The pale Italian sky reflects my face, drained of rose and sun, twisted with sorrow. My ex-husband died yesterday after post-operative complications.
I skyped with my daughter--our daughter--and we wept together. She said he had "landed softly" and that she had a vision of him being welcomed by Jesus "and he felt so loved, the Lord so happy to see him, calling him friend," she said through hot tears that streaked her cheeks.
Death paradoxically characterized by joy in the certainty that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Yet we are still here when the one who has left is in the near presence of the Lord.
I grieve for my children who are left without an earthly father. I mourn that I was not the wife my former husband needed me to be, that our marriage could not transcend the deep longings each of us held. My heart is broken for the wife he leaves behind. Fragments and splinters and slivers of sadness lay scattered at my feet.
Amid this grievous rubble, standng with me, is the One who also wept at His friend's grave, the high Priest who understands separation and loss. I pick up each shard of lament, each shred of disconsolation, and hand them over to Him. In return, He presses into my hands comfort and peace, the reality of His mercy and constancy in heaven and on earth.
The last words my previous husband wrote to me as he responded to an email I sent telling him I would pray as he entered the hospital were: "Thank you. I entrust myself to God Almighty." And my last words to him, "May peace like a river attend your way."
Morning bells are ringing. i can hear them resounding from the church in the middle of this small Italian village, parting the gray sky with peals of expectation. "All is well for the one you grieve, for the one gone too soon. He is free. I have swallowed death in the resurrection of life. All is well and all will be well."
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb. The Sun of Righteousness is gloriously risen, giving light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. The Lord will guide our feet into the way of peace having taken away the sin of the world. Christ will open the kingdom to all who believe in His Name, saying, Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
Into paradise may the angels lead you. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city, Jerusalem. (Taken from the funeral liturgy of Rachel Held Evans, June 1, 2019)
After my return to the states, I walk down to the tidal creek at the end of my street. I ask God for a way to say goodbye to my ex-husbnd, something tangible, experiential. A breeze ruffles the creek waters, an egret stirs the marsh grasses. I look up and a seagull glides by, its white body in sharp contrast with the wide expanse of blue sky. I glance further upward. A jet climbs higher and higher as it moves forward toward its destination. I lift my hands and wave. The sun glistens from the jet's wing, traces of silvery plumes track the ascent. "Goodbye, goodbye, " I whisper. "God speed. I will see you when we are both transformed in the New Kingdom, no more sorrows, no more tears."
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of--wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hov'ring there, I've chased the shouting wind along and flung my eager craft through footless falls of air...
Up, up the long, delicious burning blue I've topped the wind-swept height with easy grace where never lark, or even eagle flew...
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God. ~John Gillespie Magee Jr. (from High Flight)