’s annoying friend that she’s really annoying.
You love your daughter with everything you have and tell her that everything’s going to be okay. And though it may take some time, she believes you. Because the beauty of life is not in how many friends we have or how much money we make. It’s not in our earthly accomplishments.
It’s in how we live, and how we continue to live even after we leave this earth. And I have no doubt that that’s exactly what you’re doing today, ten years after you had to leave me. Ten years after you had to tell us good-bye. Ten years after you took your last breath here.
You lived. You didn’t get to do it here, with me and MomMom and Honey and Artie. But you lived, in a new body without scars and pain and cancer. And that, more than anything, is the best lesson I could have learned over these last ten years.
I suppose I’ll let you go now. I’m sure you’ve got some more pink dolphins and pink moons to send us. I’m sure you’ve got your hands full with all sorts of activities, with Easter this weekend. I imagine Easter in Heaven is another affair entirely. But I just had to let you know, mama, that I get it now. I understand it — I mean, I don’t… but I do. As much as I can. And I’m okay. And you’re okay. You didn’t leave us forever. The door didn’t shut on your story. It opened. You didn’t die.
I love you so, so much. I’ll see you again.