hayley, we miss you. there’s no other way to say it. your presence is missed. carved out of our lives like a scoop of our flesh. and we are acutely aware of it. each and every day.
but i cannot
i still picture you walking through the door, you know? every so often. as if nothing had ever happened. as if you never left us.
i can still see your pink hollister sweatshirt and dark-haired ponytail as if it were just yesterday. i can still see your eyes squinting just so with each smile. and it’s at those moments i find myself missing you so terribly. for, at first, my heart leaps in my chest. i get excited. it’s almost as if you’re there. you’re not, of course. but, for a brief moment, it really, truly is almost as if you’re there. and i want to run and give you a hug, but, of course, i cannot. and that’s when my heart becomes heavy. sinking deep into the pit of my chest.
when i’m listening to this song. or that song. i want to send it to you. i want to say, ‘remember when?…’ but, of course, i cannot.
when i look at the initials permanently inscribed on my wrist, i want to show them to you. but, of course, i cannot.
when i want to share a photo of your beautiful new niece with you. to say, ‘isn’t she gorgeous?’ but, of course, i cannot.
when i want to get your thoughts on something, when i want to share this experience with you, when i can almost hear your laughter echoing off the walls, or feel you at my side, when i recall your hugs. . . hayley, i miss you. we miss you.
you’ll have to forgive me
you’ll have to forgive me, but this place where we gather to worship on Sunday mornings is still a painful reminder of the words she spoke to me. there, in that place. when she asked me to talk at her wedding one day. it’s but a painful reminder that we will never see her walking down the aisle, smiling from ear to ear, lit up like a princess in her beautiful wedding gown.
you’ll have to forgive me, but this song that you want to turn up is still a painful reminder of that cd she asked me to make for her, but i failed to finish in time. it’s but a painful reminder of those afternoons we spent lying on the carpet-covered floor in the living room, sharing music.
you’ll have to forgive me, but the beeping noise of books being checked into this old library reminds me of the beeping noises from the machines that loomed over your hospital bed. beeping noises that grew so familiar over that week we spent in the hospital. those beeping noises that kept us company as we stood, sat, slept, cried and prayed by your side. they’re but a painful reminder of those days and nights we spent hoping with all we had that you’d wake up. that you’d open your eyes. that you’d smile at us from that white linen hospital bed. if even only faintly. and that the doctor would tell us you could come home with us. a hope that went unanswered.
you’ll have to forgive me, but this wound that one might think should be healed over by now still feels so very fresh.
when someone loses a loved one, we find ourselves wanting to help. to somehow offer healing and recovery where there is only pain and sadness. and we find ourselves saying things like, ‘you’ll see them again, one day,’ genuinely hoping those words might help.
and i’m sure we will see you again, hayley. one day. i have all the confidence in the world of that. but you are missed still. in the here and now.
frozen in time
we’re getting older, hayley. slowly. but we are. all of us. and yet, you are not. you are free from the aging process. at least, in my mind you are. frozen in time, it seems. we’re falling victim to the affects of time each day, and yet, when i see you, when i remember you, you haven’t changed one bit.
some might say that’s not quite fair. that we have to age and you do not. i don’t think anything about this has been “fair,” but perhaps this one thing is when we’ve come closest to “fair.” for, if we could have it any other way, which we usually cannot, i don’t believe i would. i don’t want you any older. i don’t want you other than how we remember you. with a smile as bright as the sun. with a laugh that can tear apart the darkness. with a heart that, even though it has seen so much pain, receives our pain as if it were the only pain in the world.
a year later
look at me. . .look at us. a year has passed since you left, and yet, what has changed? so much, it seems. and yet, so very little, at the same time. this pain is still my neighbor. the bandages on this wound are still blood-stained. your presence is still missed, hayley.
this whole dreadful experience has been like that of a nightmare roller-coaster. the kind you cannot get off. sometimes we want to shout in fits of rage until our lungs give out. sometimes we just want to sit down, resting our head on our knees, and cry for days in a pool of our tears. sometimes we want to slam our fists and demand answers for all of this.
where’s God in this?
in the midst of this pain, we find ourselves seeking answers. when our world has been so shaken up, we want to ask questions like, ‘where is God in all of this?’. . .’has He forgotten about us?’. . .’why doesn’t He take away this pain?’
and i think these are fair questions, when we’re surrounded by such pain. they’re certainly common.
i’m not exactly sure how i’d answer such questions. but i think i’d start by saying, He’s in the same place He was before all of this pain took place. this experience has not changed that at all. He’s certainly not off quivering in a corner somewhere, trying to figure this one out. figuring out how He might respond to this particular instance of pain. that’s not to say i don’t think He hurts right alongside of us. He does. but i don’t think this is puzzling to Him as it is to us.
‘so, where is He?’ one might ask. well, if He does not change, as His word says, then He’s in the same place He has always been. reigning from on High. i also think He’s within us. making His home in each one of us. in our joy. in our pain. right in the messy, confusing middle of it all.
you don’t see Him there?. . .you don’t see Him anywhere? well, have you called out to Him?. . .that, it seems, would be a good place to start.
has He forgotten about us?
‘has He forgotten about us?’ someone else might ask. for He might feel far away. incredibly far away. we may have felt His presence before all of this pain, but after. . .well, for some, some haven’t felt close to Him in any way since this pain struck.
but i don’t think that means He has forgotten about us. no, i don’t think that’s possible. instead, i think any absence we might now feel is due more to our own concerns and our own efforts than to any lack of His ability to remember us.
why doesn’t He take away the pain?
‘why doesn’t He take it away? the pain. why does He let it linger?’ another good question. another fair question. and i can only guess as to why that might be. but if i had to guess, and some, if not many, are likely to disagree with me on this point, here’s what i’d say.
pain–the emotions of pain, not the physical aspect of pain–is not something that can be taken away, but only replaced. we are not machines. our moods cannot be turned off or on with the simple flip of a switch. they cannot be cut out and removed like a cancerous tumor. they cannot be picked up and carried off like a heap of black coal by the metal claws of a giant crane. but they can be replaced. they can be overshadowed.
like any emotion, you are not unhappy because your happiness was taken away, but because it was overshadowed by something of greater magnitude than the depth of your happiness. in this case, it seems, whatever we held before as happiness has been overshadowed by this pain. by the pain of this loss. and so, with our gazes fixed on this pain, it is all we can see. . .this pain is overshadowing that which desires to bring us joy–namely, Him–because our gaze is fixed solely on this loss.
it is only when we allow our gaze to be removed from this wound that it will begin to heal. not to forget. not in the least! but to heal. so that we might place our focus not just on this pain but, rather, on Him. for if all you ever think about is the tooth that has been pulled, you will of course be more aware of its painful absence.
we will find healing when we turn from this pain and toward Him. focusing instead on the joy and life and goodness He offers us. not to forget, but to heal. not to remove our pain, but to overshadow it.
where is the hope?
‘but where is the hope in this?’ one might ask, which is a great question. for, how can we possibly pray to a God who allows such pain? how can we possibly have hope in such circumstances? more great questions. and, again, i would answer the same way. just as He has not changed, nor has our hope changed. it remains in Him. it must. for, if not in Him, where? and, if nowhere, then surely this life is not worth living. but it is. i assure you, it is! while there is still breath in your lungs, while you still have life within you, that life is meant to be lived. and it is meant to be lived for Him.
‘why, why would i possibly want to live for Him, when He has brought me only pain?’ one might respond. why? because His purposes are the only ones worth living for. all other roads, however long it may take to find out, will ultimately prove unfulfilling. like a glass full of sand to a water-deprived mouth. time after time after time. each road providing yet another ultimately unsatisfying result. until finally, exhausted from trying all the others, we return to this road. to this path. to the one He has been gently trying to lead us down our entire life. when we’ve tried every other path, when we’ve exhausted all other options, this one will still remain. and, along this road, when we reach Him and His presence, we will find joy of the unspeakable sort. we will find comfort and healing for our wounds. not that we will be immune from pain along the way on this path–not in the least–but, on this path, we will find Him. and, in Him, we will find all we need.
at the end of this road, or perhaps more appropriately, where this road meets the next (for we cannot speak of “the end” of a path that carries on and on and on, into eternity), where we move from the temporal to the eternal, we will find the painful remnants of this flesh and earthly existence burned away. in the peaceful presence of the only true Love we were ever intended to experience. His love. when we arrive in His presence, these wounds will finally be healed. leaving only a scar to remember, however faintly, the pains of this world. washed head to toe in the love of a Savior who cared more for you than He did for Himself. in the love of a Father who cared more for you than He did in protecting His Son from an excruciating death He did not deserve. so that you might experience the kind of love that makes this pain, no matter how overwhelming, deep and agonizing it now is, fade into the blissful depths of the very love you were created for. then, on that day, “the bad dream will be over: it will be morning” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). the broken bone will be set. the bleeding will be stopped. the tears will be dried up. all will finally be made right.
with all of our heart
you are loved, hayley. with all of our heart, we love you.
and you are missed. with all of our heart, we miss you.
and until that day we see you again. . .until we see that beautiful smile shining from within the heavenly Light streaming forth from His presence. . .you will remain missed.