Thursday, April 23

Crescent Tales

Disclaimer:  I smile and laugh a lot these days, loving the wonder in this world, the stories in the lives around me.  So the following is not a plea for pity, but for self-therapy and also for education.  Ben told you about illness and I can tell you about the hidden side of grief, years later.

Yesterday, an amazing friend of the Morrell family, who prayed for Ben and I, passed away.  Cancer.  Last month, a man from my church, who had just moved to Mexico with his wife to work with a missionary group finished this life a lot sooner than he'd planned.  Heart attack.  Another old friend's mother died, and Ben's dear grandmother is in the hospital.  I *know* this is not how it works (and it's silly to remotely suppose), but I feel like I should have grieving figured out by now.  But instead past grieving seems to have whetted a new awareness, and pain grips me. Cancer is not done.  Pain isn't finished.  Death waits for us all.

On Sunday, waiting in line for the ferry, I wrote an email to a friend who has been diagnosed with a serious illness.  It turns out that when iPads get wet the keyboards don't work well.  I gave him some words, but I know that he and his family are still suffering.  It feels like Ben's suffering should have purchased relief for others.  It hasn't.  Still, I can pray: that the people around my friend will be loving and gracious, that he will have some inkling of how his story glorifies God.  And yes, for healing.

I am preparing to journey again to Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent.  Where the Morrells skipped stones one year ago, as my Dad and I poured Ben's ashes into ceramic cups with a deep-rooted tree on the side and when my dear tough sister Kate (who used to play video games with Ben after I had gone to bed) went to sprinkle hers beneath another tree, she actually cried.  Everyone was there (sharing memories or silent), even if it was difficult for them.  We sang in the lodge while Cheryl played the guitar; the hotel staff thanked us.  My mother took pictures of the forget-me-nots.  Later, some people said that the grief became easier after this day.  And after I had sent off all of the relatives and friends who came to remember and honor Ben with me, I hiked through the rain to a waterfall and then collapsed into bed for twelve hours.

Lake Crescent.  Where Ben and I drove with his oxygen tank two years ago.  It took about an hour to get him ready to go outside each time, his body was so slow.
Where he smiled at the ducks and savored delicious food, and said that this was his favorite place in the world.
Where I prayed over his slow body.  
Where Ben made one request: that I never lose my passion.
Where I finally asked Ben what he thought about dying and when he started talking about the technical details of the moments after death, I knew he wasn't afraid.  
Where Ben wondered out loud what his legacy would be.  And four days later, his legacy began.

Lake Crescent.  Where years ago, on a visit from Texas, Ben and I rounded up our sisters Beth and Cheryl, and friends Ryan, Chris and Chanda and took them to all the beaches around the lake.  Chris climbed a tree, which is a thing he always does.  This was around the time when our sisters became roommates.

Lake Crescent.  The location of half our honeymoon, almost ten years ago.  We discovered that every time I moved, it woke Ben up.  We made up half a dozen 'country songs' as we drove around, with such titles as "You can hold my shifting hand."  I think I was a little scared, but also happy.  It was the sunniest week of the year on Washington State peninsula.  

Lake Crescent, where our high school summer camp was stationed eighteen years ago, before it all began.  Before that mission trip when we were 16, and I teased Ben when he knocked on a watermelon to determine its ripeness ("Hello?") and later in the church van I tried to get him to tell me about the story dream where he was a knight on the battlefield, but the conversation faltered and stuttered to a halt.  And we sat silently through the Wyoming wilderness as all the other students around us slept, never remotely imagining that one day we would get married.  Last year, youth pastor Glen told me that he thinks there was always something between us, but I think with this statement Glen has outed himself as a hopeless romantic.  Nevertheless, years later both of us remembered this classically awkward hour.

Before our first successful conversation, when Ben was 19 and I was 18.  In the hall at church he was carrying Augustine's "Confessions;" I was intrigued.  We chatted amiably for half an hour.  He almost joined the fencing class that I was about to take, but was too busy.  We didn't talk again for a year.
Before Ben asked me to be the keyboardist in the college worship band,.  The previous keyboardist had married the previous worship leader, and Ben was warned by them that the keyboardist he chose might be his wife.  So it began.
Lake Crescent is waiting, and I think I'm ready.  It's time to remember.


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