This weight came over me like the heaviest, most comfortable blanket you could imagine. It spread out over me, and it was filled with every moment of love I've ever experienced, small or large. It was stuffed with memories from long ago. It was stitched with affection and care, with intention and thoughtfulness. As I felt it drape over me, invisible of course, three words came to mind, clear and crisp: i am loved.
LETTING GO GIVES US FREEDOM, AND FREEDOM IS THE ONLY CONDITION FOR HAPPINESS. IF, IN OUR HEART, WE STILL CLING TO ANYTHING - ANGER, ANXIETY, OR POSSESSIONS - WE CANNOT BE FREE. ― THÍCH NHẤT HẠNH
"What would happen if you strangled God?" Bob asked me. I sat there as a variety of expressions came across my face, several of which caused Bob to chuckle. Then, I had what may be one of my nerdiest epiphanies ever.
YOU WILL LOSE SOMEONE YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT,AND YOUR HEART WILL BE BADLY BROKEN, AND THE BAD NEWS IS THAT YOU NEVER COMPLETELY GET OVER THE LOSS OF YOUR BELOVED. BUT THIS IS ALSO THE GOOD NEWS. THEY LIVE FOREVER IN YOUR BROKEN HEART THAT DOESN’T SEAL BACK UP. AND YOU COME THROUGH. IT’S LIKE HAVING A BROKEN LEG THAT NEVER HEALS PERFECTLY—THAT STILL HURTS WHEN THE WEATHER GETS COLD, BUT YOU LEARN TO DANCE WITH THE LIMP. — ANNE LAMOTT
What I will say is this: when protecting God's maleness involves the shaming and shunning of someone, when it becomes a weapon of oppression, then we need to seriously examine our priorities. Reading through Strachan's burning of Rachel, I couldn't help but cringe at what I experienced as his own insecurity. It was clear that this was his landing post for attacking Evans' progressive stance on gender and sexuality. As soon as I became aware of what his true motives were, I stopped reading and started writing.
Kylar is the most tangible piece of Nanny I have left. I don't care about the dishes, the blanket, even the pictures (okay, so I care about the pictures, but you get what I mean). Kylar's breath, the feel of his fur under my fingers, his tongue licking my nose (I call him my little exfoliator), is a reminder of home, a reminder of her. I know it probably sounds crazy, but it's true. Nights when I think about Nanny, nights like tonight, I snatch up my little brat (in cat years, he's somewhere between his late teens and his early twenties... trust me... he's a brat), and cling to him like there's no tomorrow.
When she says, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died," I imagine hers to be a tone of anger, an attitude of contempt. This would not have been a pretty scene to watch. I imagine most of us would have seen Jesus coming, and after seeing the look on Martha's face, would have stepped away, out of earshot. Martha had not only lost her brother, but she'd felt betrayed and let down by her friend—a friend she knew had the power to keep this all from happening. Everything was unraveling, and yet she still manages to maintain her game face.
Over the last year, I've had a number of friends tell me that sometimes writing letters to those you've lost helps with the grieving process. It's been 2 months since my wedding and over a year since Nanny left us. I'm sitting here watching Finding Neverland, one of my favorites with one of my all-time favorite scores. I think it's time to take their advice... Nanny,
I miss you, more than I think even I could put into words. I know there are those times when I'll sit out on the back deck and just start talking aloud, as if you're right there. Sometimes, I feel your presence so strongly that it's tangible. Other times, well, you know me. I get caught up in the day to day routine. Now that the semester is finished and the wedding is done, I find myself talking to you so naturally that it feels like you never left. Then reality hits, and I wake up from my dream world in which you're still there.
I realized the other day that I never really told you about the wedding. Put simply, it was an amazing weekend. By the Monday before, nearly all the small details were completed. Frankie and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday pampering ourselves with massages, facials, manicures and the like. Friday came, and we made it to the church. The decorating was done in less than 2 hours. I don't think I'd ever seen Holy Covenant so transformed. I wish you could have come to church with me sometime. You would have seen why I love it immediately.
Rehearsal went well. Tons of laughs, and a few teary moments while I practiced my song. There was a bit of confusion about how fast to walk. By the time we were done, everyone was so tired of hearing "step, touch" that, had it not been my own wedding, they might have killed me, or at least duct taped my mouth shut. Most of us went over to Penny's for dinner, sitting around. It felt like a roast of both Frankie and me, all the stories being told. New friendships were made. Frankie and I sat at opposite heads of the table. We couldn't figure out which one of us was mother and which one was father.
I spent that night at the hotel on my own, soaking up the experience of being in a king size bed all by myself. I soaked up the sheets after a long, hot shower. I thought about you, and let myself cry for a bit. I knew you'd be there with me, just not in the way I ever thought of or imagined.
The one and only snag of the weekend came the next morning. Michael, Alex, and I were going to a local barbershop for a hot shave. I'd been told that only same day appointments were taken. Apparently, this was not the case. Thankfully, the shop got ahold of a barber from another shop who made it there in record time. It really was a treat, especially having Alissa take picture for us. She did a fantastic job all day long.
When we got to the church, it all finally started hitting me. I smoked nervously. We ate some lunch. Larry did some makeup for us (don't laugh, I wanted the pictures to be perfect), and we got dressed. Frankie game me his wedding present... a small crystal on a necklace... a piece of him to keep close to me... a reminder that our hearts were beating together that day.
The time for pictures came and went, and I don't think the laughing ever really stopped, at least not for very long. There were a few moments here and there where the emotions of the day started getting to me. I'd cry for a short spell and then be okay. Frankie even teared up here and there... not as much as me. When Alissa took me for some solo shots, that's when it hit the hardest. You weren't there. Mom and Dad weren't there. Aunt Bonnie was. Mattie was. All of Frankie's immediate family was. It was more than just a little overwhelming.
People started arriving, and so we all waited out in the gallery. Alex came back with the lantern that Jamie had brought. At first it was supposed to be a gag gift. But then, after learning about Jewish traditions of mourning, it became more than that. It became a way of having you there, of honoring you without making a huge scene. It was something I could look at and remember that you were with me, with us. That you were proud of how far I'd come. It was a symbol of the light that you were to me, the way you changed me and helped me be the man I am... a man who loves God and isn't afraid to wrestle with the tough questions.
I took the lantern in hand, walked out into the sanctuary, trying not to make a scene. I was crying, holding back really. I got stopped by a couple of people, but I mostly stayed focused on doing what I needed to do. Once the candle was lit, it felt complete. It felt like everything was ready to begin. And so it did. After several songs played over the speakers, Jonathan began playing the prelude. We started walking in one by one, lighting the candles, smiling. Finally Frankie and I walked in, and I've never had that many people smiling at me at one time before. I've never felt connected so deeply to as many people before, especially at one time. We reached the center of the circle, surounded by more love than anyone could ever hope for, and we began our rite.
The welcome was made. The fire was lit as a way of recognizing that Frankie and I are united both as individuals and as families. We exchanged rings with vows that were far from traditional, Amatheon giving me my charge and Matthew giving Frankie his. Kristin read 1 Corinthians 13. I sang my song, mostly without breaking down. I was sure to include a good laugh. We went into the handfasting... it's a little hard to explain. Long story short (not too late I hope), it's a symbol of Frankie and I joining our lives, of being tied up in each other. Frankie was a smart alec of course, but it was fitting. The final blessing was given, we kissed, and we all laughed after a good sigh.
The receiving line was fantastic. For someone like me who thrives on hugs (you know this), it was a dream come true. Laughs. Jokes. Tears. Hugs. Kisses. Handshakes (awkward, lol). Everyone who needed to be there was there. That's not to say people weren't missed, but as a friend advised me, I just tried to live in the moment. Everyone remarked how lovely it all was (imagine that phrase in an English accent). Finally, it was time for the real party.
Our friend Aaron drove us over to the reception hall (in a really sweet ride I must add), but not without a Starbucks run just so we could show off how dashing we were. We arrived, and after a plethora of applause, the drinks were poured, the appetizers passed, and the fun started. I, being the usual hostess I am, had to be told several times to let other people worry about the details. We ate like it was the end of times. The toasts were hilarious. The cake was great... and yes, I smashed some in Frankie's face. Some friends gave the kitchen an iPod so they could dance in the other room. I really could not ask for more...
Well, only one thing more. I wish you'd been there to share it with us. I wish I could have seen your face when I made a remark about not being able to catch a ball, or when Frankie displayed his usual snark. I wish you could have heard me sing one last time, You would have been first in line for a hug, and it would have lasted for what seemed like forever. I wish you could have sat next to me at dinner, use eating a meal like we always did. I might have stayed seated more had you been there.
I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing this with some people. I'd not really written about the wedding, and any chance I have to tell the world how amazing a woman you were I plan on taking. This won't be the last letter by a long shot, but it is a good start I hope. I love you, and I miss you, and I thank God for giving you to me for the time that she did. I'll be seeing you...
To the rest of you, thank you for your presence, whether near or distant. Hopefully you get a piece of Nanny, and of me, by reading...
I wrote this last year on a random Sunday and shared it on another social networking site. Today's one of those days where I find myself missing her, so it only seemed appropriate to re-visit this and share the love. I wish you all could have known her. Hopefully, through my words, she lives on... July 10, 2011
Today would be one of those afternoons where I'd call her. In the midst of reading, surfing the web, and listening to music, I'd step out onto the back deck, phone in hand, and dial the number I knew best, one which is now turned off with no one there to answer the phone.
Cigarette in hand, I'd call. She might screen the call since she didn't have caller ID, but she'd most likely know it was me. She'd always answer with, "Hi Michael," knowing that my hearing her say my name was very special to me. She'd ask if it was hot in Chicago. I'd say yes, which was also an indicator that my pericarditis was acting up and my chest was hurting. She'd make sure I was keeping cool and drinking lots of water.
I'd ask how her week was, how Gene was doing, how church was this morning. I'd make sure I hadn't woken her up from a nap. Even if I had, she'd say she was just laying down and had time to talk. I can imagine her in her bedroom, a small twin size bed, furniture painted in UK blue with a handmade quilt on the bed, sunlight struggling to seep through the closed blinds.
I'd tell her I found her recipe card for bread pudding inside one of my books, indicating my desire to try and make it as good as she always did, never quite getting the sauce right. She'd ask if I was eating enough, if Frankie was talking good care of me. She may not have understood or agreed with who I was, but she could recognize love and honor it anyway.
She could always hear the pain in my voice, knowing that this was the time of the week when I hit my depressive crash. I'd probably start crying and she'd reaffirm that it would be okay, that I was strong. That I made her proud. She'd remind me of how much she loved me and missed me.
We might sit silent for a moment, me overcoming my tears, hearing her breathe patiently, knowing that I just needed to be on the phone with her. I'd talk about my excitement of starting school again soon, of wedding planning, of being told that I can preach at my home church and that my new pastor was incredibly loving and encouraging. I know deep down she'd be glad that I had a male pastor. Some Southern Baptist roots just can't be taken out of a southern lady like her.
She'd ask if I needed any money or coupons, probably having just sent an unplanned card earlier this week. She loved doing that, for me and many others. She loved people so deeply yet so simply. I could feel her sending me light and love over the phone, feeling her aging arms hugging me. On days when I would cry like I am right now, I'd lay down on the couch next to where she sat, my head in her lap. I could let it all out with her, knowing she understood, or at least tried to.
Despite the rational knowledge that I have so much going for me right now, so much love surrounding me, cradling me, love both human and Divine, I'm still struggling to find the strength to keep going, to live and to do so abundantly. I'm struggling to hold onto the sound of her voice, the smell of her hair as I would hug her, her gentle smile, her rock solid faith. I'm having a hard time knowing whether the pain in my chest is my heart's lining becoming inflamed or simply my heart breaking at the revelation of just how much I've lost. It hurts knowing that, in this life, I'll never see the light of her eyes again, feel her lips kiss me on the cheek, feel her arms hold me.
... someone help these days begin...