For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Life goes on seemingly unaware I need a break. I want to pull the emergency stop cord and gather my thoughts, but I can not. So I have to laugh, live, meet new people, see new things, and experience new things, all the while missing Andrea and learning to be alone.
I will say so far my grief has not been as bad as I thought. I guess I had done more grieving over the past fours years then I realized. I was able to leave Andrea on our terms. We said our goodbyes, we lived and loved, we had no regrets or need to express emotions we had hid. There was no pressure to make up for lost time or unspoken words. Ours was a simple goodbye, a prayer, both knowing we will see each other in a little bit. I watched a woman accept her cross in total peace. At the time I don't think I realised what a blessing that was. Has hard as it was to suffer for four years, I found it was suffering I would have to do anyway, I was just blessed to do so much with Andrea here. Of course I miss Andrea, her smile and her touch. But Andrea ran a good race, she finished the course laid out before her and in that I have a peace. I have been blessed to not have to ask why. I saw her accept her cancer and her death. I saw her seek healing yet never doubt God’s sovereign plan. I saw Andrea carry her cross with purpose and I saw God use her faithfulness many times over. In doing so I knew the why of all this. My struggle with Andrea's death has been my own loss, the silence I hear, and the touch I do not feel. When you watch someone battle cancer for over four years and you see it pummel their body you beg for mercy for them, because you love them you do not want to see them suffer. I felt this way watching Andrea in the ICU. I felt this way when I wrote, "Why won't you leave her alone." Andrea had done so much for me and others as she faithfully ran her race, I could not ask for more. If the only thing standing between her suffering and relief was my fear of being left then I needed to let go. I had to let Andrea finish her race and begin my own. So off I set on a life defined new terms. Terms like single parent and widow. It is my race and I hope I run it half as good as Andrea ran hers.
My race is marked by a desire to remember the past and embrace my future. Yet having to realize the two cannot mix but in my mind. Dec 21st 2007 was a point of departure for my race. I walked away and began my life without Andrea. I had no choice, her race was complete. Life did not ask me what I wanted; it gave me what I have. Now I must pick it up and run.
As I begin I must adjust to my new life I adjust to losing my old identity. I can not stop and do these in series, they are done in parallel and that can be a little hard. I want to devote myself to remembering the life that defined me for over 27 years, but I don't have the time. My new life does not wait. The train blew its departure whistle on Dec 21st. And Andrea and I boarded separate trains for the first time since we were 18 years old. We kissed goodbye, she boarded her train and I mine. The whistle blew and the conductor yelled, "All aboard." The stream hissed and the wheel slowly began to grab the track, the cars jerked into motion and off we both went. I sit and look out the window, all I see, I see alone. No matter how beautiful the scenery, I can not tell Andrea about it, nor can she share what she sees. The joy is knowing that eventually we will join together at out final destination. The sadness is we arrive on separate trains.
Life goes on. Christmas came anyway, I have met new people, I have laughed, I have seen a movie, I have had conversations and made new memories that belong to me alone. They build distance between my self and the life I want to hold on to, but I can't. It begins to slip away as I set out on my own course. I cling to memories reborn by a photographs, a smell, or a familiar place. As my new life continues and new memories are built they intermingle with the old but eventually they will separate. Because life just goes on. Grieve all you want, but new memories are made regardless of what I want or how I feel. I'm learning that these new memories are not a betrayal of Andrea, they are inevitable and unstoppable. Because life goes on. Because this is my race. Our trains no longer share a track.
I know Andrea has enjoyed her ride and the scenery along the way. Myself, I'm not sure what God has for me but I have seen signs that there is some spectacular scenery along the way for me as well. God’s will for my life is still to prosper me and not harm me. The track He has laid out for me will be perfect. I'm learning to embrace the memories I'm building and the people I meet along this new route.
How could I do anything less? What would that speak of my faith in God? My sadness can not delay this train, nor can my feelings change its course. I must embrace it and look for God's leading along the way for those signs that remind me that God is there, marking the path laid before me. Then I know I'm going in the right direction. That the new people I meet the places I go are right where I should be. When I look back and see God's hand in my past I know I have the same guarantee for the future.
Did you know Andrea was buried on Dec 21st the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year? And that the next day we began gaining daylight as the Northern Hemisphere reached it furthest point from the sun and then began to tilt back towards the sun. The sad day we had was the shortest day of the year, and we awoke to more sunshine, and longer days. I think that was a nice gift from God. He limited our grief, and reminded us His mercies are new every morning. That slowly we will gain more light and life will go on, and that is okay.
His goodness and love can be shocking to us at times, but it sure feels cozy and warm when we are wrapped in his arms. You just know you’re in the right place when you feel his leading. When the conductor asks for your ticket and Jesus pays your way. Then you know you are on the right train, regardless of who is sitting next to you. I can’t wait to see where we are going, and to get to know those around me. I can’t wait to tell them about Andrea.
“Next stop ______”