Sometimes I miss Nate so much I allow myself a ridiculous fantasy that may or may not be healthy. It’s reminiscent of a movie scene in which the woman sees a walking figure afar off, unsure of who it is. Suddenly she recognizes a familiar walk and realizes it’s her beloved. A shiver travels through her like an electric current, and she flies toward him, stumbling over her own feet to get there quickly. They swing around in a loving embrace of happy reunion.
In my make-believe movie scene, this is how I let myself see Nate, appearing at the distant end of our narrow lane, walking steadily toward me. I’m aware we won’t have a happily-ever-after, but I feel sure we’re going have at least a few minutes together, enough to cover a great deal of conversational ground. My longing is not to waste one second of the experience.
After I race toward Nate and we enjoy an embrace, we begin to talk. He’s clear-eyed, smiling and full of peace as he looks at me. I’m full of questions, sputtering them out like machine gun fire. “What’s it like where you live? Have you met Jesus? What did he say? Did you meet our miscarried baby? Boy or girl? Did the baby recognize you? Have you seen our four parents? Have you met Adam and Eve? Moses? Elvis?”
There’s so much I want to know, I can’t make myself stop asking to wait for his answers. When I finally stop, Nate lovingly squeezes me and says, “You’ll get your answers all in good time.”
“I miss you so much it hurts,” I say, “and I love you more now than I ever did. I wish you could come back home. Can you?”
He looks me straight in the eye and says, “Would you want me to re-enter all that pain and disease? Life wasn’t good for either of us then.” He’s tenderly holding my elbow now, achingly reminiscent of the way he used to assist me up every curb without realizing it.
My heart screams, “Tell him you want him back, even like that!” But the rest of me remembers the pain and misery, and I can’t say it.
I drop my head in disappointment, acknowledging the sad truth of our new separation. Nate puts his arm around me and says, “God did the merciful thing, the kind thing, in taking me from this earth and from our family when he did.” I knew he was right.
Too soon our time is over, and Nate must leave again. Before he goes, though, he bends and gives me a long, firm hug and says, “Don’t worry about answers to your questions. Your future is nothing but glorious!” And then he smiles goodbye and walks away, back down the road. I stand there crying but know that chasing him, grabbing onto him, won’t keep him with me any more than it did when I held onto him as he died. Nate and I are in different worlds now, and neither of us can live with one foot in each.
Once his walking form is out of sight, I turn and walk back up the lane to my empty cottage, trying hard to retain the feeling of his hug and the other-worldly peace of his eyes. In not getting the answers to my questions, my only choice is to be open to not knowing.
Although I may have to wait 20 or 30 years to participate in the “glorious future” Nate referred to, I have no doubt that one day the same reality will be mine. And on the day I leave this earth, as I dimly hear voices saying, “Goodbye!” I’ll also hear voices saying, “Hello!”
And Nate will be among them.
“Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die.” (Psalm 102:18-20)