I receive dozens of emails a day. I love them all.
(Perhaps you've sent one to me; know that I read it and appreciated your kindness, time, and words. I probably didn't respond, since email correspondence isn't yet within my daily capacity. But I hope to someday. And for now, I bask in the words other people have, especially when I can't find my own.)
There is an invisible community that has become part of mine, people who heard my story through a friend of a friend of a friend. People who read my words, and by God's grace, want to read more.
I have learned that people are learning from the transparency of my journey.
Some have said, "By showing us what you think, you're letting us as close to grief as we dare come. We don't have to experience the loss ourselves, and yet you let us know what it's like. You're living our greatest fear. You're showing us what a girl thinks after her young, healthy husband has died. You're showing us what it looks like: the good, the bad, the ugly - the real, the true, the pain. We don't have to feel it ourselves; you let us carefully in."
A friend emailed me recently; she is neither anonymous nor invisible, although she is far away and dearly written into my life's earlier chapters. She wrote, "Tricia, this sounds silly. I wish I could ask it in person. But... is suffering scary?"
Is suffering scary?
You'd sure think it would be. I sure thought it would be. It actually isn't.
I had long heard sermons and phrases like, "God gives you the grace when you need it, and not a moment before." In essence, wise people told me, "You can't imagine living your greatest fear, you can't imagine surviving, because you don't have to right now. But if you needed strength for that crisis, if you needed wisdom in that moment, God would give it to you. His grace isn't just about where you go after you die; it's about living this moment the way he wants you to. He gives you the grace when you need it. Not a moment before."
Turns out: it's true.
I find myself thinking, "Wow, God. You said you would do this. You said you wouldn't forsake me. You said you'd carry me. You said you'd protect me, provide, and show me the way. And you are. Here you are. You really are. You said you would, and now you are."
Now, let me also say this: there is fear. I feel it. There's a lot of scary.
As soon as I think outside this moment, I feel terrified.
I think about the day I will agree to receive his ashes from the mortuary.
I think about vacations we wanted to take; will I take them? 'Cause he was my tour guide. Can I do it alone?
I think about the house we planned to buy or build in the next three years, our 'one more move' into the house we hoped to stay in. The one with a 3-car garage for him, a writing office for me (lined with bookshelves, naturally), a backyard for the boys, and a finished basement for our someday-teenagers to freely host their friends. I wonder if I can sell a house, choose a house, buy a house - without him. I wonder if I want to. I wonder if I should. Ever.
I think about my professional life without him beside me, about the decisions I would rather have made with his thoughts combined with mine.
I wonder what I'll do when the boys need to learn to shave.
I wonder if a single mom should go to grad school. Even if she always, always wanted to.
I wonder about the days that will be harder than today, the nights that will be more sleepless than the last. I wonder how hard this will get.
And as soon as I step out of this moment, fear creeps right in to fill the space.
Suffering is not scary; worrying is.
I haven't yet found a moment I couldn't make it through, but I'm nearly always very, very afraid of the next one.
I was in one of those spin-cycles recently, orbiting around my concerns over each boy, about how to parent them in a dual role, about how to handle this, that, and everything. The next morning, I received a timely, poignant email - one from the anonymous, invisible community.
She had been awake during the night, thinking of our family, and she couldn't fall asleep. She said she felt a pressing urgency in her mind, almost a voice, saying:
Remind her that I know.
Remind her that I know they are fatherless.
Remind her that I know she is a widow.
Remind her that I know.
Remind her that I AM.
She couldn't go to sleep without giving an audible voice to these words, so she found my email and wrote to me at four in the morning. She added an apology: "I'm sorry if this isn't helpful. I really just wanted to go back to sleep, but I couldn't until I wrote this. I am supposed to remind you."
It's actually just what I needed. To remember. He knows. He is. He is I Am.
And when I'm there, in that place - or perhaps I should say, when I am here, when I am in this place - suffering isn't scary.
It's simply the moment that I am in.