Early Friday morning, my uncle was on his way to work when a drunk driver hit him head-on. Just like that. From one moment to the next, lives skittered across the icy pavement. Not just Keith's life, but everyone who is connected to him. My aunt, her kids, me. We're tethered together in the wreckage. In the ICU, I watched the ventilator push air into his lungs, his chest rising and falling mechanically, and this felt familiar to me. Breathing is hard.
I've been telling you about all the warmth and blessing of my time in Mexico, but I haven't told you about the other side of this coin. I don't know if this is something peculiar about me, but whenever I allow myself to really notice the goodness around me, I immediately notice something else. I notice that these things are temporary. Maybe it's because I have experienced some terrible losses. I know, in a way that is not theoretical, that children die. I know, in deeply experiential ways, that death does not always announce itself so that you have time to prepare a room for it. Sometimes it knocks in the middle of the night and makes you rearrange all your furniture.
As I was drinking in all the beauty, the love of my family and friends, I felt a pain somewhere inside me, like my heart had stopped beating, like it might never beat again. I imagined death like an intruder watching my home, waiting to come in the night when I am dreaming of safety, waiting to steal away things that can never be replaced. My mind searched for a way to push this thought out to sea. I wanted to pitch it over the balcony and watch it break open like ripe fruit on the stone pavement below. But the more I tried to wrestle it over the edge, the larger it loomed above me. So I finally let go.
I opened my arms and released my husband to God. I loosened my grip on Danny and Joey and Janelle. I lifted up all my loves to the Lord and asked for forgiveness for the ways that I had possessed them. I understood that it was possible to invite death to teach me something about life. I don't own anything here...not even my own body. Everything around me is borrowed treasure. I opened my hands, and let it all go. And then I let it go again in the next moment when I noticed a temptation to take it all back. This is my life, this dance between grasping and letting go. I will always be a beginner, tripping over my own feet, learning the steps.
I'm confident that Keith is going to be OK. He's got a long road ahead of him, and I appreciate prayers for him and his family. He's struggling to find his way back to the world, and some day he'll struggle to find his way to the next world, hearing the name that is a secret between him and God. Every single soul who is precious to me will die. I will die. Sometimes it's hard to breathe in those moments of knowing. Sometimes the only thing moving the air in and out of my lungs is the assurance that there is a world where my true name will be spoken and all of my lost love will return to me.