I ride my road bike on, through the cold and damp. There is a patch of sky ahead in which the sun breaks through. I am humming a familiar song from “The Message” satellite radio…..”Hello, my name is Regret…Hello my name is Defeat….” I resolve that making this next stop is “just the right thing to do.”
I am so sad for my friend. I have felt this devestation before. I have been in similar uncomfortable, pinching shoes. In fact I still have them…..somewhere, with holes in the soles, and a scar on my heart. I do not want my name to be these things: Regret, Defeat. I want my name to be Blessed, and Hopeful.
I think about visiting graves in a few days for the Mumorial Day Weekend holiday. I wonder about epitaphs, and engravings on some more creative headstones. My mother’s has still not been attended to. It has been nearly ten years. It evidences my father’s birth and death dates; my mother’s birth date. From the looks of things…..you would not know she has died, unless you lived that event.
What will I have my stone say? What will others say of me at my funeral, in my eulogy. Will it sound like so many others I have heard. Will a friend or family member skirt around my lesser qualities stretching to find something good, or humorous to back fill into, like one of those talks, that don’t quite convince you that the person was all that nice or good. I wonder who will have the last word about me. Hm.
I resolve I want to be a friend. I must be a friend. I must go to my friend. I must be a needed magnet of love. I am not afraid of following my heart in most cases.
Ouch! My fancy Shimano shifter is acting up. The bike skips a few gears. It jumps suddenly from very difficult to a way too easy range of motion and I nearly lose balance.
I escape laying the bike down. I can not fall right now. Shifting can be difficult at times…..like figuring out what to do in sabotaging a relationship. Like learning how to be a good friend. This social pathway is a road of detours with continual construction 12 months of the year, and through out a life time. Orange flags, orange barrels, and frequent stop and go.
Part of what motivates me says..”I want to be a friend, so I can have a friend.” Another part asks me….”What would Jesus do?” And so I stop at my friend’s country cabin log home that some how reminds me of Cracker Barrel, a restaurant full of delicious food, gifts, and curios.
There are two cars in the driveway. A gray one, and a light SUV. The second looks kind of familiar. Not sure why, but I resolve to quit trying to figure out who they belong to. It doesn’t matter. Second thought, this home looks like a third grade gingerbread house. Inviting, with a green roof and trim that remind me of welcoming heart things.
I ring the door bell. I wait…just trying not to think too much…just believing I was led here by a whisper. Just believing I am still capable of hearing things of Heaven. I was here, only a month ago, with a drop-in visit bearing gifts of Opera….sheet music, a cd, but mostly coming to ask for something, to deliver an invitation that plead, “Please, help!” This time the setting and circumstance called for help from me and from every other feeling person who would help and love my friend.
The door opens to red crying eyes, not laughing ones or sore celebratory, reupholstery hands. Eyes that mirror the outcome of a really sad dance review, maybe, or the loss of a dancer to injury, or some drama. In a quick, speechless egress, another friend leaves. This in haste, without a word, dragging behind her the weight and resistance of grief and sorrow…..of loss. My friend says, “Hello, Come in,” with an emerging grin that slowly fades.
The smile begins to crack. She knows I know she has been crying hard. I feel a strangeness and empathy as the other friend passes quickly in leaving. She doesn’t speak or even look back when I call her name. Strange. Unsettling. This is a heavy thing that people do not know what to do with. A hot potato toss ……of loss…..of an unexplainable loss. I sense the leaving friend has become consumed.
I am nothing more than furniture. It’s okay. I have felt this before. I have learned to be a nonliving fixture as required.
In my mind, the reading specialist friend who leaves, is holding an invisible leash, to which is tethered a beast…an animal, a beast of burden that heavily presses down like a 100 degree, 100 % humid, Texan August afternoon. Only… she can not control this thing. She gives up, exasperated and drives away without it. She leaves it for me and for the friend I endearingly call….PICO.
The beast is left running, crazed and at large. Someone really needs to call animal control. I stand, hang like a solitaire pendant, staring, rocking, swinging back and forth in deciding a response. Speechless. I realize just how little anyone but Jesus can do.
Then I remember….response is everything. Love is always the answer….but how to do this amidst FEAR?
The creature called FEAR bolts, froths at the mouth like a crazed pitbull. Clearly it is not trained to heal or to obey. Lucky for us it is muzzled. Not trained to follow or to respond to cues, to the skilled hand or firm commanding even keeled voice. More a crazed, non-compliant, tugging, frightened, overwhelmed creature. At large, running, panting, uninterested in or by anyone, or anything else. So great and powerful is FEAR. It looks the mastiff part. So great is the despair, the emotion of this thing thrust on my friend and her friends.
I know this thing a little from my own mother’s attempt and failure to die. I thought my own fear had long ago been euthanized, or at least rehabilitated and managed. Yes, in my own ten-year-old decision to overcome. To not be my mother, but rather, to be who I was meant to be.
I remembered this decision and this shadow, like a face in a year book. In my mind I drew a vengeful mustache and devil horns on the snapshot. In reality, I realize I still hold this thing in the memory, a little too dear, like a child I led, I guided, I walked beside, and taught. I realize that while the memory will always be a part of me, the fear can be released and dismissed. Laid at the feet of Jesus.
Suicide, depression…is emotionally consuming. It was for my mother. I may never understand it. I am not sure I have the energy, or desire to do so. Maybe my life is meant to be spent on happier adventures.
I think on the here and now…Thursday, just last night, when Death came knocking on the green log cabin door. It rang the doorbell. Then unsatisfied, it blew, and blew, like a big, bad wolf. It took the solid core oak entrance door…..and much more (Moore) with it….. than the door. It took Michael, and it violated so many other tender dear ones, both seen and unseen. It threatened hope, and stability.
With the the decisive removal of a dear lost soul, I wonder what it left behind besides this huge, rabid canine. There were no words, only the squeek of a familiar, endearing nick name. I often use this name in a celebratory, sing song way. But it lacks the usual potential for play. This normal, YELLOW hello feels less fun, and more GRAY, stale, and septic, like a reception in Granny’s death chamber…..unrecognizable at first. This is all so very surreal….unbelievable…but it is real, and very, very sad.
I approach. ”Pico …I am so sorry….oh, Pico…..oh, dear Pico.” I say softly, and pull her into me. She is smaller now, aged as if time has sped up in the last 24 hours of stinky stalemate. She fits me more like a child…like one of my students that I hugged today….and then sadly clapped away on this, the last day of school. Pico has lost so much… including weight, and yet gained so much more in the burden of emotion with the suicide and now the unknown.
I hold her a long time. Quiet hangs patiently, as she sobs and yearns for a husband no more, and some kind of understanding. I pull her more into me and hold on, as if to keep her. She does not care that I am cold, and that my 100 Year Old Hoodie is like a soft soggy beach towel. I become a giant, human cotton ball of rain and tears.
I wish I could remove her burden as easily as removing a hoodie. Can’t. In time, we release. What words can one say that human touch can not convey? Still. Eyes meet. I can only say, “I just knew I had to come to you, even like this. I had to hug you and tell you that I love you. I am not here to talk or to question, or to even understand. We will talk some other time.” We hug again……..and I tell her I will be back…soon.
I leave Pico to a house of homogenous females, sisters, family, with a small bouncy grand daughter with crazy hair, and questions, and small bare feet. I wonder what this little one understands or thinks of all of this….what anyone will tell her now and when she is older.
I leave…..hoping that Jesus is here with the family….waiting in the parlor, or sitting on a barstool with extended family…..ready to heal. A Savior….a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief…full of love and grace, and healing. Hope is what we seek. I smile and talk the child talk with the small one for a few seconds upon my exit. This comes easily for me. I pray for my friend Pico, for the rest of the bike ride, and for hours and hours more.
I wish God would let me know what I can do to ease the pain. It will come to me. I believe it will. It always does. And when it does…..I will be there like an open door of love for Pico to walk through.
Hope and love are what the world needs and wants most of. No matter the time, the place, or the circumstance. No matter the entrance, or the exit, or the enduring. I can be a bandaid. Jesus is the deep, sure healer though, the balm of Gilead. Where hope and love reside, there, fear can not easily abide.
I think about the journey of the Good Samaritan, of the Temple Square learning I recently acquired. I think on Mother’s Day, and of arrinving summer. I think on the first aid kit I will assemble in the warming weeks to come. What will be most necessary to have and to carry up Timpanogos or anywhere this summer?
I will need universal precaution, gloves, micro-shield, epinephrine, syringes, water, irrigation tubing, baby aspirin, bandaging, LOVE. I think of the armor of God I should put on each morning along with personal prayer. I miss pulling up to school and perfoming the morning ritual before entering my classroom. I ponder on the emotional first aid kit I carry inside of me each day, but will especially need for a summer of service: Bravery, listening ears, faith, LOVE, a willingness to act in more holy ways, an ounce of wisdom. I wish I could make and package “hope” to share with others. Maybe I can.