Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pain and Love

It has been nearly four weeks since Zachary left us.   I am back to doing things at church.  I have let go of all my boards, committees, and so forth.  I need to focus on grieving with my wife and my daughter and doing what I need to do at church, to make a living.  I am keeping the radio program.   I was worried that I would not be able to concentrate enough to interview, but I did so successfully yesterday.  I also produced another program.  There may be a few encore presentations as I get caught up.   It was good to be in the studio.

I haven't preached yet.  We attended worship as a family last Sunday.    I suit up this Sunday and will do the liturgy.  On the first Sunday in August, my seventh anniversary Sunday with this congregation, I will make an attempt to give a sermon.    That is the last thing I feel worthy doing.   My congregation has been there for us.  It is home.

I have no passion for anything.  I am going through the motions.   I have the urge to run away and go to a place where no one knows me.   Everywhere I go in Johnson City I see reminders of Zach, the places he worked, the things we did.  His adult life was spent here.   I don't want to run away from that.

I went to a Johnson City Cardinals game the other night by myself.  That isn't unusual.  I often do that.  Even as I saw people I knew, I greeted them but went to sit by myself in the top bleachers.  I like to hear people talk, but not to me.   

We called no one except family.  We put his obituary in the two papers where we used to live where people would have known Zach.   Now we receive calls and cards as people find out.   It feels like work talking to anyone.  I want to answer all the cards as many deserve a response.   But I don't know if I'll ever get to it.

Many offer themselves for conversation and I don't turn anyone down.   It is work but it is work that I need to do.   I think I will set up a formal counseling relationship with someone who I don't know through church or through other contacts.  That isn't easy as I know a lot of people.   I want some stranger who is a professional upon whom I can unload.    That is what I need.  I think.

I don't know what I need.  I don't know what I am supposed to do.    

Someday I will talk about the manner of Zach's death.  It was not violent.  It was painless.   He was loved.  He is loved still.  Fiercely.  He loved us, too.   Sometimes life is just hard.    We have a photo of the four of us in a frame given to us by a dear friend.

The frame includes a quote from the New Testament....
"Nothing shall separate us...."
That is true.  Love is real.  But I miss his flesh.  I miss his body.  I miss hearing him call me "Oldness."   I miss his laugh.   It is so final.   People offer comfort by the hope of some kind of continuation of his spirit and what not.  I appreciate that.   But what I really want is what I can never have.  I want him, here, now.  If I cannot have him, I want the pain of missing him.    That pain is a hole that I physically feel in the middle of my chest.    I don't want any comfort, no dope whether it be alcohol or Jesus that will take that away.  That pain is love.   That's real.

The love of this congregation and of friends and family is real.  I can feel it.  I am grateful to this congregation for being there for us and for walking through this valley with us.  It means more than they know.


  1. My friend Robin at Metanoia
    lost a son while she was in seminary. She knows a lot of parents who have lost children and she might be able to talk with you. Her son, Josh, died I think three years ago.

    You are in my prayers.

  2. We lost my brother Jonathan 19 years ago. My daughter was 5 months old (she'll be 19 in August). My dad was devastated. Jon fell asleep at the wheel and was doing 106 when he went off the road and into a tree. I had told him before he left for school to pull over if he got sleepy. I can't remember how long it was before I stopped walking around in a fog. Mom and dad were fortunate to find a group of other parents who'd lost a child. But even with that and antidepressants it took a long time before dad could say Jon's name. He's still on antidepressants. I still miss Jon every day. The memories of love make it easier.

    But the anger. The despair. The sorrow. It's going to be there for a long time. It's normal. And I know that you already know that. But this was the baby you cradled in your arms. While Jon wasn't my son, I was 14 when he was born. I taught him to read. I was closer to him then most sister's are. I remember so well holding him in my arms when he was a baby. Feeding him solid food. Helping him take his first steps.

    And being angry with God for taking him away. I wrote a song though, while I was grieving. Jonathan was a computer programmer. He was a really good programmer. Starting when he was a kid, he could answer things adults could not when he was 11. So my song was about God needing a computer programmer in heaven.

    I believe. I believe that some day I will see Jon again. It still hurts. It hurts that Jon never got to meet his nephew. Never got to play chess with Corwyn or see his niece grown up to look like her mom (oh how he'd have teased me!). And I'll never see the children he'd have had or what a great father he'd have been.

    It hurts. Even after 19 years. Jon would be 38 this year. I have peace of a kind. There is still a Jon-shaped hole, but I keep it filled with memories of love and do my best to keep my face to the sun. Because Jon loved me, and he wouldn't want me to walk in shadow.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He shelter you in the palm of His hand in this trying time and hold you upright in the sun.

  3. I don't have the right words, but I hope that you can be as Loving to yourself as you are to so many...

    Here is a poem by Denise Levertov:

  4. I can't begin to imagine what you're going through. I am holding you in my prayers and thoughts.

  5. John,

    Your loss is too great and the hole is too big and empty.

    It's not right. Every time I see that beautifull photo of Zach holding his fingers to his mouth like he's barely holding back a delightful secret, I can't help but feel a small bit of your deep love and sorrow. I hope you find someone to lean on, scream and cuss at, come unglued with, so you and your wife and daughter don't have to go through this on your own.

    And you are right. That pain and empty hole are sacred. I post here only to avoid the appearance of absence. But if I was with you, I would remain silent.



  6. PS I followed Robin's blog in real time, before and after, and I agree. She would be the first person I would call.

  7. Thank you for sharing the pain you are feeling. Although I cannot help you carry the load that you are carrying now, I can carry
    you in my heart as I journey, and that I do daily. As Pete Seeger sang, "well may the world go... may the world go well for you today." With love, Lynn

  8. Again, my condolences, as inadequate as they are bound to be... I think back to the unexpected losses less than two years ago of my nephew and, barely a month before that, my brother-in-law, both completely unexpected, both totally unfair; I think of the grief that my sisters -- my BIL's widow, my nephew's mother -- still endure.I imagine, too, how horrible it would be to lose my own sons at so young an age.

    You don't need us to tell you to take what time and resources you need to make it through your grief, but I will tell you anyway. Do what you need to, share with whom you are able, give yourself the space you require in your sorrow. And know that you are loved -- in your community, both geographic and worldwide. I hold you in the Light, and may all who love you do likewise.

  9. @Joan, thank you for that. I am so glad you told me about Robin.

    @Kat I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. Thank you for telling me about your grief...

    @Nomi Beautiful poem, thank you...

    @Joe Thank you for your prayers. We feel them...

    @Jodie Thank you, friend. I liked that picture too. One of the few in which he is dressed up! : )

    @Lynn Thank you for carrying me and us.

    @Dad thank you, we need the light...