Tuesday, November 19, 2019


Growing up is a creeping thing. It doesn’t happen all at once—it comes instead in small, hesitant steps urged on by inexperience, grabbed up greedily, desired and hoarded until it crams itself into every available empty corner, filling places with responsibility where dreams once wandered.

Age easily takes up sovereignty once it’s admitted. Experience, confidence, knowledge, accomplishment, systematic management of hours and years—they take over, stable and ascendant. Age builds a fortress, a throne room, from which life is managed, data sorted, plans made and executed. We yield this ground more than willingly, expecting it to open a way for achievement, for explosion from bud to blossom.

But this ordering, this considered management also exacts a price. It imposes the tyranny of the useful. From these heights, play becomes wasted time, spontaneity is assigned to fools, and dreaming disintegrates and floats away, shouldered out by schedules and appointments.

This is when childhood becomes clearer and I, with both hands up, cling to the bars of my handcrafted prison. I peer out between them, whose names I now know to be Misunderstood Serving and Unnecessary Sacrifice, into an almost untouched world of effortless surprise.

The pendulum has swung too far, and I have pushed it into motion with my own two hands. But I can push it back again. Childlike joy, after all, has not vanished. It’s only hiding and to find it requires no effort at all.

Life is not a job, living not an assignment that will be graded according to its results. Even as I am given work to do, gifts to use, a talent to invest, so does God give me Time—long, open expanses of clear air and the freedom to fill them or to simply walk into them, feeling the brush of tall reeds through my fingers or the sun on my hair.

I’ve lost too much time already, I think. The towering, perfectly round maple in my west field has made and lost twenty undocumented crowns of leaves. I don’t know which birds nest in the old henhouse. My children have gotten old enough to produce their own new humans. The sun has risen and set too often unremarked.

There is a point where planning becomes superfluous. Opening eyes and unclenching fists is the easiest thing in the world to do. Perhaps it would have been better to have seen this earlier, but this bit of horizon is now, at least, coming into better focus. Now, like an infant, all I need to do is look out and reach.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


These are the ones that get you. The ones you don't expect. The ones that come out of seeming nowhere.They are the shirt you thought you'd given away. They are the oil reminder in the back of the glove box. They are the random handwritten notations he had to have made years ago and left in his little note box, the same one I hung on the refrigerator and use now to remind me to buy toothpaste.

 They lay there in wait all this time, the first one showing itself when I reached in yesterday to begin a new shopping list. And they came out of that box one right after the other, unashamed of the terror that came out with them, scalding my hands. I tried to catch them as they dropped, scrambling to pick them out without having to touch them. Foreign objects. Not familiar enough to be memories. Not strange enough to ignore.

I can't decipher most of them--electronic gibberish that undoubtedly meant something in the context of a design, calculations he made and wanted to remember but have no meaning now that he's gone. Secrets--the complex meanderings of an often indecipherable mind.

They don't belong here. Not without him. But they are here and I can't throw them away. He touched them and his touch hasn't graced this place for a long time. I want to sleep with them. I want to smell them. I want to tuck them into my clothes like sachets, hoping they leach that well-remembered warmth. Instead, I cry, holding them in outstretched hands so the writing doesn't smear.

Every time I think that maybe he doesn't live here anymore, he shows up again. A scrap, a color, a tool, an ash. A glimpse that vanishes around the corner just as I look in that direction. It hurts, but it is a hurt that also consoles. No, I don't see him anymore, but it's nice to know he will sometimes still show up. They are welcome hauntings. They make him real again.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me

Grow old with me.
The best is yet to be.

An old saying and a lovely one. It comes with a picture of a couple joining hands at the beginning of a long road and walking it together, gathering experiences and wisdom along the way, enjoying the satisfaction and perspective of what they’ve learned. Once they’ve arrived, their shared memories gather daily around them like chicks that nestle reliably into their palms—warm, pale yellow, and chirping. They take them up together, exchange knowing glances, and smile.

Grow old with me.
The best is yet to be.

Growing old together, done well, is a privilege. Common reflection brings joy. Even shared distress deepens and strengthens life’s fabric when looked at in the perspective of its survival. The promise of growing old together is so compelling that it can sometimes be the lifeline that makes youth survivable, but noble plans don’t always bloom into reality.

Sometimes people stop growing old.

Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me. I have not stopped growing old.
But you have.

I’m 68 today and this is the first day that I’ve been older than you. You never got to be 68. You died at 67. You let go of my hand and stopped growing old with me.

The walk looks different now, and the country I walk through not cushioned any longer by companionship. Separation doesn’t steal accomplishment or memory, but it does bring a harshness, as though stepping off a soft, yielding garden path onto one of unreliable stone. Every step rings with reminders of what was and lost opportunities of what might have been.

Grow old with me.
The best is yet to be.

That won’t happen now. Not ever. There will be no side by side rockers on the front porch, no pair of deck chairs in the sun, no great grandchildren scattered at common feet.

But something does remain. The promise, I believe, is not broken. It will simply be fulfilled in a way we didn’t ask for or expect. We may not grow old together hand in hand, but as I grow older alone, I bring something of you with me.

More than memory, less than flesh, the mystery that made your heart beat, your courage endure, and imagination soar still surrounds me. That remains. No hand reaches out to take mine any more, but I hold you nevertheless.

A happy end still waits. The second part of the promise stands.

After my own days are fulfilled, I will walk into that same open country you now wander, a place of perfect intimacy, of unending companionship.

Remind me, please. On lonely days, or on hollow ones, when my arms feel hard the emptiness.
Tell me again.

The best is yet to be.

Monday, August 12, 2019

My Insistent Moon

These are the days of the Perseids meteor shower, when the earth moves through a regular band of small interstellar rocks that rush past and, in the process of entering and burning up in  our atmosphere, light up and look like falling stars. It's a magical time, when a casual ten or twenty minutes of watching can yield enough sightings to light up a soul.

But this year, we can't see it.

It  turns out that this year's Perseids coincides with the full moon and the light of the moon obscures whatever 'falling stars' we might otherwise see. They're still there, of course, the meteors, but lost in the light of the moon.

The sun does the same. The Perseid rocks are falling into our atmosphere during the day, too, but we can't seen them then either. It has to be dark. So dark that their less immediate, less insistent, light can shine through.

At 2:30 this morning, when I was looking for the shooting stars I knew were out there, I was, of course, disappointed. The sky was clear enough, and my vantage point just right, and I could see a few constellations, but only one or two flashes of what I knew was a much more beautiful display. The moon---the moon was in the way.

That was when I saw another light, so to speak.

I realized that I have a moon, too.

And the light of my moon is bright, more now, I think, than ever before. So bright that I'm ignoring the fleeting, the spectacular, even the cosmic. My moon, my Dave, outshines anything else in view.

It may be that this is a natural, normal thing for a widow, but there is a danger here, and the danger is that Dave's light shines so bright that it outshines Christ.

Christ, who lights up every place into which He is admitted. Christ, who surrounds but does not insist. Christ, whose light can go out so easily in us through error or neglect.

I get it. I really do.
Last night, after realizing there would be no Perseids display, I shrugged my shoulders and went back to bed, knowing there would be another opportunity next August 12.

The other issue, not so much. Christ wants me. I need Him. But I keep grabbing for Dave, not knowing, not wanting to know, what will happen if I let go.

There's danger in this place. Christ does not share His preeminence with anyone. I have to yield, and willingly. If I do not, I assign a back seat where none is permitted. I do not get to have both at the same time--the shooting star and the full moon.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Heaven on Earth

This is the view from my sunroom window today. Stargazers--open to the sun in spite of their name and sharing their over-the-top extravagant fragrance. They are the glory of summer and the glory of God. They are. And this is how I know:

I am confident of this: I will see the glory of God in the land of the living.--Psalm 27:13

It has to be here somewhere and, well, this is where I found it today.

Of course, not everyone sees it in the same place, but when Jesus tried to explain God's glory, He didn't tell His listeners to look up into the sky or to imagine somewhere far away. He told us to look at whatever is in front of us--a field, a pearl, a fish, a loaf of bread.

It's kind of like those puzzles that seem to be one thing and then, when you shift your gaze in just the right way, become something else. Like this one, called the Healing Grid--only the section you stare at for 30 seconds or so seems straight and regular, but shift your gaze to one of the irregular parts, and that one then becomes straight in turn. The thing itself doesn't change, but your concentrated view of it reveals something you weren't able to see before.

healing grid illusion by Ryota Kanai

So, how do we know when we're looking at God?.Well, let's see--

When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant.  --Exodus 34:29

Moses looked at God uncovered and God left His mark on the man. He face shown with glory so brightly that the it scared the crowd and Moses had to cover it.

It's the glory. Right here. Every day.
If we aren't astonished, we haven't found it.

It's the rhinestone among the diamonds, the silver among the stainless. Easy to miss unless we're looking. Looking and not stopping at the beauty of the thing itself (ie: golden calf), but seeing beyond it.

Let the smell, or the sound, or the feel of the God-infested thing sink in far enough and every step through this world will evoke a step into heaven.
This is the Catholic feast day of St. Ignatius, a warrior before he was a man of God--a warrior that one day laid his sword on the altar and eventually developed the Ignatian discipline by which even today monks and many who live even a modicum of the contemplative life are trained. And it's called a discipline for a reason. That's what it takes. 

To look for God everywhere. To bend every action to His service. 
To do this is to make our own face shine with His glory. 
You will not see this looking in the mirror, but turn your God-focused face to the world and He will shine. 


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Finishing the Dome

There’s something odd about the pictures—the ones I keep around me when I sleep.

There’s the one of us at our wedding, the one of you and Bryan when he was three years old, and the one of you and I at Beth’s wedding only six or seven years before you—well—before.

Most pictures recall single moments, like the ones the girlfriends constantly take of our trips to wineries or the ones of grandchildren—Emma’s graduation, me and Maia at Fenway, or Ella in the pumpkin patch. They are documents that freeze incidents for later recall lest I forget what happened then or how these dear people looked on that day.

But not the pictures of you. They are not frozen. They live. Not like a movie, not in two dimensional speech and motion, but in all four dimensions and all five senses. When I look at you whispering to me, intent in your gray suit, wearing that ridiculously fragrant and fragile gardenia in your buttonhole, leaning over, careful not to disturb Aunt Agnes’ old satin wedding gown that I finally got to wear after so many years of dreaming of it, I don’t see the picture. I hear the hush of assembled friends waiting in seats for me to walk down the aisle. I know the knot of nervousness, smell the roses and heather. I remember—no, I walk—again in that place. It all happens over and over again every time I look at the picture and pause for even a moment.

Only your pictures are like that. Opening an album you populate is not a step back in time. It is time blurring completely. Days and years shuffling seamlessly into an incomprehensible, random deck of moments, gathered into a heap without regard for chronology. But, even in their disarray, they are polite. They don’t crowd; they wait their turns. Some are longer than others, after all. They fluff and preen with pride in their power over the present. They force today to step obediently aside in deference to the attention I admit to have willingly given them.

It’s my fault, after all. I don’t want to let them go, any of them. They bring warmth and light into today’s confusing quiet. They provide framework for this future left to me, a future without you, who have so long provided something firm to lean on. I look at them and think, Yes, This was Something Good. This is Someone I love and Who loved me back. 

They are my Brunelleschi.
They are.

Image result for rendering santa maria del fiore nave before dome When builders in the Middle Ages wanted to build a great dome, they began by constructing supports and scaffolding from trees the same height as the dome they’d conceived. From that place of support, brick by brick, the dome would rise. When they were done, and the scaffolding no longer needed, they dismantled and discarded it.

But, in 1296, Florence began to construct a cathedral too big for a dome built that way. No trees grew tall enough to reach the dome they’d conceived. They could build no scaffolding to it and thus, did not even know how to begin. But, unwilling to mitigate their grand design, they began to build anyway, and later completed a dome-less sacristy that remained open, with a vacant hole where the dome ought to have been, for almost 200 years.

Then, in the early 15th century, one man, Filippo Brunelleschi, understood what needed to be done. Rather than erect supports from the floor as had always been done before, he built the dome, not of a single shell, but of a double one, each supporting the other as they went up together, connected by a winding staircase between them from which the masons worked.
Image result for stairway in dome santa maria del fiore 
The first shell is an integral part of the second, not visible from the outside, but absolutely essential to the stability of the whole. 

Now, I think  my life is that dome, the crown, the finish of what we’d begun together. After all this time waiting, I can begin to imagine building in the only way that remains to me, like building my own inconceivable, impossible dome, with our years together its indispensable support. 

I do have to build something, after all, whether I am willing or not. I have to continue to live whatever life’s been given me. But, without you, I could at first find no accessible way to do it. In the end, I find I was right. I can’t. And I don't have to. 

You have to be part of whatever shape my life takes from here to its end. I have to keep you close to do that, close enough so that I don’t plunge into the gaping hole below left by your visible absence. Even while I stare at an undeniable void, I have to lean on what I know is strong and stable, made of both the old and new, visible and hidden. 

That’s what Brunelleschi did, and I can do it, too. I can do it because you’re still here. I can do it because you are not a photo or a memory.

Image result for brunelleschi's domeI can do it because you stay with me, vivid and alive, and having already done it once together, you can help hold me up while I finish what was begun. And from that beginning, I can yet build something new and beautiful.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

OOO---That Smell....

My friend Reese has been saving her farts. She keeps them, she says, in a ziplock bag in her closet.

"Why do you keep a bag of farts?" I asked her.
"To share with Daddy..."
"What are you going to do with them?"
"I told you...I'm going to share them with Daddy...", which she followed, of course, by a look that said, 'Well, duh. Didn't I already tell you that?'
And she ran off.

Now it needs saying that this conversation is perfectly in character with Reese. She thinks the way she looks; head crowned with curly blond fluff that seems sometimes to reside both inside and out, and a nose topped by oversized aquamarine tortoiseshell glasses that bring her eyes into clinical focus, but fail to do the same for her worldview. She is a constant surprise, a willing jokester, and a reliable source of bewilderment.  That it did not seem farfetched at all--that she could actually have a bag of farts in her closet--is testimony to her consummate ability to astonish.

After the fart conversation, however, and followed by Reese's abrupt departure, It occurred to me that I'd missed a unique opportunity. It turned out that she'd left much too soon. I still had a lot of questions. For instance:

How full was the bag? Just a little (after all, she's only 6 and 6-year-old farts are pretty small) or is the bag fat and puffy with them?

What color are they? Brown or grey or cartoon purple? Or are they as invisible as I've always hoped they are?

Did Daddy like this gift? Did he giggle over it, squeezing out one at a time with the appropriate splatting sound effects or did they revel in the smell, not nearly as shy and innocuous as little girl farts ought to be?

And, most importantly, how in the world did she get them in the bag in the first place?

 This whole concept and all the  inevitable pictures that go with it, rattled around in my head for what was probably far too long until I realized that the minutiae of it had distracted me from a more important connection.

I mean, we all have foul-smelling bits we keep hidden from common view. Like Reese's farts, we bag up and stash away our own indiscretions, too--the rude blat of words said in anger, the foul smell of moldering undiscovered lies, the fermenting brine of needs ignored, betrayals exacted, and joys stolen. The bags of these, it seems, are big and getting bigger the longer we live.

What a relief it would be to simply drag them out and share them with Daddy--empty those nasty bags in moments of secret sharing and get rid of them forever with the one person who knows the smell and loves you anyway.

Of course, Reese probably isn't thinking about any of that. Her collected farts are probably just farts--funny little moments of mischief that everyone but Daddy finds impolite and unpleasant. After all, it's fun to be a little naughty. Especially when you're six.

The problem is that, as one gets older, farts become less of a mischievous secret. In fact, age makes it increasingly difficult to keep them a secret of any kind and I find myself thinking again of all the questions I didn't ask Reese, particularly about how in the world she managed to get them into the bag in the first place. 

Love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  1Pet 4:8

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Of God Who is Man--"I have seen the Lord!"

When I left for Italy a year ago, I didn't know why. It wouldn't be a vacation--I knew that. More like a pilgrimage whose purpose had not yet made itself known. I only knew this: that my brief visit to Florence in January of 2017 hadn't been enough. Florence offered more--much more, I thought--and I needed to find it.

And that's not too big of a stretch. Florence, the seat of the Renaissance, was home to names everyone knows--DaVinci, Dante, Botticelli, Donatello, Galileo, and of course, Michaelangelo. So much happened there in so short a time that it changed the way we think about God and man, beauty and evil. The Renaissance was the perfect storm of man in the process of looking for God, digging himself out of the Dark Ages into a Wonderful Light. I wanted to vicariously live it--to climb out of ordinariness and taste it all.

So I decided to stay a month. Surely, in that amount of time, I would find what I was looking for.

Much of Florence was the same as I remembered it--songs and statues, pasta and paintings--so much that there is an actual disease that derives its name from taking in too many of the sights too quickly. But that was not my plan. I had plenty of time and I was going slow. I didn't want to miss whatever it was I was looking for.
I found the Ponte Vecchio at dawn,

 and the Duomo of Santa Maria de Fiore
and Michaelangelo's David
and Botticelli's Birth of Venus.
It should have been enough. 
But it wasn't. 
There was something more. And, almost a month in, I still hadn't found it.

Along the way, a local had told me I needed to go to the Museo della' Opera del Duomo. "You have to go," he said. When I told him that if I had time, he laid his hand on my arm and repeated, "You HAVE to go." And I put it on the back burner. There were other things to do first, I thought.

But three days before I was to leave, I had the time and remembered the look on his face. 

The Opera Museum is in Duomo square and bigger than it looks. It is almost all white and steel and glass, but it has something I've never seen--duplicates of its most famous exhibits made for touching. The originals still lie behind barricades, but faithful copies lie out in the open and the visitor can feel them--every curve of cool marble and plaster.

And that was where I found Him.
Michaelangelo's last Pieta.

This not the pieta at the Vatican--the beautiful, graceful Mary and sleeping Jesus. This Jesus is very dead, laying awkward across both she and Nicodemus.  He is dead weight, impossible to hold up but unthinkable to let go. 

And I walked up to touch the face of Christ. Just like that. Smooth and hard of muscle and sinew. Here was the cord that stretched beneath the skin of His neck.

 There were the muscle of His arm and there His brow. I stroked them like I once stroked Dave--slowly and with a lover's caress.

And suddenly He wasn't God but a flesh and blood man. A man given and taken by God. He had it all--blood, bone, tissue, hair, sweat, weariness, the rush of life. The bridge of His nose. His tangled hair. The way His head hung--finished but not defeated. The window of His eyes closed as He fell to the side--intact even though the spark was gone.

And I saw.

Blessed are they who have not seen and believe.--John 20:29

Maybe my faith is too weak. Maybe I am one of those who needs to see, but on this day, I touched my Savior. And even as I heard His voice tell me not to hold on to Him, that He must go to His Father, for that moment I felt the weight of Him, the genuine-ness of His flesh, and I was Mary in the garden, hearing my name spoken, impossible to mistake, in the voice I knew so well. And replying with relief and astonishment, crying "Rabboni!"

15He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher"). 17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the LORD!"--John 20: 15-18

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Contradiction of Intentional Poverty

"Poverty is freedom. It is a freedom so that what I possess doesn't own me...even God cannot put anything in a heart that is already full" --Mother Teresa
I am rich. I know this without any doubt.

I am rich in situation, in health, in friends, in finances, in safety, in every way I can imagine. I am even rich in spirit, with free access to the family of God and the word of God. In every practical sense, I have autonomy to make my own decisions, to go and do what I want.

And that's the trick of it. If I am to become like Christ, I must become poor.

For your sake He became poor so that through His poverty, you might become rich.--2Cor 8:9
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.--Matthew 5:3

I don't even know where to begin sometimes. He has given so much. Everything I have came because God brought it into an undeserving life. I can't, I won't, refuse to take or keep it and thereby denigrate the Giver. What I have was first God's, and He transferred it to me as a trust for me to use in His name. And, in the process, He has filled me up past where I think I know how to administrate it all.

How do I use it and not hoard it? How to I scatter bread upon the waters and be sure I am not casting it to the pigs?  How do I remain comfortable in Him without becoming comfortable in the company of so many earthly good things?

Somehow, in the face of all these riches, I have to feel the pinch of poverty. Surrounded by all He's given, I have to know how poor I really am without Him.

Wealth and comfort are gifts from God. They are. They surround me with ease, but can become a shroud if I forget where they came from and what I am supposed to do with them. I have to give them away, and rightly, to the proper people in the proper situations where they are used to glorify Him. And all the while maintaining focus not on the things or opportunities, but on Him.

Sometimes I screw this up. I see the shiny thing (or place or person) and, oh, I reach out for it, and because I am rich in so many ways, most of the time I can have it. Right then. When I want it most.

But I know I've done wrong when, as soon as I take hold of the thing, it turns to ash. The pleasure is gone. The charm of anticipation turns into the disappointment of possession. I have a fur coat like that.

I remember wanting it so badly. It was soft and beautiful and warm. And Dave, because he loved me, bought it. And I pulled it out of the box, and there it was, as beautiful as it had always been, but by the time I put it down again, the luster of it had gone. I still have the coat, but never wear it. I do lend it out sometimes, but keep it around mainly to remind me of the misuse of love, of gifts, and of money.

So, this is the solution as far as I know it:
For me to become poor, I have to know that I am not as rich as I seem.
For me to become poor, what I give has to cost me to the point that I feel the lack of what I've given.
For me to become poor, I have to always be at the point of depending on God, not on the comfort of my riches.
For me to become poor, I have to do things that may not look like they make sense, but force me to maintain my connection to God.
For me to become poor, I have to remember that my need for a Savior never wanes.

I am not Mother Teresa. God has not called me to that kind of practical poverty. But He calls me to poverty nevertheless, the kind that bears all the outward trappings of wealth, but must, at the risk of my soul, be borne with constant understanding that I am as much a desolate waif before Him as any street urchin or condemned criminal.

Mother Teresa serves from a place of intentional poverty, and I serve from a place of apparent wealth, but our service must be identical before God. Today, when we remember the Last Supper and imagine watching the bended head of God as He washed his friends' feet, we recall that He became nothing before us, although He was God. I must become nothing before Him. It is my only rightful place.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I'll Never Let Go? Really?

OK. This is the thing. I keep imagining that scene near the end of Titanic--Rose holding onto the frozen and very dead Jack, saying "I'll never let go" as she opens her fingers one by one and Jack sinks down into the North Atlantic. Contradiction? Oxymoron? Delusion? I mean, she's letting go precisely as she says she will not. What's up with that? It didn't made sense.

And then Dave died. Three years ago today. Just like Jack. And I had to figure out what to do next. I mean, the last time I saw Dave on this earth, he was sitting right next to me. Alive one minute and not the next. No heartbeat. No pulse. No breath. And I had to let go. It was unthinkable. I had to do the one thing I could not. I had to open my hand and let him go.

Well, that's when I began to understand Rose. That's when I learned that letting go is not only a function of fingers or an action of hands.
  • Letting go means that there comes a day when the bundle of Dave's clothes, the last he ever wore, the ones I slept with for months, first get hung on a hook in my room and then, years later, get packed away.
  • Letting go means lifting Dave's Vietnam Vet baseball cap off the hook in the sunroom where he hung it himself and laying it in a box with his clothes, closing the lid, and carrying it downstairs. 
  • Letting go means selling his books, giving away his tools. It means finally dismantling his computer. 
  • Letting go is realizing that the things of his that once comforted me do not do so any longer. They have taken on new weight; they have become so heavy that they no longer comfort. They have become a burden.
I'll never let go.

 And even as I say it, my hands let them all go, one by one.
 That's when I know that Rose was telling the truth.

Dave is more than his things. He always was, of course, but after he died, it took awhile to separate them. In fact, Dave is more than his own body. Now, Dave exists in a different place than he did when he lived. I don't mean heaven, although he is certainly there, wherever it is. But he exists apart from his stuff, even his corporeal self, and, increasingly, apart from me.

You see, Dave is beginning to sink into the ocean.

I gradually realized this all along but understood it in a new way couple of weeks ago, when someone asked me out on a date and, well, I accepted it. Now, anyone who knew Dave, and especially Dave and I together, knows that after him, there is no second act. He was my great love story. There will never be another. I don't even want one. But, honestly, I would occasionally like to go out to dinner.

And that's when Dave spoke to me. He did. Not through some ethereal, other-worldly voice, but through the faithful recollection of his friend Zach, who was there to hear the invitation and my acceptance, and who took me aside to say that Dave knew this day would come, that I would some day want to spend time with someone else. Zach told me that Dave had entrusted him with a message for that day--for this day. And, with Zach's voice, Dave spoke to me. He told me he loved me and part of that love was wishing me companionship when I needed it. Dave told me that my happiness was as important to him now as it ever was. Dave told me that, if the man was a good one, and kind to me, to go on a date.

And I did. And it was fine, but when I came home, and walked in the door, I had something so say to Dave in return.
"This has nothing to do with you."

It didn't. It still doesn't. And that's when I understood Rose even better. Dave is alive in me, but he is not alive. Simply by virtue of breathing, I will do things in which he can have no part. I do not have a choice in this. I retain my earthly life and Dave does not. Even more, the life I'm given comes from God and, whether I understand it or not, is His gift to me. Just as I bore witness for Dave while he lived, I bear witness now to God's life in me after Dave is gone.

There's Dave, drifting away, still reaching out, our fingertips only inches apart, but the space between them increases by the second. Dave is gone and must sink into the deep. When that began in earnest, however, when I increasingly knew the howling desolation of being left alone, that's when I remembered the Heart of the Ocean, the precious, fabulous necklace Rose kept after Jack had gone. The necklace wasn't Jack, but she held it for years as a reminder of their life together until she finally opened her hand and let that, too, slip from her fingers.

We all hold on. And each year, when this day comes, I relive the night Dave died--tortured dreams surrounded by fitful sleep, waking up every two hours thinking, "This is when this or that happened", knowing again the tearing pain of separation, renewing again the unthinkable. But with increasing quickness, each time I am rescued. Not by my own memories, nor by my own resolve to move on, but by assurance from a Companion who is perfectly constant and who loves without pause or recrimination.

It is in His name I have been able to open my fingers one by one, both hand and heart, and let go. After all the good that Dave brought me, what God brings me is what sustains now, and brings strength, and resolve, hope and peace. Whatever good I have been able to do since Dave's death, whomever I have loved, and wherever I have walked for the sake of someone else is because of what God is investing in me.

So now I have a double blessing--a temporal one from Dave and an eternal one from God--not the Heart of the Ocean, but the heart of God, one that beats forever. And now, it is God's voice, not mine, that says,
I'll never let go.

Comfort her, comfort her, all things good,
While I am over the sea!
Let me and my passionate love go by
But speak to her all things holy and high,
Whatever happens to me!
Me and my harmful love go by,
But come to her waking, find her asleep,
Powers of height, Powers of deep, 
And comfort her tho' I die.

--Tennyson, Maud