On the cold afternoon of January 20th, the world as I knew it shattered.
We were ashen-faced, searching heaven desperately for a confirmation that it was all a mistake somehow. My Dad’s face is etched deeply on my memory, as he clasped his face in the deepest agony of grief. We sat in a big circle in the living room, trying to stop our world spinning out of control.
But it spun.
Nothing could have braced us for the impact of the shattering. Just a few days before I had run through the kitchen to give him a quick goodbye hug. He was strong and dear and so ALIVE as he left us.
He was the oldest of the five youngest, and him and I lived in a beautiful bubble of childhood oblivion for much of our younger years. We traipsed the woods and killed frogs and fried them over the fire. We built amazing TPs and fried chicken feed pancakes over a makeshift stove. We made a tree house high in the maple tree, stained our feet with green grass and mud and hoed corn rows side by side in the early morning hours of those glorious summers. The scariest thing in our life was listening to Rikki Tikki Tavi or Old Sly Eye, read out loud when it was dark.
On that cold January afternoon everything as I knew it came back to me in a rush of memories. We longed to stay there, embracing the memories we knew instead of facing the world without him. His guitar stood there, waiting to be tucked under his arm. His laundry was in his drier. His car sat in our driveway.
Our hearts were crushed by the reality that He wasn’t coming home.
We searched heaven for answers. I’m still searching heaven for answers. Five long years later, I can’t say as some do that I can see the good that came out of his death somehow; that our family is closer now than ever somehow. I stopped trying to find the reason to make his death palatable long ago, because it still seems without reason and it still hurts as much as it did that first January night. I see the gaping holes of his passing and the grief etched on my parent’s faces. I find myself sinking to my kitchen floor in waves of sorrow.
We buried him high on a Honduran mountain, and as the rain fell we gathered around his coffin before it was lowered and stretched our hands to touch what seemed like the last part of our Peter. Our hands were all on his coffin; one last grasping touch of what we knew.
And then He was gone.
I have tried these years to remember his words to me, and to live in his honor. Some things died with him, and one of them was my love of singing and music. Many songs held a memory and I couldn’t stand the heartbreak of hearing my voice without his. This year, a whole handful of years after his death, God is giving me back my voice again and I’m singing louder and fuller then I have since his death. It is like a confirmation of His restorative power at work in my life, and in my voice. I have purposed this 2020 to honor Peter by picking up my Ukulele and singing again because I know what he would say tonight if he looked down to see me sobbing as I try to write through this haze.
I know he would tell me to keep singing.
Today I walked through one of the brothel districts of Athens. It was dark and cold, just like it was five years ago. The faces that passed me were etched with the realties of sin and despair. We prayed in desperation as we walked, clinging to faith that God would show himself in this place. The painful reality is that we can’t control anything about this life. We spin with the impact of sudden sorrows and chronic problems. We face the wretched conditions of the dark places of our world and our own hearts, and on days like today it mingles with the grief of our losses.
We cannot control, and so we let go and find peace in the trusting acceptance of a sovereign will much greater than our own. That’s why my heart is breaking with sadness, but filled with a peaceful hope tonight. We can weep bitter tears of grief, but lift our faces to a hope-filled tomorrow. We can allow the pain to wash through us and purify us, and live peaceful as we accept new beginnings stark with the reality of our losses.
Pain is not the end of this story. I know I have such little vapor of time left here. I purpose in Peter’s honor and for the sake of Christ to be more instant in prayer, more fervent in spirit, more loving in action this 2020. I will be with him soon, and till then I will fight to bring others with me.
It all seems like grief and darkness unless we allow Him in. And when He enters, he breathes sustenance and peace into raw and bleeding parts of our hearts. Whatever you’re facing tonight, wether that is loss or a bitter midnight of the soul please know that when you grasp for Him, He comes to you.
He is the one who swallowed death in victory. The darkness has not overcome, HE has overcome the world so He can overcome our hearts, even in their rawest, most shattered state. He is present with us in our tears tonight. Joy is coming in that grand moment of the second coming, and then we will see it all as it is. Hold on, this is only the vapor. All of eternity awaits us.
I urge you now in whatever state you are in, to lift your face once in a while from the pain you are feeling, and allow yourself to embrace the joy that is coming.
Even so come, Lord Jesus.