The in Between
There lies not a thin line but a great open plain between remembering and forgetting. This open space is perhaps best called haunting. Recently I was driving my thirteen year old back from an orthodontist appointment. What could be more ordinary, more suburban? We waited in our average sedan for the light to turn green when I asked her a question I never would have anticipated when she had been born: When we are sitting here at this light, does it cross your mind that your mother and your sister are buried right over there?
This was, as my daughter well knew, a genuine question, and not in any way an accusation. I wasn’t scolding her for not noticing, or, if noticing, not saying anything. It just struck me that sometimes I go weeks without driving by the cemetery where my precious ladies’ bodies are planted. Sometimes I drive there, walk to where they are buried and pray, cry, and remember. But then there were these times, when the cemetery is not my destination but it is just there, right next to me.
There are no moments when I am not conscious of their absence. But there are moments when I am less conscious. Like the constant ringing in the ear that assaults some people my lonesomeness for them cannot be escaped. To enter into missing them is in many ways easier than living in the in between. When I remember, when I weep, I am entering in. When, however, the reminders come to me, it is entering in, nagging. Their absence is always announcing its presence.
It was three years ago, just a few days before Valentine’s Day. I was, I suspect, unloading some groceries on the shelf in our rec room. Beside me was our ping pong table. She stood at the entrance of the room, looking like she had seen a ghost. “They just called,” she told me, gingerly taking steps toward me, “It’s leukemia.” I held her there as we cried, in the same spot I pass through now everyday. Here, by the shelf, beside where the laundry gets folded, here is where I first knew that we were facing a problem I couldn’t fix, where I first heard her death sentence.
I sleep now, as I have done since the day she died, on her side of the bed. Not, strangely, that I might be close to her, but that I might be farther from where I used to sleep when she was with us. So each morning I wake where she is supposed to be.
While this reflection is more an exposition of the constant, nagging pain rather than a revelation of those moments of the blinding pain, while I am merely sad, not flirting with despair, I still have no answer. I will not scrub my life clean of these landmarks of our journey through the valley of the shadow of death. I will not pretend that my wife or my daughter were Enochs, who walked with God, and then were no more. Instead I will continue to be haunted. I will continue to walk where they walked. And He will continue to walk with me.