When I was eighteen, my aunt gave me a copy of her favorite book: a small parable about the love of flight.
It was a thin volume that contained a simple yet deep story which had, over the course of her life, become increasingly important to her because the person who had given it to her, my grandfather, had loved it very much. In fact, he had been the one who passed the book on to her.
And she, years after he died, shared it with me.
And when I met you, I couldn’t help but think of how much you reminded me of the central character in that book. I remember telling you about it during the first few weeks that our own story began to unfold.
In fact, that book, and the story it contained, was my first gift to you. And when I handed it to you, I couldn’t help but feel that the love of my grandfather’s original gift was somehow living on.
That’s what happens when a good story is passed on: it honors and brings to mind the person responsible for originally sharing it. The story my grandfather left our family decades ago, to this day, remains a gift.
And in that same way, six years ago, when God started writing the story of you and I, it too became a story worth sharing.
And I do share it. Constantly.
That story, our story, I flip and read through it so often in my head, and I speak of it so much, that I sometimes worry that, over the course of time, some of the details will eventually fade away or distort. Or that some of the pages will be loosened from their binding and possibly be lost or lose their meaning.
I worry that our story will become so worn out, that there will be days, weeks, months, and even years where I won’t even think to reach for it, because I’ll begin to believe that a story that was lived so long ago couldn’t possibly have anything new to offer anyone. Even myself.
I worry about these things every time someone asks me how long I plan to let your loss define me.
And to be honest, I’m not sure how long defining moments in our lives are allowed to keep defining us. I’m not sure they ever actually stop?
What I do know though is that lament and the telling of the stories of our dead is in our bones.
In fact, for thousands of years, in countless civilizations, the stories of the dead so strongly rattled in the bones of those who loved them, that their grief would pour loudly onto city streets. Displays of lament became so disruptive that eventually laws were put into place in an effort to contain them. Grief was viewed as something to be done out loud; a “discourse of pain” between humans in the throes of mourning and the throne room of God. In some places, the real tragedy was a death that was left unnoticed, unmourned, and “unscreamed.”
The stories of our dead were always meant to be told – to be shared – and so I share yours. I share your story with others so others can then share theirs with me: A call and response about people we love. A growing song of lament.
I share your story because, when I do, the One who wrote it knows that His gift was good.
And you were a good story… a beautiful one. Albeit, one with too few chapters.
And though I would have written your story very differently… And though I sobbed, tore at my skin, and pleaded at God’s feet that you should be granted a longer one: as time has gone on, I am beginning to see that I could not have actually written it any better.
And so I tell it. As it was and as it is.
I speak of your story, which like the one I got from my aunt decades ago, was a gift whose importance I could never have conceived of when it was first, from God’s hands, placed into mine.