Every week I listen to Emily’s podcast, The Next Right Thing. She’s been an unintentional mentor for my writing life for five years, but lately her podcast for the hesitant has been speaking to many quiet areas of my life.
I slip my earbuds in and push play on this week’s episode, #58 entitled Welcome Silence.
“The world we live in doesn’t cater to healing. It all spins way too fast and we spin right along with it…These people are healing, growing, grieving, and silence is a necessary companion on all these journeys. Like a toddler refusing a bedtime, we don’t always like this imposed silence. But what if, instead of pushing it away, we welcomed the silence needed for healing and for health?” —Emily P. Freeman
Emily’s words are healing to me personally and near the end of the episode, she invites us to be silent for one entire minute. She keeps time and we keep quiet.
In my own moment of silence, I chop potatoes for soup (because chopping vegetables is about the stillest, most natural thing my hands do.) Tears roll down my cheeks and slide into my growing pile of pieces.
My heart is tender today and it catches me. But because silence is my only real job for this minute, I let them fall.
It is in this blessed reprieve of noise, that my tears bring clarity.
You see, my husband and I lost someone dear to us this week. Dr. Carson was a seminary professor who employed us both and then watched gleefully as we chose each other. He grinned all the way to the altar less than a year later, where he performed our simple and joy-filled wedding ceremony.
I know all the ways he touched our individual and collective lives, and the list is longer than my arm. He was another parent to me when my parents were a day’s drive away. His lack of physical sight never stopped him from truly seeing me—and sharing what he saw.
I was his cook; he was my counselor, professor, and friend.
Each night I prepared his dinner before I went home to my apartment and roommates. Before I left, his hand inevitably shot up in the air and he would pray for me, always beginning with the words, “Kind Father, bless this girl…”
When our paths diverged, Lance and I were parents ourselves and he was past eighty, still speaking words of wisdom & praise.
Last Saturday in a coffee shop in Greenville, SC— I received the news.
Leaving an empty shell behind, he stepped right into the presence of God with eyes that saw clearly for the very first time. In the moments that followed the email, I felt relief and complete joy. This is absolutely the greatest and best new adventure for him and I know he has been waiting for this day.
Still this week, I have felt a heaviness I could not ignore. In library runs and ballet drop off and lunch making there has been a weight around my heart that feels like homesickness. I am fairly certain that is exactly what it is.
Andrew Peterson calls it “a joy that hurts.”
But not until I stand chopping potatoes, listening to this first moment of true silence in my day— do I recognize that I am grieving.
The last few years have kept Lance and I just distanced enough from him that I feel I am not entitled to my grief. This grief that creeps up on me while I chop potatoes and remember how he liked his potatoes every Thursday evening— roasted and brown with bits of onion. I recall that he had more knowledge of the Bible than any sight-blessed person ever, and also a talent for making homemade lemonade.
I feel silly in my sadness because I know just how healed- happy he is. I know my sadness is not for him, but for all of us still on this side of the door.
To turn my heart, I turn to old emails. And there it waits for me, written in 2007. Words that are somewhat prophetic from my dear Dr Carson–
“I am getting ready to set my house in order, preparing for my
last days on this earth. I am as happy as a sunbeam, for soon I shall be
with Jesus. I am going to “take time to be holy” and serve as best I
can for the next couple of years… I will always be your friend, and it is to my joy that you met the man you are about to wed, met him officially here at my home.”
Eleven years of life later, these words pour over my heart and fill in all the hollow places that grief leaves behind. They dam up the emptiness that losing someone leaves behind. Knowing the gift we held feels richer when have lost someone great.
But I know we need both.
We need both the deep, throat-tightening grief that feels unfounded and the sunny yellow joy that springs up, feeling just like sacrilege. Both the pain of saying goodbye to someone and the remembrance of their colorful mark on the world are worthy of our time. Worthy of our silence.
We can choose to welcome both joy and grief, recognizing we have two hands— one for joy, one for grief— to hold both at once.
And perhaps we might remind one another —
We will likely always find traces of our own homesickness in our grief.
Until there is nothing more to miss and nothing more to grieve.
Until all the tears are dried.
Until we are all home.
Until everything is “Truly Beautiful.”