A young couple standing at the counter are noticeably tense as they wait for each other to pour cream into their coffees. The young woman, in a tartan dress over black leotards, and red naugahyde jacket, is saying something about wanting to talk. Her boyfriend or husband, in a long black wool coat, heavy soled oxfords, and a grey newsboy cap, raises his voice above all the indoor traffic and gripes inarticulately, "What do you even want?" He then stomps halfway to the door, comes back and picks up his coffee. They walk single file and exit the glass door.
The warm front of Valentine’s day has moved off and the arrow holes have scabbed over.
I’ve received news from a friend whose sister-in-law has died. They were close. While there were health problems, the death is a surprise, and has left the family reeling. She was a few years older–just. A friends job is to grieve the loss of a friend’s, friend.
We long to have reasons so we can handle loss. We find some…and make some up. Not all reasons are good but the ones we make up for ourselves may be the truer ones. Meaning-making is a human enterprise. And we may be surprised more by the similarities of our "made-up" reasons than by their differences.
And now a friend whose chemo-pills quit working weeks ago waits for the results of a CAT-scan. I worry for him and hope it helps. Sometimes worry can be a form of prayer.
I suppose all there is to do is live through the ache, catch some joy when it shows up, and not be seduced into building a comfortably numb zone through avoiding either one…pain or joy. I suppose, but I don’t know. I’m far from certain these days. But I’m less bothered by not knowing much. I probably have more honest company here.
I have an inkling about death. In the natural course of things, my own death is now quite a bit closer than my birth. Along the way I’ve had a few losses. Not many by most standards. But the ones I have crawled through–it seems to me–were not harbingers of death, but tastes of death. And I believe to experience them as "tastes" is a good thing. Any undergoing of death in advance of death brings with it the possibility of inching closer to living as though death were not. This is the opposite of death evasion, or death idolatry, which is all around us. There is a kind of gaining in losing but I would never want to objectify this by making a testimony out of it. Far less, prescribe it, as some have. I’ll leave that to Jesus, if he wants the job.
In the mean time, today is a good day to catch snowflakes on your tongue. Although it’s difficult to do this discreetly–a discretion to which I’m still compelled. I don’t yet have the courage for abandonment to tongue-snowflake-catching on my walk to work. Give me a few years.