I Carry This Sorrow

Still
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I carry this sorrow like a stone in my pocket. It’s always there, sometimes chiseled sharp, painful to touch. More often it’s a quiet heaviness, requiring just enough notice so I do not forget.

Rarely does it feel as large and heavy as it first did, but sometimes carrying it demands all my strength. Usually it is smooth and flat and gray, worn almost to a comfort, almost soft to the touch.

Once or twice I imagined it gone. Surprised, I dug deeper, oddly relieved to find it still present. Once rediscovered, it again grew sharp and overwhelming.

I’m not sure what to do with it. Will a time come when it is present but unchanging? It seems too early to put it away, so I choose, to some degree, to carry this sadness.

Of course, as we so wisely and often flippantly say, life goes on. There is little choice in that—the world continues to spin, clocks tick. I don’t expect others to stop so I can mourn, yet to my amazement many do. Each day someone pauses to offer kind words of remembrance. Even strangers detour from their routines with gifts of kindness—gentle words, a handshake, even surprising me with tears.

Those points in time warm me. Loss shared with a stranger is somehow sweet. It reminds me of the people he touched and it takes the edge off the missing. To smile and laugh while forgetting is one thing, but to find joy and humor in the midst of sorrow is so much sweeter.

I honestly fear forgetting. Not forgetting him, but forgetting that he is gone, forgetting that it hurt so much. I find it happening in the middle of the day, when routine and work provide an effective analgesic.

But in the night the sorrow transforms from stone to something living and hostile. Like a guerilla force it infiltrates my dreams and disturbs my thoughts, then retreats into darkness, leaving confusion and sadness like smoke on a breezeless night.

Yesterday I scraped and painted a door frame. It wasn’t significant, no great accomplishment. Still my absentminded thought was of sharing this moment with him.

It is those things, the simple ones, so unthought-of, that sneak up on me. It is wondering what his opinion would be of the latest world events or what he thought of last Sunday’s sermon.

I see his smile in photos. I see it reflected in my children and nephews and nieces and even in the mirror at times. I hear his laugh echo from people we have both loved. I watch and even tend the heritage he carefully planted at home and work and church.

Those things I expect and even rejoice in. But it is the shared wondering and sorting and discussing that I have lost.

In the end this is what I hang on to. It is not so much that I will see him someday, although that is surely my hope. It is the belief that he is experiencing the reality of grace on which he wagered everything, a flesh-and-blood grace too powerful to express with platitudes of mansions and pearly gates.

Someday I will trade this stone, and all the others I will inevitably acquire, for a new reality. It will be more solid than any piece of this earth. Sometimes I feel and touch it now, flashes of a pure joy yet to come. Someday I will declare what he sees today, what I can only hope for. But that hope is sure, more solid, and weightier than this stone in my pocket.

About the Author

Robert Vander Lugt owns a hardware business and is a member of East Paris Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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