Birdsong wakes me too early
from unwanted dreams of your funeral.
I lay quietly listening, praying for sleep to return
to eyes swollen with last night's numb flood.
You would probably love these birds at dawn.
Then again, I only really know a freeze-frame version of you.
After all, it's been
1 year since I last wrote (Facebook),
8 years since I last saw your face (you came to hear me preach),
12 years since I last sat next to you (at school and at church).
mere weeks since doctors told you
you did not have long to live.
Logic tells me that time and distance
have robbed me of permission for this pain;
lacking justification for a severity of grief
I did not expect
and cannot explain.
I never knew Angela the wife,
I only knew the Ange whose stubborn, unrealistic dreams of these things
made me worry she'd be crippled by the letdown
of the lesser life she'd likely find.
When you tenaciously defied my lack of faith,
I delighted from afar.
Self-doubt lurks in the spaces left by sorrow...
is this sadness merely a saccharine mask
(that we did not keep in touch)
(for you, for your husband, your two preschool girls)
(that the God you served and adored did not intervene)
worse, for self-concerned fear?
(that my own life could be cut short without notice)
I believe no grief is completely uncorrupted
by the malignancy of self-centeredness.
But I also believe that I truly cared for you
and you for me
and that for a time, it was tangible -
sharing my flash cards in pre-biology-exam cram sessions,
teaching me how to drain my blocked sinuses by running a finger along my neck,
reassuring you that Bible heroes also smoke, drank and swore too much,
voicing your childlike wonder at creation and her Creator
unconcerned about who might hear your unscientific praise
giving expression to my own silent, stuttering awe,
transforming every lecture hall into a sanctuary.
You gave me more credit
for your bachelor's degree
than I ever deserved,
though I took joy in your success all the same.
I never gave you enough credit
for preserving my sanity
for making me laugh at the absurdity of cutting open earthworms
just to count their five hearts
for singing in the hallways and sharing your lunches
for asking for advice at least as often as you gave it
for refusing to resent me for working half as hard as you for better grades
for turning my focus to the quality of my character
for kicking open the door
of my self-imposed prison of perfectionism
and pointing to the light outside
(though I still struggle daily to step out).
You burned through your 36 years
with more fierce passion than most who triple that time,
all or nothing,
loud and brash,
clumsy and unpretentious,
an open book,
a shitty note-taker,
a triple-exclamation-mark emailer,
determined to love everyone you met
by waking them to the stunning beauty of their existence.
Your death inspires me
(as did your life)
to seize the day
to grab life by the balls
to dance like no one's watching
to dissect every tired cliche
and find the seed of truth at its core
to honor your life
with the fullest living of my own.