In 10 hours I get to see Alicia after 10 weeks and one day of being apart. At first, reverting to bachelorhood was a party. I ate meat, played board games, got lazy about recycling, and drank beer. Actually, I drank more herbal iced tea than beer, but the point is that I did very manly things. But after the first month I began to experience severe symptoms of what I suppose would be best diagnosed as lovesickness. My best friend, my lover, was far away. But as the day approaches weariness has given way to excitement, or to be more accurate, excitement has been added to weariness. Last night I was so jazzed to see her I could not sleep, not a wink, and as I lay there in the dark thoughts crashed over me, eventually overwhelming my heart with a profound sense of blessing. I got up determined to share these thoughts with you. (So please pardon any sleepy verbosity you might encounter. I am writing in a sleep-deprived stupor.)
A good friend of mine, Ben Walker, had to bury his mother recently. It got me thinking about death and bereavement. Comparing my bereavement to his is about as ridiculous as comparing a pinch to losing a leg, but it has nonetheless provided helpful perspective. Because it is a perspective constantly eroded by the grind of our daily banality, it must be reestablished from time to time and for me it happened last night.
Obviously, losing a loved one or being separated from them is only excruciating because we care. A very easy solution would be to never love anyone, care for anything, or enjoy anyone. If we did that, if such coldness was possible, the day your father died would be just another breezy summer day. But for humans, you and me, we grieve, we wail, we cry, we ache, and all of it heaves deep within our chests and stomachs. Frankly, I find this response to loss very encouraging.
Loss is only capable of causing pain when we have something good to lose. Loss reveals what we have been enjoying this whole time. It allows us to see how those we lose are enormously precious to us. This morning this idea overpowered my brain until I felt nearly unbearable levels of gratefulness as I ached to see my wife.
Loss helps us in another way. It gives us insight into other relationships. Loved ones do not magically become important to us because they die or go to Rwanda. If so, living loved ones and nearby loved ones, are likely similarly connected to us. Imagine a farmer who goes out to the field to check his carrots. He can’t see the carrots underground, so he pulls one up, roots and all, and then has a pretty good guess about the state of his other carrots. Bereavement pulls up one of our carrots, and that process sucks, but it also provides an opportunity to see the likely depth of other relationships. We should not waste it.
Those of you who have read Therefore Joy already know that one of my big mantras is that humans universally possess an embarrassingly pathetic understanding of the enormity of good in the world and in our lives. We do well when we widen that understanding and share our insights with each other. The widening thought that hit me in the face this morning, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last, is pretty simple: I enjoy this girl so much that just the prospect of being reunited with her makes me too excited to sleep. These roots run deep.
Alicia will die on me someday, or I will die on her, and one of us will see the roots pulled out, and it will be awful. But until then, I want the presence of mind to see and appreciate our deep love and enjoyment of each other. I want to treasure her affectionately before I lose her. My hunch is that it will make the good times even better.
In other news, my goal this summer was to finish sending Therefore Joy in to publishers by the time Alicia got back and I did it! I feel 10 pounds lighter.