Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dear Jack

A little more than 12 years ago family and friends began to receive word of my mother's death. It was grim news. The kind of news that makes you sick. Heart sick. Gut sick. News of her death barreled through the month of May like a runaway train, filleting us all like fish, and leaving us irreparably changed.

At the time I did not have the capacity to think much beyond my own grief. But yesterday, for the first time, I was given a bitter pill that must have been much like the pill swallowed by friends and family so long ago. What do you do and say when something sickening, needless, and desperate swallows up the beating heart and expanding chest of a friend?

Jack, your death is tragic. That is all there is to it. We are shell shocked and sad. We are sad for you and for your family, and for every living, breathing thing that will not have the privilege of spending time with you again.

I went to a rodeo last night. As a Southerner, you would have been uniquely charmed by the boys called Cody and Ty and Clem riding horses and bulls, swaggering away from each ride in pain and pride and chaps. As my sister and fiancé ate sweet, doughy elephant ears, licking their fingers covered with cinnamon and sugar, I thought of you. I thought of all the fish you have caught, the woods where you have walked, and all the rivers you have not graced. I thought of your kindness at weddings where dance partners were few and Nancy shared you with the rest of us. I thought of your hospitality in New York City, your Southern Spiritual wisdom, and your fatherly tenderness.

You now know more than all of us. You have seen the other side and I suspect that Jesus is near. Lean in Jack. You deserve it. Your earthly journey is finished, good and faithful servant, and at this moment I know you need the support of the One who knows life, suffering, compassion, and death more intimately than the rest of us. Bask in the fullness of redemption, resurrection, and life everlasting. May its sweetness bear you up amidst the grief and sadness.

We will do our best to love Nancy and Martha and your boys. You would want it that way. We all wish it would have been different. I know you do too.

Farewell, friend. Until we meet again,