Today marks two weeks without Nate. He is all I think about, and I still let my mind meditate in detail on the moments of his last days. This seems odd, seeing as 14 days have passed, but trauma makes its mark, and I can’t think apart from it.
“Should I stop blogging about your father?” I asked several of our grown kids. “Will people get tired of hearing about his fight with cancer and his death?”
They all responded that losing my husband two weeks ago doesn’t constitute a reason to move on. I was thankful for their answer. It’s therapeutic for me to talk, write and think about Nate.
Today I was thinking back two Tuesdays ago to a few minutes after Nate died. All of us were at a loss as to what to do next. Life had increased in intensity from the day of his cancer diagnosis until his death, which was somewhat like the conclusion of a fast-paced drama. How do you follow that? And how do you avoid falling off an emotional cliff when it’s all over?
We had decided that night we’d do what Nate would want us to do and eat the Chinese carry-out food we’d just put on our plates the moment before he chose to move into eternity. Just before we began eating, each of us feeling subdued and strange, we needed a quick boost.
Earlier in the afternoon while Nate slept, I’d opened the day’s mail. In it was a letter to Nate written by a four-decades-long friend of ours, Lynn. As we sat with our dinner plates on our laps in the living room as we’d done when Nate was in his lazy-boy there, I decided to read from the letter:
“Nate, you are a fine example of running the good race, keeping a steady pace even when the ‘walls’ of life hit you hard. In keeping with this theme, we got an idea for the Chicago Marathon this month (Oct.). Tim, our son-in-law, a hematologist, ran for a leukemia/lymphoma research organization. He also ran for YOU as a symbolic gesture of support for the good race you have run, Nate. We sponsored Tim by donating cash we collected from creative ways to save. We hope you will accept this gift with all our love behind it. There were thousands who read the little banner on his back and prayed for you that day. And we are still cheering you on!”
Lynn enclosed a photo of her son-in-law’s running shirt with Nate’s name on it, and we passed it around the room. Also enclosed was a check for $328, an incredibly important gift because of what it represented. Just at the time when the head of our family passed away, another family was saying how important his life had been to them. The letter was also sprinkled with happy memories of Nate, along with a description of their high regard for him.
On first glance, it seems like the letter had arrived too late. After all, it was addressed to Nate, and he died an hour after it arrived into our home. He was unable to open it or read it.
In hindsight, however, I believe the letter had a much loftier purpose by surfacing when it did. Exactly at the time Nate finished running his earthly race, we read from a letter describing that very image in reference to him. It was as if God put an exclamation point behind Nate’s life. After all, the race verses were his favorite in all of the Bible.
In addition to that, Lynn’s letter gave us the boost we needed at the lowest moment our family has ever experienced. I don’t doubt that God carefully orchestrated the whole thing. Just after Nate “disappeared” and we were struggling to focus on the truth of the unseen rather than the gaunt, cancer-ravaged reality we were looking at, Lynn’s letter provided visible evidence of a race well run. Her words highlighted Nate’s specific race and made us grateful he had crossed God’s finish line.
“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1b)