(I wrote most of this almost a year ago, which means it's almost been a year since Ed 's death. I figured the Lenten season is a good time to reflect on our mortality and the hope which yet carries us through. I still miss you, Ed...)
April 20, 2009
The first hour of my drive up north is always hard because I am driving through all of the familiar places, knowing they are not my destination...
I have traveled to the place where I was raised to attend the funeral of a man who helped shape my sense of self. I, as did he, found out he was given 6 months to live a month ago; the prognosis changed to two weeks on Sunday, then two days on Monday. He died early Wednesday morning. I cried almost constantly for those two days until I received "the news", and stopped until the moment I entered the room where his funeral was held. I had to protect myself: death had entered into our lives with much violence this week.
I have an interesting relationship with death. My knowledge of it isn't through witnessing the path of nature approaching its completion, the circle of life coming to a close. We Dosens are a hearty people--I have been to more 90th birthday parties than I have funerals of my aged relatives. The death I've know is only in the raw, knawingly tragic way. A 19-year-old church member killed in a car accident when I was 16. My mother's best friend succumbing to lung cancer before 50, leaving behind a 14 and 5-year-old, though she had never smoked a cigarette in her life. My dear high school pastor, mentor, and friend, Ed, who left his 7 and 5-year old at 37 last Wednesday, along with a host of communities that were touched by his faith, love, and compassion. I haven't known poverty; I haven't lived through dire injustice; I haven't seen genocide; but I have mourned. I am thankful that my hope in life has remained.
The funeral was a blur: I kept trying to hold back the immensity of tears that were building in my eyes, the constant reflections on Ed's wonderful life and cheesy humor acting as the scaffolding to my composure. After the service, I went out for lunch with a group of my old friends from high school. It was an entrance into the perpetual circle of attempted reconciliation and painful reminders that all of us change beyond recognition from the people we once were. Especially me. The personal affect of the loss began to weigh down on me: Ed was one of the few people from home who really knew me. He knew about those terrible things that I have been through, and cherished what I have become. My gateway to much of what made up my past life was gone.
I returned to my parents house, and not the house I grew up in, with the desire to think of anything else besides the week I had just experienced, so I decided to clean my closet that held all of my old things, much to my mother's delight. I decided to sort my depression away, and toss my grief aside with old photographs and term papers from my high school years. The spring cleaning of my soul yielded many moments of necessary reflection, especially over how skinny I actually was after finding those pictures from high school. I found that I was able to look through the box I had of Parker's things--the very existence of which disgusted me, but yet could not make myself dispose of. Though Ed's death plunged me into a despair that I did not emerge from for another 4 months, it did help release the heavy armor of pain and self-rejection that I had been bearing for the years following my break-up with him, my manipulative high school boyfriend (manipulative's being generous). I think I threw that box away.
My favorite finds were some things that I had stored from the summer after my freshman year of college--a summer of romance with both a man and a country, neither of which ever fully panned out. I had met and started dating the man whom I would be paired with for almost the entire remaining duration of college, and had traveled to Russia, with which I wish I had fallen harder for, between the two of them. I went to Russia after loosing a bet to God that there would not be a suitable place in the world where I could go to on a short-term summer mission trip. When the school-sponsored trips began to be advertised, I knew I didn't really want to go anywhere, but felt severely un-Evangelical for feeling thus, and said, "Fine, God: if there is a trip to...um...Russia, I'll go", thinking, of course, no one on earth would plan a trip to Russia. And the rest is history...
Russia captured a large portion of my heart that it still holds, and I was pleased to have much of my community back at home supporting me in my ventures there. The school wrote letters out to people who I listed as important to me, asking that they write me a letter of encouragement. Ed was one of those people, and his letter, though self-proclaimed terrible at grammatical structure, gave me hope and peace when I wondered what I was doing there. Though four years later I still wonder, I believe Ed's expression through writing his letter helps shed light a bit: I went to love. I always go forth to love.
I found and read the letter written to me four years ago by this wonderful friend. Only when I reconnect with the life we shared together by reading its words, when the sensation of our intimacy of friendship and mentorship is rekindled, can I say at the time of his death, "God, You are Good." When I am reminded of why God gives us one another, the loss becomes a little more understandable and the pain a little more tolerable. With this letter, the life of Ed in God will always remain--God has graced me with the essence of who this man is on a 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper that I will carry with me always. My journey would not have been the same if it weren't for my brother Ed, and I pray that he remembers me, and all of those precious people his compassion and Christ-like (yet imperfect) heart has touched.
The parting words in Ed's letter to me were: "Finish strong and seize the endless opportunities afforded you daily." I will, my brother, I will. In Christ's name, and for Christ's Kingdom, I will. I love you, my friend.