Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Saturday morning, Chris's grandfather passed away. 
His funeral is tomorrow, Thursday . . . well, today, I guess, considering that it's midnight.

Funerals are such strange things. An odd attempt to summarize an entire lifetime--a mind, a soul--in an hour. To honor them to tears and sentences that either resonate in your bones or sound so hollow. A light has been snuffed out. How do you put that into words? How do you adequately describe the one you've lost or speak into those left behind?
It doesn't bring them back.
There's forever an empty seat at the table in this life. You won't hear their voice, feel their touch.  An emptiness has been torn open and nothing can repair it. Sometimes you can patch it over time, but, under that band-aid, there is still a void. And you know it. You feel it. Some days it's simply more raw and bleeding than others.

I remember the day of my own grandfather's funeral nearly ten years ago (has it really been so long?). I was not close to my grandfather, though he was a good man. I remember waiting in the back room of the church in skirt I hadn't worn in years but was the only almost-formal, almost-somber thing that still fit (freshman twenty be damned).  My grandmother entered and was immediately enveloped by my aunts and she said, voice quavering, "There was construction on the road today.  They were just building like they've been building for weeks, and I clutched my steering wheel and wanted to scream. Don't they know?! Didn't they know Marvin was gone? Why are they still building?" She shook her fists as if she were fighting an invisible steering wheel. "DIDN'T THEY KNOW!?"

I think of those words, now, whenever my own world aches.
Doesn't it know? Doesn't it know the pain? Why is it still spinning? Why are the birds still singing? Why don't they stop? Don't they know? Don't they know?
But the world doesn't stop. Sometimes, it even seems to go faster, pushing us forward while we desperately try to catch our breath, calloused thing that life is. It doesn't give one stinkin crap about pain. It has things to do, molecules to arrange, seasons to line up. We only try to keep our head above the rising seas.
But doesn't it know?

I barely knew Luther, but the loss of his presence is palpable. The man was a true patriarch, adored by his family--his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. Patriarch is the best word for him, I think. He led his clan, a solid rock at the head of the table, speaking grace over the holiday meals, watching, teaching. A patriarch.

I wish I had the proper source for this photo, but I know it was from a cousin's wedding a couple years ago.
I thought it summed up Luther and Melanie as beautifully as a picture could.
  I did not know Luther well, but I knew he was a good man. Steady, reliable. You could tell that just by listening to him speak. Even-toned, deep. If he sang, it would have been baritone.  He had a faint accent, just slight. Most Floridians speak like "Yanks"--Notherners--no twang, no drawl, straight with hardly an accent. We're too much of a melting pot to have a distinct manner of speaking like the rest of Southeast. But old Floridians--people with the swampland in their blood, people who have worked the land, breathe the land--they have an accent. It's not as deep as a Southern drawl or Redneck twang. It's subtle, but it's there.  Luther spoke that way.  He was third generation in the family farming business.  His grandfather and father had immigrated from Slovakia and settled in Central Florida, dirt poor, only to create a celery empire. Luther had Florida in his bones, but a piece of his heart was in Africa where he and his wife did ministry for many years.

You ever meet someone who's faith just radiated off of them? You never wondered, never doubted, what they believe? Luther had no fear in sharing his faith. He had no hesitation, no second thoughts. His faith came first, and so he boldly proclaimed the power of God and the need for salvation. The man appeared unshakeable.

His skin was permanently tanned but only faintly lined and his teeth were always shockingly white. 
He and his kin don't age.
Like at all.
Pretty and ageless. It's hard to keep up.
He struck me as a serious man--determined and observant--but not hard.  There was a great deal of warmth there.  He had a ready smile--white, straight teeth flashing--and advice or anyone who asked and some who didn't. He spoke when he felt the words needed to be said--not before.

He had large hands that I'm told were constantly fixing everything. In his spare time.  He built, flew, crashed, and repaired the remote-controlled model airplanes before drones were cool. 

Like I said, I didn't know Luther well. I do not feel the void as Chris feels the void, as his mother does, as his grandmother does.

I knew Luther adored his wife, that he fit her perfectly--it was remarkably obvious but you didn't necessarily notice until it wasn't there; it was as natural as breathing. Do you ever realize how remarkable breathing is? But we never think about it until it's gone. Until that one piece of the puzzle vanishes leaving a hole in the picture that used to be complete. Melanie is vivacious and expressive and loquacious and passionate--the woman is a lovable fireball encased in glitter and glam. Luther was quiet compared to his wife, and he was steady, practical. Where she sparkled in animal print, he wore simple, nondescript polos. Where she rolled with laughter, he had a deep, resonating chuckle that seemed reserved for only the best of jokes.  Fire and earth. For as long as I knew them, they seemed like the ying to the others yang--balanced together. Their passions and convictions, however were matched--you get them talking religion, medicine, healing, or Africa, and they are in line with one another, keeping matching paces in the marathon of conversation. And, oh, the deep, reverberating strength of those convictions.
They were sweethearts since high school, and that kind of bond . . . you meld together. You become a unit--individuals, still yes, but individuals so bonded to one another it's strange to see them apart. To think of one without the other.
Now, it's just Melanie.
Melanie to do alone what they used to do together and to do all the practical, little things Luther used to do. 
You don't realize how much someone does until they can't do them any more, even the tiniest things like charging batteries or rinsing cups.
The void again.
The emptiness.

I can't imagine Chris suddenly not being. Just not. It would be like someone ripping off one arm and one leg and saying, "Now continue walking and doing like you've always done--you're not missing that much." or tearing out my heart and screaming, "NOW LIVE!"
I don't know how I could. I know I must, and, eventually, I would, but, oh, the agony in between. The inability to move, but move you must.
Because it doesn't stop.
It doesn't know.

Still, there is the belief that there is another life, one beyond this one.
That the soul lives on in heaven or hell.
Luther was a believer. A firm, passionate, committed believer in the grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. So we have hope and faith that we will meet again.
That our faces will shine upon each other without any pain or bitterness or the limitations of human flaws. That Luther is now without suffering. After battling multiple myeloma, he is whole in a way he has never before been whole. More whole than we can imagine in this life. There's relief in that, hope, comfort. We cling to that hope in the void.

Because there's always light in the darkness.
There has to be.
The Light knows. It holds, it weeps, it comforts.
This life doesn't know. It doesn't care.
Light does.
Light cares immensely.
And it carries us through the void.