merging islands.

No man unto himself or within himself lives completely.

It took a long time for me to know I was okay.  Really okay, not only in moments lifting up, but in days going by and ahead.  Okay meant something simple but deeply telling.  The warmth felt as dawn swallowed the horizon cold and bare.  A new day slipping quietly into familiar calm rather than void.  Broken pieces magnificently laid into place.  Seams torn by tragedy joined fittingly together.  And all I did most of the time was watch in happy, joyful disbelief.  How can one experience happiness ...no ...joy true and pure in days overshadowed by death and loss of one loved?

I remember being lonelier than ever before.  All the same faces, but mine darkened.  I withdrew and stepped inward to make my life smaller.  Most days, I simply did not have the words to hang my heart on.  Some days, I had no idea what was going on inside.  I woke to each day in the same place, going much of the same way except much different.

These words I recently rediscovered turning through pages of my journal in months still young and a heart still reeling.

And so for me, being alone is really about independence rather than reliance.  If I am honest, being alone and independent is really about not being disappointed.  Lonely overprotects my heart from losing again.  It is a barrier that I preserve to keep people at a loving distance, close enough to be in my life, but not too close at the sake of being disappointed.

Nearly two years later after my wife’s death, I am different, my daughters are different.  Our lives are different.  I will always stand astonished in ways beyond the grasp of easy understanding how truly and deeply good the difference is.

Gratefulness births and nurtures joy abundantly in my life.

The sign signaling health and stability and strength anew and different, my heart opening again.  Some days it burst open in tumultuous emotion no longer containable for another second.  Other days I opened my heart purposefully, intent on letting those close see inside.  Whether it was my doing or not, in the mess and rupture of life, every time my heart opened again healing waters rushed in.

No man is an island of itself.  The brightest lights have been those lovingly charitable hearts who counted themselves responsible to the deepest depth of my sinking in clearing their shoulder for me to lean into their lives.  I needed them, to share my weakness and hold to their strength.  Merging islands holding and reaching in the tide pulling.  The greatest weakness is not the horror of tragedy or loss or death and the abiding loneliness, but independence valued greater and sought after more at the cost of relationship and life lived together with those whom your life both intersects and interacts with.

Simply put: you need those around you far more than you often give room to believe.  And they need you.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. -John Donn

Love bears all things, believe all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1Corinthians 13:7

a shadow.

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He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

"The nights are loneliest."

Standing there in a room of his most loved, he was all alone.  So was I.  I found myself connected to more than words, to the disconnect and fear floating in his eyes.  The years stacked neatly for them.  They were happy.  I could tell by the way he spoke.  The papers that I had for him to sign seemed so insignificant.  His words rang familiar.  She was not yet gone, but close.  Death ready to come and it needed to happen.  She had suffered and battled with disease long enough.  He was waiting as she was letting go.  I had to reel him in out of the sacredness waiting with her, his love, to leave to discuss her end of life care.  He signed the hospice papers, looked long into my eyes and thanked me genuinely.  I heal a bit more every time.  Much like a victim, a survivor, the one remaining shell shocked and moving slower than life surrounding, I watched as he stood tall by her side.  He knew that the path ahead would be trying.  So did I.  It’s the one I’ve been walking.

They all forget.  The next day just happens as the ones before and the ones following.  What's worse is the thought of them remembering at the sight of you.  A walking tragedy, polarized.  The one left to tell of perseverance and the found silver lining.  Most days, especially close to the interruption, you fake it hiding in a facade of strength and learned living.  You get lost in the day. I still forget even now.  Lapses of time, circumstance and reality erase death in fast fleeting moments.  I forget I'm a widower.  I forget I'm alone.  Until night comes and busyness fades with the day.  Then I remember again very well the cause for all this commotion, this upheaval of life.  Disruption.  No one likes to be stopped mid-conversation with words still left to say.  Interrupted and the words left just hanging with no place to land.

There you go.  That's the prickly heart of the matter.  Life interrupted.  Left hanging, suspended and final.

Loneliness is lost.  Deeper than companionship so sweet and identifying is the wandering afterward.  I wander as I wonder.  What of life now?  This dark interlude.  Does it give way to something better?  Some place happier?  Will life again ever resemble the day lost?  Should it?

I am convinced ever so deeply that it will, but when, where, what and how, require trust and faith that is, in spots, thin.

This is nothing new.  I've been lonely since the moment she left.  Many steps through treacherous impasses have made me more honest and bare.  Being honest about being lonely feels good to me signaling stability and security.  Admitting to loneliness for me is saying that I do not know the way, I am searching for place to rest, I need people close to me more now.  I am more vulnerable.  I am weaker.  All signs of greater strength of lasting, guiding value.

Being lonely has never meant being desperate for companionship.  That will come just as soon as it again makes sense, and it will, but that is eternally secondary to finding my way now and discovering purpose in loneliness.  In loneliness, I find great strength.  In solitude, I find solidarity that I've not known before.  Because I need it, it is there.  Companionship with God.  The Author of life littering my path with his graces leading to shelter.  Covering me in storms. Finding me in fog.  Stabilizing me in turbulence.  Allowing me to hide when I need and breathe when I cannot.

A real God finding me amidst real wrong in real life.  This is good and unique.  Dare I even think it, a blessing.

My prayer is that I always remember the bountifulness of these lonely nights leading me to stronger shelter.  One day, probably sooner than later, life will be settled wondrously and clean.  Fuller.  In that goodness, apart from this loneliness, may I always remember this couch, the silence, the distance and the ringing of questions.  For these are the beams of his shelter in which I dwell.