I am long in staying; I am slow to leave, especially when it comes to you, my friend…You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet. It’s the fine art of being who I am…And at the risk of wearing out my welcome, at the risk of self discovery, I’ll take every moment and every minute that you give me…
And I wish all the people I love the most could gather in one place and know each other and love each other well. And I wish we could all go camping and lay beneath the stars when there’s nothing to do and stories to tell. We’d sit around a campfire and we’d make each other laugh, remembering when… (Sara Groves)
Maybe it’s a longing for eternity, I can’t quite tell.
The boys and I returned home a few weeks ago from a week-long stay in Roseau, MN. Roseau is where Jeremy grew up and where we buried his body last summer. His parents live in a two-story house surrounded by farmland where you can see the sky for miles. There is ample space and a constant invitation to breathe. Even on days when the winds are strong, there is still a certain kind of calm and quiet that fills my soul. And at nighttime, the endless number of stars that can be seen remind me of God’s infinite, amazing, and intentional design for both the world and for my very own life. I recall that once during the summer of 1998, Jeremy and I laid out under those stars for an entire night on their front lawn—awake and talking and nearly being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I wish I could remember what we talked about that filled up an entire night, but I remember walking into his home as the sun was rising thinking, I was made for this. I was made for this God who makes a world like this. And I was made for Jeremy. The world was bigger and grander with him. At least it seemed to be.
And then 15 years later…
It’s summer again…the boys would awake each morning, run downstairs to eat Grandma Debbie’s muffins, and they’d run outside and play for hours. I would awake slowly, I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because I was waking up in Jeremy’s room, in his bed; a room that we had stayed in together almost every time we’d visited for the last decade. And though one might think I’d feel it more strange to wake up in my own bed alone on any given day, it is here that I feel his absence the most; perhaps it’s the memory of his presence. And in this act of “remembering,” I’d mostly feel okay…and I mostly wouldn’t. I’d slowly get ready and walk down the stairs to the main floor and meander through the rest of the morning. Another hour or so would pass; it’d be getting close to lunch time and I’d realize the boys weren’t dressed yet. They’d been playing outside in their jammies with sweatshirts on all morning…and I smiled. Good LORD, thank you for giving them a place like this to play. Thank you for giving me the space to wander. We can’t do this in the cities—not quite like this, anyway.
But that life—in the cities—has its glories as well (many of them, I promise). But this particular week, that world felt so far away. This used to be a gift…it used to feel good to “get away”. But lately, I want to be everywhere at once and I want everyone with me. There and here feel too much like two separate worlds at times. And I think that feeling has increased since Jeremy’s death. He was the constant no matter where I was. We were home no matter where we were as long as we were together. But it hasn’t taken me long to see the invitation in this: God is to be my constant. He always has been and I’ve known it and been grateful for it, but this invitation is for me to dwell there, to dwell in Him—no matter where I am, no matter who I’m with, no matter how I’m feeling. And I hope it may lead to a deeper joy in being His.
Yet if only Jeremy could come back. I have felt so ready for him these past weeks. I don’t expect him to walk through the door again, but how I wish that he could. I’ve worked so hard this year trying to make life doable without him, trying to make our house feel like home and our days feel full without him. But I’m ready to give him back his space. I want to blow all the dust off his books and hang his shirts back up in the closet. I want to tell him about all the things we’ve done in the past year. I want him to see the boys and how they’ve grown and who they’re becoming and share in the pride of having been a part of making them who they are. But mostly, I want him to see how good God has been to us—how good He still is to us (and I know he knows this…). But Jeremy’s death and my continued life has often felt so seamless, it sometimes makes me imagine that his re-entrance into our lives could be the same.
As much as it seemed, those years ago, that somehow sharing life with Jeremy made God and the world bigger and grander, the reality is, Jeremy only helped open my eyes to something that already was and that still is. Yes, there are moments when his presence would be helpful in bringing more life to something that seems so dull. But what I’ve experienced in this past year without Jeremy is a continuation of life and relationship with God that has only deepened. And I’m sure it’ll go deeper still because that invitation from Him, I know, is always open. For me, Jeremy’s absence has not diminished God’s greatness. How I wish I could blame Him for causing the pain. How I wish I could say, He is a small God who is unfaithful and unjust and forsakes His promises. But He isn’t. And He doesn’t.
This coming week, I’ll be bringing Jo Isaac with me for a two-night stay right on the rocks and shores of Lake Superior. This is in following with a tradition that Jeremy and I started with the boys when Aedan was going into kindergarten. We wanted to build in intentional time alone with each of the boys during their childhood. We felt this was extremely important and we were deeply committed to it. And our trips to Duluth with Aedan and then with Eli proved to be monumental and wonderful, and the experiences we would share together were cemented into the boys’ memories. And when I’ve thought of this trip with Jo Isaac, I am tempted to say, this isn’t fair. This isn’t fair that Jo Isaac will make this trip with me and not with the both of us. But I know it will be beneficial. And I know he’s looking forward to it. And I pray that God would be intentional with me so that I can be intentional with him. And probably the most gracious of all things, is that just a few cabins down, four of my closest friends will be staying near as well. So to have the freedom to be alone with Jo Isaac, to invest in who he is, and to experience together whatever God sees fit, is going to be met with the comfort of not being alone, of not experiencing the hollowness that I could feel as I visit places with Jo Isaac that were intended to be memories that he would build with the both of us (thank you, LORD).
Jo Isaac often talks about all the things he had planned to do with Jeremy. It is a heart-breaking list to listen to. But he’ll experience all that he needs to in life, with the people that God sees fit for him to share it with—and there have been many already. And one day—one glorious day—he will enter into eternity knowing that all the experiences he longed to share with Jeremy were somehow met in sharing them with God. The constant One. The never-leaving. The Maker of his heart and life.
And eternity will come (and I can’t wait). To share life with friends and family, all at once, Jeremy included. And the boys—oh, how I long for them to reunite. Can you imagine what that will be like? When Jo Isaac walks through the gates knowing fully and being fully known by God…and by Jeremy. The one he ached for, the one he longed for, the one he didn’t know well enough…what longings will be fulfilled! How deeply satisfying that will be! The ache has to be worth something. If nothing else, it will deepen the satisfaction when all is made right again and we are with our Savior. When we are in one place. And we have all the time in the world.