Thinking back to the significant events of a year ago with Nate’s cancer dominating him, I’ve been reading my own blog posts: Sept. 27, the shock of diagnosis; Sept. 28, last day at work; Sept. 29, first radiation treatment; and Sept. 30, a difficult treatment day.
I’m letting my mind think back to that time just until the 42 dates have passed. And then, I tell myself, I won’t do it again. My widow pals say, “Go ahead and spend time remembering. Experience it again. It’s the most dramatic time of your life and won’t be dismissed without acknowledging the pain.”
And so I’m there.
Although reading the blog this week and looking at my 2009 calendar has been an exercise in mourning accompanied by occasional weeping, for the most part it’s been manageable and has made me appreciate Nate more than ever. But today a dam broke.
I was cleaning house in preparation for the arrival of nine college friends, sweeping up swirling clouds of Jack’s dog hair. Trying to slide a living room chair aside, I felt resistance so reached underneath, pulling out a child’s puzzle, the kind with tiny knobs on each piece for little toddler fingers. I’d bought it for Skylar, and when she recently visited, we’d found the other puzzles but not that one, the newest one.
With a rush of emotion, I knew it had to have been shoved under the chair a year ago when all of us daily sat with Nate in the living room. That one realization zapped me like an electrical shock, and I started to sob. When the puzzle went under the chair, Nate was still alive. Instantly I was swamped with overpowering longing to go back to this date a year ago; memories and blog reports weren’t good enough. I wanted to go back for real, to have Nate with me again.
Finding the puzzle produced a wrenching moment of impossibility without any remedy, and I could hardly stand it. The only thing to do was to pick up my broom and sweep… and sob.
In several more minutes the floor was clean and the crying was over. But then I thought of all the different reasons people cry, all the tough situations life brings. The variety is endless, and tears eventually come to all of us. No one is exempt from the feeling of “wrenching impossibility.”
As difficult as it was to experience that today, my gut instinct tells me it was a few moments of healing. I believe God orchestrates these blips on our emotional screens to distance ourselves from the heartbreaks in our history and bring us to a better reality absent of wrenching impossibility. This doesn’t mean new heartbreak won’t come. But somehow knowing we’ve made it through one disaster will help us get through another.
Before I put the puzzle away, I stared at it for a minute. I wanted to picture my grandchildren playing with it rather than the circle of sad family members in the living room last fall. And with the cheery mental picture of those little ones, I knew I could move forward.
At least for now.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)