The Sojourner

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Bobby,

Ten years since your passing, I devote my morning to you on this anniversary.  Amidst getting the oldest to the bus stop, feeding the youngest, and “being with” the middle, I have tried to write you to somehow connect with you across time and space.  The written word is insufficient.  My memories are starting to show wear and tear.  The distance from your family during this sabbatical year makes the time and space feel all the more insurmountable.

The reality of your death feels more comfortable than the memory of it.  When the memory is fresh, then it feels like news – when your death was newly received or noteworthy; when it was not true and then when it suddenly was.  Living in the space of time close to when it might not have been makes me remember the inherent hope that there could be some cosmic re-ordering of events in time that could right the wrong, fix the mortal problem, or resurrect the recently dead.

How I wish you could know your “little” sister and brother as adults living into the people God is creating them to be.  How I wish you could know your older sister as a mother.  How I wish you could know your niece and nephew and brother-in-law.  How I wish you could continue in loving and in being loved by your mother and fathers.  How I wish you could know my brother’s wife and his new son.  How I wish you could know my husband and our three boys.  How I wish you could know your friends’ present life with jobs and children and all the places they have traveled.

How I wish you could know and we could witness your delight.

But the flames knew you.  The fire knew you into its own powerful being in such a way that stopped this interrelational knowing.

As the flames knew you, we became acquainted with them, as well.  The flames were the teacher of mortality whose lesson was clear: life will end, we will not know when or how it comes, and no amount of preparation or preservation will stop its inevitable coming.

This mortality of ours is a permanent reality but my awareness of it cannot endure its permanence.  I can only drift in and out of it.  Pitching a tent in the reality of mortality would either turn me into a monk (choosing a life of detachment) or into a wretch (choosing a life of misery).  I cannot reside in a permanent state of awareness of our mortality.

It is a reality in which I can only sojourn.  I sojourn from that reality back into a sense of immortality – a life built upon the assumption that tomorrow is coming, I can predict who will be there, and preparation must be made.  I execute plans, dream new dreams, and make lunches for the next day.  This state of immortality is a not a permanent one but it is the one in which I must live at a basic level in order to keep breathing, moving, living.

I sojourn between mortality and immortality.  I enter into one and I unpack my bag.  I settle in and I see, learn, and do what is right for the time.  Then the sirens ring, I pack up and I sojourn into the other state.  I unpack again, finding in my bag new things I have learned and old things I have relearned.

In your absence, I am the sojourner.  I travel back and forth.  I am one whom the journey is creating.

Since that day ten years ago, the journey is teaching me about acceptance.  I am learning to give permission to mortality so as to quit fighting what cannot be won.  I am learning to consent to receive what I do not always want.  Mortality need not my acceptance for it to be true.  But I need the process of acceptance.  I need the process of giving myself permission to live and love even if it will wreck me.

But acceptance would be worthless without the gospel.  I can only sojourn between these two states as one dependent upon the utter audaciousness of our faith – that life after mortality can still be good and able to produce good.

I depend on a daily dose of endurance and forgiveness for what comes.
I depend on an eternal love shared by those who sojourn with me.
I depend on the kingdom that unites you and me across the mortal lines.

I depend on a God who gives what I need and guides me where I need to be.
I depend on a Spirit who remains so that I am never alone.
I depend on a Savior who redeems mortality by transforming it into a resurrection I cannot understand but I am promised.

With my feet firmly rooted in the hope of the gospel, I accept the closed door.  I accept the stone’s permanence in front of your tomb.  I accept that my hope for some cosmic reordering of events denies the hope that mortality is not problem but gateway to God.

Oh, how I would change the outcome if I could.  Oh, how I would work vigorously to unite you back with your family if but for one magical evening.  Oh, how I would give up all I have learned if but to receive a hug, to see your eyes, or to delight in our shared smiles.

Meanwhile, I sojourn.  I follow the God who leads me by green pastures, still waters, the darkest valley, and a crowded table.  While I do, I trust that you are whole and that your permanent state is in the arms of the God who subdues the flames and carries you close to the divine chest.  I trust that you still are and that writing you still makes sense.

Until we dwell in the house of the Lord together, I pause on the journey and remember to give thanks for you.

Carol

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