Two days ago a heavy box requiring my signature was delivered to my door. The box contained eight-hundred pages of medical records from the last year of my sister’s life. Just one year of her life.
How many pages compose a life? I like to read books that are thick and heavy. I feel cheated by slim ones with too-few chapters. So is a life any less lived or worthy if it is short on experience but heavy on character? Are lives truly ever wasted or can we find meaning in a life that ends too soon? Surely this heavy box, stamped and certified will have the answer.
I want these eight-hundred pages to tell me how it started, the wall-staring, the flesh-tearing descent. How quickly grief remembers the first of it, the subtle details: She would not come to the phone. She refused to get out of bed. She stopped taking her child to school. When I think of how the very nature of love is to fear loss, I must ask how it must have felt to see the ones she loved go on living without her – in spite of her.
Did she not see the outstretched hands that tried to pull her back?
It must be possible for the crushing weight of despair to make marking time as little more than counting shadows, a pain so deep it leaves gaping wounds to physically witness grief. And I hold my breath, afraid to ask or even wonder, if she ever tried to get up again, too late realizing she no longer had the strength or a reason to.
These pages are efficiently filled – with time stamps and signatures – but there are no answers here. These pages testify to all that was done right, but they cannot tell me the moment when it all went wrong. The pages chronicle how a life ended, but not why it chose to.
How, I ask, can God look at all of this – even this – and say that this is good?
I believe if I could see with God’s eyes, I would see that this is good. God is good. Always. All the time. And I will continue to say this, even when it doesn’t always feel true. Truth is not a feeling. Perhaps I cannot see through this in this moment, but it really doesn’t matter: Faith is believing God even when I cannot see Him.
In the end, we can trust an empty unknown rather than fill it with fears never realized, answers that do not soothe or comfort, resting our faith on a dependable Father whose children have never known want.
We can be held even as wanderers, not knowing where God leads, yet trusting He knows the way. For to receive God’s love does not require effort, but abandoning all but His embrace.
Where then, does love go when we die?
Love is not blind, however impractical. Love may see defeat and failure yet still stand and wait and hope, believing that a miracle can still happen. Love may bargain or negotiate with God, hoping He will agree to what we promise to surrender in return for a life restored. But even on knees of desperation we must eventually look up, like flowers turning their faces toward the sun, allowing Light to warm us with the understanding that to leave a badly broken body and not look back – this is the healing, this is the miracle we prayed for. And we are already healed.
My sister left so quickly once she knew she could. When earthly love relinquished its’ grasp and met the heart of Heaven’s embrace. For if we believe that God exists, then we must also know His love waits for us, longs for us to return to Him. Death is not defeat, for we do not give up. We go home.
Every life is valuable, and I have hope that the pages missing from my sister’s life, will doubly fill and transform mine. God is faithful, not because of who we are or anything we may have done, but because of who He is.
We may forget ourselves, but God will never forget us. He is still our loving Father even when we forget that we are His child.
When we do unravel or lose our way, God is there. When time is marked by unchanged walls, when we are broken or confused, when we are lost even to ourselves, God will find us there. He can reach us no matter how deeply we have fallen or how dark it is.
And as He holds us, even in darkness, we will know Him.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
Neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
Nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
Will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8: 38-39)