I feel as if I should publish a blank page. I can't find--don't want to find--words. I am drawn over and over again to Paul: "The Spirit prays for us, with sighs too deep for words." I feel like I've been praying that way--for my father and mother.
Dad died two weeks ago. A year and eleven days after Mom. His death was not tragic. He was 94, unhappy, and in pain. In many ways, death was a relief. He was a private man. There were few shared moments like there were with Mom. Still, I miss him. I long for something I cannot name about him that is gone. And so I find myself praying without words. For what, I do not know.
I tell my Bible study group that discipleship has far more to do with how we live on earth than with what happens after we die. I have little patience for excessive talk about heaven. Unless you are dying, it seems almost irrelevant. Yet in this past year, I've thought often of what I hope for my parents, and for me. I guess I would amend my words to include people who've experienced the death of someone they loved.
More than anything, I want my parents to know how deeply they are loved, and that they are worthy of that love. I don't think they knew that this side of reality, and more than anything that is what I grieve.
As for me, I have known for a long time that my world is full of people who love me, and that is enough. If I never experience another ounce of healing, what I have experienced is enough. To love and be loved deeply; to give and receive unconditional love, and to be healed enough to know that love is all that matters.
I am awed by the poetry of Isaiah's promise: "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings of eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint." After a lifetime of fighting the resistance of spasticity in almost every move I make, I would love to feel that fluidity and grace in my body. But I would also love to know what it is to truly love, accept, and receive this body as it is--with the spasticity that is cerebral palsy; without the anger and frustration that are so often a part of my response to it.
I hope that much of heaven is what my life has been--that you and I can continue the conversation we've been having for almost as long as I can remember. That I can commune with people I love and admire. I don't care how you answer. I do care that I learn--I have loved learning--that I get to discover. For the record, I could care less who really shot John Kennedy. You can skip the "Well done thou good and faithful servant." I've never been much for fancy religious language, and one of my greatest pleasures has been giving you a hard time. I figure there are enough properly pious people around, who say the right things in the right language. I don't need to pretend to be one of them. So I don't need the "Well done" greeting. But a high five or a two thumbs up would be nice. (How is Roger Ebert anyway? Tell him I said hi. While you're at it, tell Gene Siskel his theater is one of the best things about living in Chicago.)
Actually I have spent much of this year wondering if there even is an afterlife. So I suspect that if there is, you will greet me with a mischievous smile and "Told you so!" I am not good at trusting that you will protect, save, or rescue me-- Much of my life has been about endurance-- But I absolutely trust that you and I are friends. So whether or not there is an afterlife, I am left with just two words:
Thank you-- For the friendship, for the love and wonderful humor; for the grace and conversation that are the fabric and foundation of my life.
I hope you surround and fill my parents with the love they never knew, and that they are laughing.