High Contrast

You know, the day after the funeral is nothing like the day after putting on a conference. When I worked for the church and the conference was over, I knew I still had Christmas service to plan and Easter service to work out and the marriage conference for next year to worry about, and Sunday is always coming. The day after the funeral is not like that. It feels flat, and dull, and numb, and muted, and stupid. Everything feels stupid and tired.

The funeral was all sharps and clarity, like a too-high contrast picture, retinas and olfactory bulb seared. The singe of embalming powder and formaldehyde, dishonest with its plump veins and seemingly supple skin. It is a lie, like the hands that promise warmth and are only cold, cold, cold. Like the chest I used to rest my head on when I was a little girl, lying with its promise that if you only stare at it long enough, it will rise and fall again. Before he flew home, when he was at the funeral home, I kept fearing he would sit up. All of this is too bright. The sun, lying about its warmth, and the bitter cold, biting. The sharp and clear strains of the bagpiper, perfect and warm, but also tight and finite. You know that when the piper walks away from the grave, it’s over. Cold steel edges lying about their softness with their rounded corners. It is unyielding. And there’s no pause and no waiting and no stopping and no slowing down and no catching your breath. It is relentless.

And it is dull. I am buoyed by soft and needed and appreciated condolences, but cannot answer them, because the world is too flat. There’s a muted anger with no one to blame, but it’s not real anger; even that is flat. There’s no real fire, no real spleen to vent. And I know this won’t last, but I cannot imagine ever being really angry again, because who has the energy for anger? Awake people, probably. Like I can’t imagine ever feeling angry in the way I used to use it, or feel enslaved by it. If my life were made of files, you could practically find “self-immolation on a hill” under “hobbies.” But I cant imagine that now, because it feels like nothing matters in that way. I can’t explain what I mean. I can’t say nothing matters; just most of it doesn’t. Like, very little matters. One thing matters, and all the things flow out of Him, and if that thing is set and solid, then everything is good and okay, and if it isn’t, nothing is. Everything is meaningless and our sole good is to fear God and keep His commands; enjoy the gifts He gives us, learn from the trials as well, but it’s all vanity anyway, a chasing after the wind. I wish I could explain what I mean. I wonder if Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes after his dad died. 

Nothing feels the same. It’s so far away from me, life like it felt 9 days ago and life today. I know that will change. The love of God and man feels like the chamber the vacuum is contained in. Everyone has been so kind, giving me a soft place to land. The night of the funeral, friends kept me laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath before that merciful sleep set in, so really, I only have the privilege of saying ‘nothing matters’ because I am being loved so well and cared for around the clock by people diligently seeking my good. That matters, it matters. I can’t explain what I mean. I just don’t want to lose the gift of perspective. Life is a vapor and hand breadth.

I’ll go outside today because I enjoy feeling the sun on my face. I know I will step outside and close my eyes into the sun, which triggers the endorphin cascade, and then the little hairs between my jawline and ears will stand up. That matters, and it’s special, an everyday special moment of silent gratitude in prayer, but it still feels like “vanity, vanity, everything is meaningless”, you know? But also, how lucky are we that we get to experience that even once? And we can have that everyday if we want! Extravagance. 

That thing I was talking about with anger, I mean that everything and everyone needs patience. In this strange and filtered light, it feels like one could just be patient with everyone, always, for everything. A lifetime, if needed. Lord knows my dad did. Everything else is just commentary, is what I mean. It can be good or bad or enjoyable or irritating, but it’s just commentary. It’s not the main thing. But we still have to live it out, one second and minute and hour and day and year at a time. It feels meaningless, but it’s not. Of course it all matters, just not in the frantic way it used to. Every second is a gift. It’s just not the only gift, I guess is what I’m saying. In a twinkle of an eye, we will all be changed, and that, that – that is the Real. But this is gift too, or He wouldn’t have given it to us, patiently stretching it out over an entire lifetime for our benefit. I know this is a gift, and it will feel different someday. 

I want to keep this perspective, but only the angles where it’s true. 

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