Saturday, December 18, 2010
One year later, here we are. I've had some pretty vivid flashbacks to this time a year ago. It seemed surreal then and seems surreal now.
David has three amazing daughters who are all grown and living other places than Austin. After the news of his accident, it was important, and of course, necessary that we contact his girls and get them to Austin right away. That plan worked well for two of them, but David's middle daughter was in Europe finishing a study abroad program. We found it difficult to contact her, and difficult to find a flight out as soon as possible. Once she did get on a plane, there were delays and missed flights; not knowing where she was; stress. She did finally make it to Austin around midnight of the 18th. All that to say, there were a few of us that were holding the space in the hospitial waiting room those four days. We just sat with the other two daughters for support and love. We shared stories. Saw old friends; even laughed. We pretty much took over the waiting room. I walked in on Wednesday morning (after we had just been there for one day), and it was clear that we had made this place our own. Oragami creations were hanging from the walls, games were all over the floor, and ads from the newspaper were also displayed on the walls. (Perhaps these ads had somewhat questionable content, but it fit our little group). We helped where we could. Most of this help was devoted to protecting the daughters from the masses of people who wanted to visit. It would have been overwhelming for the them to receive visits from the literally hundereds of people who would have come. The nurses were already asking our pastor to pass the word to our congregation for people to stop calling the nurses station. At one point, there were so many calls coming in that they felt like they couldn't do their job. To say that David was well-loved is an enormous understatement. Everyone who knew him would undoubtedly say he was one of their very best friends. And that they were very special to him. And we were. I'm not sure how one creates such a sense of love and incluson to everyone, but he did. For me, this was his greatest gift. I saw it for years in his youth ministry. I saw it with people who had special needs, or didn't seem to have many friends. I saw it with people who were homeless. His welcoming to everyone; his genuine care seemed so effortless. (Although, I did hear stories about people that made him shake his head!)
The 18th was a long day. I had a sense first thing that morning (early and with very little sleep) that our long week of waiting would soon be coming to an end. Later that night, his daughters acted bravely and powerfully and let him go. Even now, I feel in my body the moment when our pastor announced to us that "David was in heaven now." Although we knew this moment was coming, it just doesn't prepare you for the jolt to your soul.
This day falls in the middle of Advent. The season of waiting; expectation.; the revealing of God with us. A couple of weeks ago I helped a group of people lead worship at church. Our theme was the "Unexpected God." We shared our stories of how we experiencec God in the unexpected moments. Then, somehow, the mystery; the miracle that this unexpected encounter transforms our life. My relationship and experiences with David over many years changed my life. For me, there is great irony in the timing of his death and Advent. His death was certainly unexpected. And I don't yet see God in this. I don't see or feel the transforming miracle. I've felt fairly cynical over this last year. Not to mention angry. Feeling like this is an act of gross injustice, especially to his daughters. So, I'm just going to voice those feelings and let them be. I have no desire to tidy them up or put a nice "churchy" bow on them. And yet, I can't escape feeling immensley grateful. I'm grateful for the time in my life that I did share with him. I'm a better person for having him in my life. I wouldn't trade a single moment, even to avoid this pain.
A beautiful candle is burning in my home today. I'm wearing a Baylor shirt and my Baylor cap. I'll be making gumbo to prepare for a gathering tomorrow with dear friends. We'll remember him together with a Cajun potluck. Nothing could be more perfect.