I have struggled with whether I should write this post, whether I have "the right." My husband and I both, as we grieve for a man with whom we can count the number of individual conversations we've had on one had, have struggled with the burden of a pain we feel unjustified in having. Not because we have not been impacted, but because we know there are those whose sorrow runs much deeper.
Yet, justified or not, there are two scenes running a constant loop in my mind. The first being the moment on Wednesday night, when I stood in the hall of our church and heard the words I would never have imagined in my entire life. From the tone of the voice in the question, "Have you heard?" I knew I was facing something serious. The name that came next flooded me with dread - not this, not one of ours - and the rest of the sentence, the means by which his life ended much too soon, were unthinkable. And though I stood strong at the time, painted on the face of ignorance for those who did not yet know and carried on, I have since fallen to my knees at reliving that one moment.
Almost immediately after, my brain brings to mind the image, for some reason, of his boots. The cowboy boots that were his Sunday best, peeking out under his jeans as he casually crossed his ankle over his knee in the second row of our Sunday School class less than three days before. A semi-photographic memory clings to the strangest images at times and this is one of them. I see those crossed legs, the arm wrapped around the back of his wife's chair, his easy laugh as he shares his plans for the week. A week that was never finished.
And though I know our personal interaction had been limited, I also know we were family, in a way I would never have thought possible until I entered this Sunday School class - a class with whom we live our daily struggles and celebrate our joys, where the word "Unspoken" is rarely spoken and transparency is par for the course. We share our flaws, we praise the Lord for our successes. Though introverts like Philip and I are rarely known for actively participating in discussion, we are there. When we speak we are heard, but more often, we are listening. We know each and every person that has come to share life in our circle.
This "class" isn't confined to four walls or a certain time on Sunday mornings. We have traveled together from first years of marriage to first pregnancies, through losses and gains, joining together at that precious time in our lives when we are learning who we are, both as adults and, more importantly, as followers of Christ. Rarely are we all in one place at one time, but always our hearts are together.
So how could we lose one of our own? And how can we continue to rejoice with one another when this is where living life together has carried us? How can the overwhelming joy at his announcement at the class Christmas party over their coming blessing turn to such sorrow before we've even welcomed the baby into our arms?
And, most of all, how could anyone who hasn't met him even begin to understand what we have lost? We have lost a passion that ignites us, a motivating force to action when many of us only ask, "What can we do?", a contagious love for life and for people. All of this contained in the spirit of one person. One person who has left us.
This is how two people, who rarely spoke with such a man one-on-one, find ourselves grieving - tears on the floor, prayers lifted up, sorrow poured out - grieving. Because he was one of our own and his presence will always be felt.