I sat at the front desk with a temp worker named Chelsea two days ago. We exchanged high pitched pleasantries and filler words about college and travels and restaurants in the city. Then the Senior Director waved me into his office and told me with kind eyes that our company is a family. He wanted to know “the story.” I fumbled the details out and my vision blurred. Three sentences felt insufficient, so I added halting additions in an attempt to introduce my boss to Will, “He is…ahem was an engineer… He works, um.. worked for a conveyor company out there.”
And, when I couldn’t keep my face tidy anymore, I just nodded as I walked out with pursed lips and squinty eyes. I dabbed my face back at the front desk while I told Chelsea (the temp worker) the “story” in one sentence. And I hate that story – that final story I keep telling about my brother Will. The final story I’ve smashed irreverently into one memorized, mechanical sentence that sounds more like a news report than anything else… the story I feel obligated to follow with the words, “It’s okay,” and “We are fine…” because no one is comfortable with death or grief or sorrow. Everybody shifts uneasily when absence happens like that.
And everyone wants to know the story.
Sometimes, my urban life plays make believe. New York City dresses up in everyday routine, and it almost almost feels like my life on earth isn’t altered forever, like it is “just another day” where taxis have road rage and college students are hung over and teenagers buy too much at Forever 21.
But then I am walking toward Bryant Park on 42nd Street and there are too many people, all of them strangers and none of them Will. He has never been to Bryant Park, but his absence follows me around like a shadow hovering over all the spaces he is not.
We are a weathered lot. Dad calls often with a shaky voice and as many questions as answers. We talk about “how things are going” and “getting better” and “benchmarks,” but there is no good news, only words to put in quotations because we don’t know what else to do with this grief. We want to honor him with our efforts and to love the God who gave us 27 beautiful years. But we are all hiking fumbles in office buildings and front porch swings and backyards. We are all shrugging shoulders and breathing sighs and letting the pain sink to our depths, because it would be wrong not to.
This is our story, stretching out like a rope between mourning and hope. All the threads intertwine, connecting what feels like opposites on either end.
There is peace, yes. And there is pain.
But our faith is not simply pragmatic. Our minds, knowing Will’s salvation, cannot tell our hearts, knowing Will’s absence, to “move on.” Nothing in quotations works in real life. We can’t “make progress” or “get better” by some mental acrobatics. Our minds and hearts are meshed together in constant, internal marathons – chasing reason and running from emotion or the other way around.
I walked into the copy room today and found five guys hanging out where there is room for two. To their silence I said, “Is this a secret meeting?” They side-glanced with smirks that looked like they were hiding a freshly painted “boys only” sign behind their backs. “Yep, top secret meeting,” one said. I chuckled at their mischief, “I know what’s going on… I have three brothers.” The words stung my eyes.
This is our story of peace and pain.
And there is still much to be written.
Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.
9 thoughts on “this is our story”
Caroline, it is such a privilege for us that you are willing to open yourself up and share so much of your grieving. We are praying for you!
Thank you for praying, Sarah!
Caroline, in reading your words I groaned and ached from within…I can only sense how hard this is. This aunt, too, gropes for words when people ask. In a world where many families are not as connected, people can tend to think that a nephew would not be such a big deal. I want to show them the funeral bulletin so they get a sense of not only what an awesome person Will was, but what a witness to the love and grace and goodness of God he was. I want you to know that many, many people are praying your family through each day. With much love. Aunt Sherry
Thank you for reading, though it hurts. God is providing exactly what we need each day. I agree – many people are baffled by our tight knit family… that’s okay. We have stories to tell enough for a world. Love you.
Oh Care! I love your openness and honesty. You are so real, and I love that you are brave enough to share your pain. Your family has been and will continue to be in my prayers! I have had a running conversation with The Lord since I heard, something I’m sure many people could say is true for them as well. I love you and am here if you need anything.
Thank you, so much. It means a lot to have other people in this fight with us – praying, loving, listening, and understanding. Thank you, friend.
Oh Caroline, how honest and brave and heartbreaking. The big brother I wrote about in the exact post you commented on…his name is also William. What a beautiful tribute you’re building your William with your hope. I’m sure it will be an asset to others on their grief journey as the Body heals itself.
Mariko, I hope it is those things. I hope our tribute is built like the memorials the Israelites built… the ones used to “tell their children and their children’s children” about the work of the Lord throughout the generations. I pray this is so. Thank you for reading.