I gather up the bags that sit in the front seat of the car and the steps I’ve memorized from the car to the house fail me under the cover of night. I feel my way over the broken bits of bricks and mislaid pavers, up the steps to the backdoor. I can see the lamps still on in the family room and his feet resting on the ottoman. His legs are outstretched and his Bible across his lap, the end of his pen between his teeth.
He’s staring into wide open space.
I push open the door, dropping the bags to the floor and I collapse next to him.
We use small sentences with small words and I miss the way we used to talk over one another, our words running ribbons in air, excitement in our voices, all smiles.
I miss it.
I watch him work through his sermon. Lines, the ones etched around his eyes, longer give way to smiles, instead, they furrow in thought and in emotion so fierce words no longer comprehend the depth of feeling.
Our words have become few.
It’s 10:30 when he takes his glasses off and rests them on top of his books. He yawns and for a moment I am back in our first year of seminary, watching him lace up his work boots to head out the door to UPS. I flashback to the 2 jobs and classes and his 2 hour naps that sustained him for over a year.
I remember mixing gallons of Gatorade and buying energy drinks by the case and nights when I worried whether or not he would fall asleep at the wheel.
We walked through the motions of life, not feeling like we were living.
But we were.
Only the living felt a bit like dying.
I watch him as he stretches his arms and legs and rubs his head one more time. He’ll say goodnight after he finishes his nightly routine and I’ll hear the alarm clock being set. He’ll be asleep in less than 10 minutes.
And I sit alone a while longer, whittling away at the stuff in my head, turning people around and trying to make sense of their stories. I furrow my own brow and wonder how everyone fits in this story that God is writing. I order my day to come. I tuck away my feelings and make space for another’s mess.
I gather the shirts that need to be ironed and make sure they are ready for the girl down the street and I know tomorrow is gone and it hasn’t even arrived.
I slip into my pajamas and I plead with the Lord to make this dying feel more like living.
I wake this morning to sticky humidity, the promise of rain stretched out across the dark sky. I walk out to pull the stray weeds, pulling gently to grab their roots.
I feel beads of perspiration on my brow and I wipe them with the back of my hand. My legs ache from the bending low and my nails hold the earth and I breathe in this redeeming work, this taking back the living from the clutches of choking death.
And I breathe in a bit more of Jesus and exhale a bit more of me with every pull of the weeds.