I am overwhelmed this morning by the irreplaceable moments of time. Those fleeting brevities that go by without the slightest notice as I pass through the mist that will someday comprise the sum of my life.
Just last week, Amanda (everyone called her "Beaner"), the twenty-one-year-old daughter of some dear friends who owned the neighboring ranch to mine in Ellsworth, was killed in a tragic car wreck when her boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel. She was a bright, shining star paling the flickering pinpoints around her in the swath of the black velvety heavens - incredibly talented and creative; painter, writer, singer. She exuded an inner joy that very few people have ever even known could exist. What a loss! What utter waste of life...
I walked into the memorial service last week and put my arms around my dear friends and couldn't say a word. I didn't want to cry in front of them, as I wanted to give them strength and support and peace. My friend Jodi, Amanda's mother, a woman my age, was beautiful and stallwart, wearing the deep grief so courageously and sadly. I looked her in the eyes and she put her hands to my face to draw me in close and whispered how happy she was that I was there. I was unable to say a word... I smiled and held her tight for a few brief, fleeting moments... and during those seconds saw the lives of my own children pass through my memory. In that moment I felt her loss and wondered how she could even stand there amidst all those people. That sort of pain would be something I could not even fathom having to bear. At that empathic moment I could feel what she felt, and I was overwhelmed beyond expression for her.
My emotions, of late, have been so close to the surface that I have needed to bury them in order to not be overwhelmed by them. I had to consciously push them down so as to not let this thing I felt for someone else consume me.
My daughters, who knew Amanda so well as their babysitter and friend, were sitting with their mom, watching a compiled dvd of photos. I walked over and touched my ex-wife on her shoulder, and the three of them looked up at me, eyes red-rimmed and faces drawn. I picked up my son and sat on the floor in front of Annette, as there were no open chairs. She placed her hand very lightly on the back of my shoulder for only a brief moment. As Amandsa's face filled the TV screen in front of me, the soundtrack began playing that old Eric Clapton song about seeing someone's face in heaven. I was suddenly, unexplicably overwhelmed and I could not stay in that place. I stood with Sam in my arms, looked at my kids and my wife and told them I was stepping outside. I did not want to break in front of them all. I needed to be strong for them, so they could make it through this horrible tragedy.
As soon as my face hit the outside sunlight, I began to cry. I walked down the dirt road to where I had parked my car, kicked off my shoes and sat crosslegged and barefoot in the dust on the side of the road, lit a cigarette and wept.
I buried my face in my hands and tried to pray - a thing I used to be able to do so well. Yet, for the first time in my life felt that there was not really anyone there who gave a rat's ass about the grief and suffering and loss and emptiness; no one to receive with open arms the wandering soul. My four-and-a-half-year-old son came up behind me and actually started rubbing my shoulders and said, "It will be okay, dad." I reached around and took him in my arms and told him how much I loved him. He smiled and went to find me a "special rock" that I could take home with me. It sits here on my desk as I write this.
Not long after, Annette and my daughters came out. I stood, and for the first time in five years, Annette put her arms around me and held me tight. This woman who has hated and abused and run, put her arms around me to comfort me. Me, who has been the strength and support for my kids and everyone around me was being comforted by the person who has caused us all so much pain and suffering over the years. I stood there and found I could do nothing else but hold her tight.
I held my children for a very long time that night, until they fell asleep and I carried them to bed.
I could not sleep.
God wrestles with us in the nighttimes of our lives, but when we awake in the morning, he is gone. He is a dim, hollow facelessness in the dark. Life is so short, and love is so fleeeting. I find myself sometimes grasping at things that will never be there for very long......
Where is the peace...?