When you lose someone, you go through a lot of metaphors. Our
vocabulary falters in the face of death.
Today is the two-year anniversary of the death of my husband,
Jake. It took me about a year to come up with something that felt
like it made sense of what I was feeling.
In the weeks after Jake died, letters and cards flooded in from
friends and strangers alike. With each cards arrival, Id edge open
the envelope in a stunned sort of sadness. I sat over the
rough-hewn, wooden dining room table wed picked out together just
months before he died, cross-legged and pregnant, poring over
sometimes dozens of notes a day.
And with every envelope, Id have a glimmer of hope, that
somehow, someway, this one would have an answer inside. I knew at
the time it was irrational, but I couldnt stop. The hope was too
tantalizing. Maybe this was the onethis card would explain
everything! This letter would give me the reason our lives had been
so utterly shattered in an instant. But the fact is those words, no
matter how well-meaning and wise, couldnt tell me that. Even
Scripture could only reassure, not really explain in the way humans
want but cant have.
The reasons for Jakes death are not apparent. Luckily, the
reasons for continuing to live are. But I searched for a way to say
what I was feeling.
I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of
cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the
Creator inside you, that it animates your life.
Jakes life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jakes
soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and
he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning,
even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His
glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air,
silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in
his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually
over a glass of bourbon or a beer.
I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed
my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I
damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the
wrong time. Because thats life. And thats fire. Its not all
smores and sweetness.
Everyone whos loved someone knows that light and warmth.
Everyone whos lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and
cold one day.
When that happens at any time, its jarring. When it happens
without warning, even more.
The light went out. This fire Id stood next to for seven years
just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine
staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to
survey the woods behind you. I couldnt see. I was standing in what
otherwise was my life, and I...