Thursday, January 19, 2012

...the morning night fell

Yesterday Jim, the husband of my young friend, Beth, died suddenly, unexpectedly. The news was shocking. A mutual friend, Melissa, wrote this morning, “I have thought of little else since I found out.” Indeed. A continent and a few decades separate us. But love binds. Forever. And with it, vulnerability, tears, memories. Beth and her children are surrounded by family and close friends. The precious message sent to me by a friend ten years ago keeps circling. “In the silence of a caring heart know that you are loved.” Her husband has also since died, her caring heart shattered. This morning I write: to sort, to absorb. Words weep from my soul.
Beth’s words pierce the hearts of all who love her: “My very best friend, my husband of fifteen years, the father of my children”...her partner, gone. She adds,”I need all of your prayers, please, because right now I am lost.”  This I understand. I have visited this lonely place. Beth was with me then.
After the screeching halt of a life joined with mine...after the knowing, the awful knowing...came a pain too deep for tears. The tears would follow, fiercely, weeks later. Great racking sobs that took my breath but left the ache untouched. With my parents, my grandparents, death was bittersweet but anticipated, a gentle ellipsis at the end of a sentence that trailed into eternity. Not so with a partner. In the middle of my fifty-first year, an exclamation point divided life into before and after. And my days and nights - especially the nights - rained question marks. 
I keep reading C.S. Lewis today. His wife, writer Joy Davidman, died fours years after they wed. This civil union between two friends allowed Davidman and her sons to remain in Great Britain. Soon after, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. The relationship deepened and they wanted a Christian marriage. Not easy since Davidman was divorced. But they were married at her hospital bedside a year later. 
These two former atheists forged a union neither could have anticipated. Davidman described her conversion following her alcoholic husband’s nervous breakdown: “For the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, ‘the master of my fate’...All my defenses - all the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God  - went down momentarily - and God came in.”
Warren Lewis wrote this about his brother’s wife: “For Jack [as Lewis was known to close friends and family], the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met...who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun.” 
C.S. Lewis said of his wife: “She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have had good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more.”
Of her early death, he wrote, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” The unsought deal, the dreaded exchange. In the early morning hours, I lift my sweet friend to the great good God, up to his healing light. And I mourn. For her. For myself. For us all. I do not want the deal. I want time. And yet, I know the gift is greater than my limited mind. Its length and breadth and height are unfathomable. 

Forgive my disbelief, O God. 
Comfort my friend, Beth.
Shower her with blessings.
I praise you.
This I know:
You father the fatherless;
You are the defender of widows.
And, when the night comes
and I do not know 
and you seem so very far away, 
you hold me still 
in your everlasting arms.
Peace, my sweet Beth, love and light
forever after


Jeannette said...

Tremendous sharing...thank you.

GretchenJoanna said...

May this child of God, Jim, rest in peace.