"And he sits there staring at something we cannot see." - Madeleine L'Engle,Two-Part Invention, speaking of her husband in his last days at home.
I felt like Chuck did that – stared at something we did not see. Or sat with his eyes closed, just too fatigued to keep them open.
I think of the angel guard around Elisha and like to imagine just such a group around Chuck, giving comfort that we didn’t know about. I imagine him closing his eyes to me, Kat, and Leah and then opening them to a band of angels and Christ, himself. I am still so full of questions about death that I know will not be answered until I myself die.
All I know is this – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” – Hebrews 11:1
“Displaced souls roam every city in every country.” – Ilana Manaster, One of the Crowd, Real Simple – 2017
I know what it feels like to be a displaced soul. I felt pretty much like that the whole six years we lived in Birmingham. It was a beautiful place, but it was never home. I don’t mean to dishonor Chuck when I say that, because where he was, that was home for me. But, I think he felt the same way. We both felt uprooted.
Now I’m “home”, but he’s not here, and once again I don’t quite feel at home. But it’s different, because I do have family here, and numerous friends. I’m in the town where I grew up. It’s changed a lot, but still familiar. The Maxwell House Coffee drifting across the St. Johns River smells the same. The ocean, though constantly changing, is the same. I can still drive by my childhood home and my high school.
So now, as I prepare to move for the third time in less than a year, I think about how to put down roots in Tampa. God willing, I won’t move again. I long to live there and serve God to the end of my days. To make a home for my family, my friends, and other sojourners, for I have to remind myself that, ultimately, I’m just a sojourner on this earth.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar offwere assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14
“We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Chuck didn’t fear death. He knew where his hope was. I knew that, too. I know that. But, the sadness is still here. Sadness that his face will no longer light up when his children or grandchildren enter the room. Sadness that we talked, dreamed, and finally planned for his retirement and our return home to Jacksonville. That return was overlaid with sorrow. For him, that return lasted one month. Now he is truly home, and I’m left here to carry on.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
“The most valuable thing in life never changes by time or place – it is to be honest and cheerful, to find happiness in what you have and to have courage in hardships.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder, when she was solicited for advice to Japanese women.
I think this is good advice, but not necessarily the most valuable thing in life. I find it easy to be honest, not so easy to always be cheerful. I can’t brag on my honesty, though, as it isn’t perfect. And cheerfulness? Well, God loves a cheerful giver and I’m making progress in that area. I can find happiness in what I have, but there is a sadness in what is missing. What is missing for me isn’t things, though. I usually have courage in hardships, but not always patience. Whatever honesty, cheerfulness, happiness or courage I do have is because God has granted it to me.
“Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely. – Jeremiah 6:15
Even better than Wilder’s advice is this:
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5