For weeks now, I’ve been the first one to bed. I escape into a book and then stare at the wall while my mind runs away with me.
It’s the same tape every night: shower, moisturize, brush teeth, climb in between the sheets, pick up the book of the moment, read until my eyelids close in surrender, flick out the lamp, and then as if the light out is a sign, my eyes find themselves open again, only to search the walls for answers to the things that make my heart pound.
Last night was no exception.
It’s exhausting, but can I tell you something?
I’m winning this war that’s been waged against my mind, y’all.
And I know I’m winning because I’m not sitting up to all hours of the night, dreading the battle that awaits me.
I’m armed as I wait there in the dark.
Every lie that is whispered in my ear is no longer hidden in my heart.
It’s held up to the light and most times the lie simply dissipates.
But sometimes, when I hold Satan’s crafty lie up to the light, a shred of truth is left sitting in my palm.
(And here is where I tell you what I wanted to tell you from the beginning. I had to set you up for this. Thank you.)
It was early when I climbed into bed last night.
Early enough that my red-headed man was still at the table working on Friday night’s commencement speech.
And y’all, that’s early.
I read for a bit and switched out the light and watched the shadows move across the walls. The echoes of canons at Stonewall Manor boomed in patterns of 3.
I mentally ran through my list of things left to do before our friends arrive on Friday. I thought about the long hours they will have on the road and the condition of Tom’s earthly body and how Gay Nell juggles so many things she must be tired. My heart nearly burst as I recalled the sweetness of our relationship with them and that quickly slid into thoughts about how life is short.
In less than 5 minutes, thoughts about making homemade ice cream with dear friends morphed into my life script of cancer and suffering and of course, dying.
I lay there in the dark, very much aware of my beating heart, gripping the edges of my sheets with my fingers and I took those thoughts captive.
At arm’s length, I held them up to truth, fully expecting the lie of imminent death to evaporate.
And it did, but one thing remained.
Who is going to carry my box?
As in, my coffin.
I’m sure your suntanned faces just did a double take. Yes, I said coffin. Who thinks about coffins and dying while sitting on the brink of the summer of freedom? Yours truly.
I feel quite morbid even writing it down, but I am committed to this idea of writing truth in the moment and well, this is it.
I tossed and turned and my mind flitted from Tom back to Gay Nell and then back to dying and coffins and I thought of the hundreds of people who would line up to carry their coffins when their roll was called up yonder.
People line up to carry the boxes of people who have loved them well.
And Tom and Gay Nell love well.
Will anyone line up to carry my box?
This morning, I think back to the little question in my palm, the one sifted from the lie of an early death, and I close my fingers around it.
I roll it around in my hand like a stone of remembrance.
And what Satan meant for harm, God is working to my good.
For I have no fear in dying, no fear of an unmanned box, only a gentle nudge towards living.
I push the stone deep into my pocket and it reads, Love Well.