Monday, September 22, 2014

The Art of Goodbye

This past weekend it came to my attention just how easily a heart can break over the use of words in the past tense; "he was," "we played," "he loved" can take a sun-drenched day in a back room dubbed the "Florida room" and create small and deep pock marks that no amount of positive focusing can erase or diminish.

This world can be heavy. It can be hard and it can steal your breath and the most frightening thing of all is that it will. This world is guaranteed to share its darkness with its inhabitants.

I sit here now, enveloped in such darkness.

When people move on - to rest and dance whole, again, the people they leave behind are the ones that the funerals are for. It is for those still breathing in and out, in and out, remarkably, that pictures are combed over, memories are lobbed back and forth like a tender egg on the cusp of cracking. It is for those that are left to sort through the closets and chest of drawers, that words are spoken at graveside services and luncheons are prepared in the local church.

It is for our own hearts breaking that we cry when those gun shots cry into the spotless, pore-less sky on a fall day.

My family had to say goodbye to someone this weekend - we've had to say goodbye a lot over the course of my life with them and yet I sit here reeling over the cruelty of comfort being removed.

So, I'll write. Because it's the only thing that makes sense to me; because I hope from the deepest recesses of a fractured heart that he will hear my words; because it might be one of the only ways I'll ever be able to honor him truly...

Because I have come to convince myself that there must be an art to saying goodbye.

I've been thinking a lot about how much we don't know the people we love the most and who are at the root of the foundations of our stories.
There is so much, likely an uncountable amount of facts and tidbits, I will never know about my grandpa Floyd.
In the most simple concepts of time, I will never know the sort of son he was - I only know he was born to Lottie and Bertram in a time I can only imagine into existence or comb through history books to partially understand.
I never knew him as a teen, as a young adult; at 27 myself, I wonder how his heart felt when he fell in love for the first time. I will never know if he was the sort of man who opened doors for women - I will never have the chance to listen to see if he was the type to whistle when he was deep in thought.
I won't ever behold my grandpa in a uniform or have the privilege to see him in shined, black shoes and a black suit.
It is for certain, because I came lower on the family tree, that I will only hear stories of the love he and his Jo shared; I will never know the excited, fevered whispers of two people falling in love and beginning a life together.
The ways of his fathering - the way his face lit up when he held his first son, his only daughter, will remain a mystery to me for the rest of my days . . .
But for all of those things that remain partially or fully hidden by the mere layout and fabric of a life lived well before my time, there are things I do know - the way I know my heart has fractured over the loss of this man.
He loved butterscotch pudding, and Cool Ranch Doritos, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He always called me kid or Stephi and he loved all of his grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids in a quiet, but steadfast way.
He married a woman named Jo and together they instilled a love for family, education, and service into the ripples of generations to come after them.
Sugar cookies, Slap Jack, and Florida seashells will always make me think of him - and will be a quick and steady reminder of the man who laughed quietly and dryly at the head of the dinner table; who always passed out calendars every Christmas day; who sent $10 on every birthday, no matter how many times you had circled the sun.
I don't know the stories of Grandpa as a boy, as a love-struck teen, as a young man serving his country; I only know such things as these - he was strong, he was brave, he loved us each well - in his way - and we loved him in return. He was ready to be with his bride in his final days; he was patiently waiting for Jesus to call him back home.
Floyd Resler was a son, a father, a grandfather, a husband - and he lived this life well.
This world is a shade duller for the loss of this man, but when we consider what we might or might not know, we can rest assured in this - he now sits with his sweet Jo and alongside the Lord and that is a comfort we should all cling to.