This is a time of major change in my life. I am changing jobs—going from one full-time job in the social service field to a couple of part-time jobs in education. I have left the board of an organization that I co-founded with a few friends. My youngest living child has started high school. My oldest is starting college. Transitions like these are similar to walking a tightrope over a chasm with spikes at the bottom.
On the day of Zack’s memorial service, the sun was shining. I barely noticed as more than one hundred people gathered at the church. Some of them I knew, many I did not. There was a deep fog all around me that made it hard to breathe and hard to see. A fog that the sun could not cut through.
We’d planned almost every second of the service. It would be filled with music because that’s what Zack would love. Because we knew that Zack would rather have us celebrate his life and his laughter than gather his friends and family to weep. I was too numb to cry and my heart was too heavy to handle laughter.
…or The Worst Question in the World
People are not unlike the web development software that we call “What You See Is What You Get.” In WYSWYG software, you enter your text and pictures into a dialogue box and supposedly, what the person looking at the page will see is exactly what you’ve entered. Much of the time, it works. But every now and then, you look at the page and the font you chose is different in one sentence, there are five too many spaces between two paragraphs, or punctuation from some other language sits in the middle of every other word. Some bit of phantom code has embedded itself in the back end.
Yesterday I watched an early episode of ‘Lie to Me’ where a couple has a missing child and Cal asks them, “Did you kill your daughter?” This is one of those things that parents who have lost a child at home don’t talk about. The feeling of knowing that this is what the police are asking, no matter how subtly they do it, is difficult to describe. For me, it went something like this:
We had been home from the hospital long enough to tell our three other children that their younger brother was gone. I was on the telephone with my sister when someone knocked at the door. I was numb. It was as though I’d fallen from a great height and couldn’t get air back into my lungs.
I generally avoid talking about religion/spirituality/faith/etc. I avoid it with approximately the same vehemence as I avoid meals with a high probability of giving me food poisoning and for some of the same reasons. Not only can it leave me with a very bad taste in my mouth and a nauseous lump in my throat, but there’s really just no way for it to end well. Mostly, though, I avoid it because spirituality is a very personal subject. Not personal in an “I’m menstruating today” taboo kind of way, but personal in the sense that my relationship with God is my own and I don’t feel that there is a right way to believe (although I do believe that there are wrong ways – like calling oneself a Christian and subsequently saying that God doesn’t love those people).
Yet, there is nothing like great tragedy to get you thinking about faith and what you really believe. As we close on the one-year mark of Zack’s death, I’m starting to hear questions about whether or not this experience has shaken my faith. Since I’ve asked myself this question many times over the last few months, I suppose it’s a fair question.