When she took her life, mine flew off the rails with it.
Of course, she didn't mean for that to happen. Wasn't thinking about anyone else or anything but the pain that had grown too big for her to bear, somehow; at least that's how I imagine what must have happened the day our landlady taped a note to her door and ended the existence grown too heavy to bear. I sat with her friends and family a few weeks later, souls all stunned and broken a bit, wounded by her wounding in ways they'll never quite shake, and wondered, If she had any idea how many people felt so glad about her life and mourned the loss of it so much, would she have thrown it away?
It's a question that will, of course, go unanswered. I have to shake my head when people nod wisely, as if they understand exactly what led to such a desperate decision--or what follows it. I know God is gracious, know the Good Shepherd doesn't lose a sheep, know He loves life and know we are trusted with guarding this Imago Dei and there's nothing the enemy would love more than to snuff out that image which must shout with every breath of his own imminent final defeat. But that is all I presume to know in the face of such mystery. I am grateful I'm not the one in charge, and I don't have to have answers.
The ones left behind, we let go of balloons her favorite color and they rush away from us into the clouds.
In the wake of this tragedy, the house we loved had to be sold, nullifying what would have been our second two-year lease. So in the past two months, our family has been uprooted from the place we loved; the place I'd declared, "I could live the rest of my life in this sweet town!" the place we wrapped and carried our first grandbaby to the park to listen to concerts every Friday night; where our second son married his lovely bride in the backyard amidst roses and lights; where we had neighbors who popped over with cookies and donuts and sometimes gathered with wine and music in the grass for no reason at all; where our best friends were there for crises and joys both small and great; where the kids finally had sweet "neighborhood friends" and could barely be found for their constant playing outside; where the weather was somehow perfect and the mountains that had called to me all my life loomed majestic; where summer meant too many trips to the ice cream store just two blocks off; where winter meant twinkling lights in all the trees downtown and piles of glittering snow and horses blowing puffs of warmed smoke from their nostrils as they pulled carriages down our street.
Had to pack up and pick up and go, had to leave all we loved there; and it all started because the lie of the sea became too much for our friend.
I don't blame her, certainly. And I know God is orchestrating my life and is the Conductor of this symphony and everything comes filtered through His hands. Neither of those knowings, though, are making any of this any easier, this tearing away from all we knew and wanted so much to keep knowing. The day we drove away and so many people I loved and this wonderful place were left behind felt like having part of my soul torn away, roots pulled raw from the ground, dirt still clinging, broken pieces left exposed to the drying harshness of the air.
The truth is, life is hard to hang onto, sometimes. Wild and unpredictable, as if we are unwitting passengers on some sort of sketchy, barely-sea-worthy vessel in an unending, ever-changing ocean which can throw us about like so many rag dolls on its tumultuous waves, threatening to pull us right under its salty depths some days. My legs, so unsteady, tell me I'm not made for the roiling deep; I'd prefer land, thank you very much, but as that isn't possible, it certainly would be nice if we could have more sunny and calm days out here. Because there are those, too; brief days, it seems, when things go our way and we look out to a horizon full of diamonds on the water, playing hide and seek with the sun, and lie down on the deck to be rocked to sleep, that sun's penetrating heat soothing our very souls right through.
Maybe that's the problem: on the stormy days, all we can feel is the sea. It presses, insisting it's the only reality, that nothing else exists. Below us, tossing us where we don't want to go; above us, rain bearing down; all around us, soaking our clothes and our skin and our souls with its brine, making us believe the sun has abandoned us and will never reappear; that we are doomed to the waves trying to take us under. The stormy days hide the sun behind the sea which has taken up residence in the sky, salty clouds blotting it right out 'til we wonder if we ever saw a sun before at all; was it only our imagination that we remember once feeling warm, feeling safe, feeling still and able to see something besides all this water threatening to bury all we know?
And something within us, longing for the peace of a calm, storm-free day.
We are people living on the sea, longing for the shore.
I want to go home.
We read it in Genesis, the explanation: we are a people displaced. We were meant for the garden, meant to have feet and hands in the dirt we were birthed from, walking with the One who made us. We read that our great-great-great-parents rejected that authority, preferred to hold the position for themselves (just as we would have--just as we do) and so we have all been launched onto the water, too often tossed and overwhelmed by the sea.
The feeling of being stuck in a place we don't belong, it stokes our unsettledness; we are not yet at home, though we're not sure we can explain what we mean when we say that. But somehow, there's enough knowing to unearth a longing.
C.S. Lewis said this:
"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."
Maybe that's why home is so hard to find.
We filled boxes with books and dishes and clothes and our calendar with last-minute must-dos ... and cried. A lot. All that brine so full it spilled right through our pores.
One last trip to the groomers (and Starbucks next door), one last gathering with friends, one last neighborly hug, one last deep breath as I squeezed my sweet grandbaby and clung for one last moment to the kids staying behind ... and then by sheer force of will and desperation we let go and drove away, bits of our hearts surely clattering noisily to the ground in the wake of the moving truck. I wondered that the sky didn't open right up.
The clouds rolled dark even though the sun was shining, salt rolled down, and the road swam under me, this sea tossing all I hold dear two different directions, a shattering loss we weren't ready for.
My son says the Brazilians have a word for what we're feeling: Saudade. It's Portuguese and means "the physical ache of missing someone." Exactly. If I've felt it before, I've never felt it quite like this.
This breaking, this ache, this longing for the shore.