November 27, 2016
She was always in danger on carpeted steps, being particularly good at slipping on them, but she had forgotten how steep these were. She braced her arms on the walls. The unfamiliarity made her start. Had she expected the basement to remain untouched, unchanged while the little girl who had played there grew into a young woman? She stared into the room she remembered best. She could not find the light-switch, but she did not really need it. The white shelves showed dimly, and the pale carpet, and she knew it was full of flowers. That had not changed–she could see their shadows in the dark.
She felt the carpet through her socks, and touched the shelf she had once found a dead snake under while she was playing hide-’n-seek. She looked under it again instinctively, as if she expected the withered skin to still be there.
Had the flowers been real, they would be only wilted straw by now, but she knew they remained as bright and dewy as they had been all those years ago. Yet still, the room felt dead. Not thick with death and decay, but with a quiet peace; like a slumber so deep nothing could arouse from it. She almost sensed the cobwebs in the dark corners, and she could feel the dust motes swirling peacefully in the air without any beam of light to illuminate them.
The house was haunted by a thousand phantoms to her. Not ghosts to make your flesh crawl, but happy children playing and bright Christmas trees. A rowdy group chased each other around the garden and the small house; a little boy good-naturedly scolded a little girl for stepping on an onion; the little girl groped through the unlighted basement and squeezed under a shelf full of silk blossoms. She showed her siblings a dark blue snake skin.
There were things she would remember from the drive home, after she tore herself away from the sleeping room full of flowers. Golden cornfields, rust-colored leaves, a gray pine tree, a red barn, a black horse, a hundred rows of leafless trees, the grief in her heart. She had expected the pain to feel different. Less–a dull ache; or greater–a deep, throbbing pain and a rush of tears.
Not this chill, peaceful worry that made her heart feel empty. Something whispered in her mind, like an echo wandering in the emptiness. The hole should feel dark, but it was full of color. Crinkling red wrapping paper; navy blue sweaters; green gardens; dun, earthy potatoes; powdery, black soil. A painting of an ocean wave, all indigo water, and dark rocks, and white foam. Shiny-orange Cheeto-dust clinging to her sticky fingers; chocolate-minty candies; a hot, greasy cheeseburger. A light warmth filled her empty heart; the sorrow cut deeply, but the past was filled with happiness. Her aching heart held a single memory in that moment, and she would carry it with her forever. She almost smiled–a quiet smile that is filled with tears in itself–through the pain.
The highway whipped past under her tires and the flowers slept in the dark, their veiled colors seared in her aching mind forever.
December 5, 2016
She had know it would happen, but somehow it still surprised her. Somehow she had not expected it so soon. She had guessed it for so long, she had been so sure; but not now, not like this. She had thought she had felt the full weight alone in the dark room, inhaling the musty, lightless air. But pain could cut deeper still.
And in that moment, I realized it could.
My senses were dominated by the taste and smell of salt, but the tears never fell.
The moment I came face to face with death, and felt pain wrench my heart until I thought I could hardly breathe. I thought I could imagine wounds, describe pain, without ever really feeling it.
But I never truly imagined this–this quiet, tear-washed peace.
And even while the pain twists my heart inside out and my eyes ache to cry, I’m holding on. I’m believing. I’m believing that there is hope. And hope makes all the difference.
I believe he loved me. I hope he knew how much I admired him. I hope he knows. I know how much he loved me, and I know where he is; and I believe. And I hope.
I cannot say death is the end, or that reality is bitter, while I believe in what He did.
I believe Death need not be proud, for it is “only the beginning” (Counted Worthy, page 228); I believe in the cross, but I believe in the empty tomb and nail-scarred hands that are warm with life. “It is a bitter adventure if it must end so” (The Hobbit, page 243), but I will not believe this is the end. I will keep believing. I will hold hope in both hands, and I will believe. I will praise the Giver of life and the Author of salvation, when my throat is too choked for words.
God, You are good.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”