Only I Do
I talked with a friend tonight who lost her sister a year ago to an aneurysm. The agony of loss, even after these long months, weighed heavy as emotion seemed to spill from every part of her. Her words, her eyes, the way her shoulders seemed to curl with burden … she was broken. And I, the one who always has something encouraging to offer, I–was speechless. Words, as wonderful and expressive as they are, can be incredibly insufficient when you confront a situation where there is just absolutely nothing you can say.
Did you ever lose someone who you was so completely a part of your life, that a vital piece of you seemed to die along with them? And you wonder how you could ever possibly be you again without them, because suddenly the world, your world, is unrecognizable. John Steinbeck once said, “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” As horrible as it is to think of the world having not known them at all, a small, bitter piece of you wishes that you wouldn’t have had them, because nothing could possibly be worse than knowing exactly what you’ve lost.
And. It. Hurts. I have tasted enough of loss to know two things with assurance … it is constant, and unrelenting. I think maybe the worst feeling is when you fall asleep, and reprieve takes you dreaming to a place where you’re allowed to forget every single thing you miss. Then you wake up–forced to remember all over again.
I know there are “good days,” and I know there are stages, and I know time can lessen the pain, but it can’t change. The truth is, there are some people that you will never, ever get over. And you’re not supposed to; because it wouldn’t really be love if it didn’t leave a scar.
But scars are really just memories in disguise. They’re proof of what happened to you … of who happened to you; and in that they are beautiful. As personal and individual as grief is, the experiencing of it is something few of us will ever get through this life without facing. But we often make the mistake of thinking that loss is the same as lost; and it isn’t, because they’re not lost … they’re found. They’re home. We are the one’s left wandering–and wondering, not them.
On the other side of heaven, there is no such thing as time. And there’s no waiting, or wanting, or hurting; there is only light, and the absolute confidence that everything really is a part of a much bigger plan–a plan they get to see their part of.
So my grandpa doesn’t have to miss the feeling of his aged fingers laced through mine, only I do. My student who passed away doesn’t have to find ungraded journal entries in her handwriting, only I do. My friends don’t have to look through faded memories of our lives together in photographs, only I do. My sweet, seven-year-old neighbor doesn’t have to witness the devastation of parents who outlived their child, only I do. Only we do. Because my stories are yours too; the pain of loss doesn’t segregate, it just stays.
I wish I could end this post with something more encouraging to share. But as I said before, sometimes–there’s nothing to say. Just know this isn’t it. They’re still there, and it is our job to live on with a life worthy of the impact they made on it. It doesn’t do to wallow, because where they are there is nothing but the light we are so desperately seeking. Those who are gone no longer know sorrow … only we do.
P.S. Read “Death is Nothing at All” by: Henry Scott Holland