I packed up a Budget truck the morning after Ian’s funeral and puttered onto the highway knowing exactly one person in the great city of Albany. I wake up next to him every morning. There is not a familiar winding road or an old friend’s knowing smile or a “usual” cup of coffee in this whole arctic state. To muddy already-confused waters, every unsuspecting New Yorker that I encounter meets “Ashley Dickens”.
What you see is not what you get, New York. It’s not your fault. You can’t know that just a couple of weeks ago I was Ashley Peterson. [Actually, legally I still am because, well, too much change.] I was Ashley Peterson, and I had two little brothers not just one and a job I loved and people to go drink caramel lattes with at a moment’s notice on a Tuesday and I held my baby brother’s hand the afternoon that he stopped breathing which happened to be 72 hours before I walked down an aisle in a white dress.
You can’t know that. You can’t possibly know that everything I am in this state is everything that I’m not. And truthfully, I’m not sure how much to tell you because nobody likes to be the sad one. Loneliness is amplified when it feels like the world around you is still laughing and for the life of you, you just can’t remember how. Y’all know I’d rather laugh than cry, but it doesn’t always happen these days.
Part of me thinks that I can sleep grief off, much like a nasty cold or a headache. Two aspirin, a glass of water and eight hours in bed and I’ll wake up remembering normal. Yet each new morning, I find it again. Curled up next to me, staring me in the face, pressing in on me and quietly reminding me that it’s not going anywhere. There is an awful sinking in my stomach as I remember that it hasn’t even been three months since Ian stopped breathing, and I probably have so many more months to go before I finally get to see him again. The very idea can leave me so profoundly exhausted that I can barely stand the prospect of dragging my grief out of bed for a whole new day.
Some days are better. Some days I can laugh about milk or the Flying Biscuit [though really, did any of us laugh about that?], and those days are good to have. Other days, my heart just throbs and it’s hard to breathe.
I say this because sometimes, it’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman. I’ve received enough emails from hurting people that read this blog to know that I am not alone, and you aren’t either.
There’s a song that I must have played for Ian in the hospital ten thousand times. A piece of it says:
Give me faith to trust what You say
That You’re good, and Your love is great
I’m broken inside, I give you my life
I may be weak-
But Your spirit’s strong in me.
My flesh may fail,
But my God, you never will.
Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Lately, I cling to that idea of hope as an anchor. When waves of grief threaten to sweep us away, we are to be anchored in something far weightier. My hope is in a God who does not change even when five sit at a dinner table where six belong. My hope is in a God who is incapable of being anything but good to me, and anything but good to Ian. My hope is in a God who cannot, will not fail even on the many days that I crumble. My hope is in Jesus, who prays for me when I don’t remember how. We must decide that God is good-PERIOD-before cancer. Before the miscarriage, the freak accident, the lost job, the broken marriage. God is either good, or He is not. We are either anchored in His unchanging goodness towards us, or we are mercilessly tossed about by an ocean of sin ravaging the world today.
The effects of sin may leave us broken and bloodied, but they will never leave us destroyed. Jesus made sure of that when he hung broken and bloodied on a cross in our place. And though a violent battle rages, the war has already been won.
May your soul be anchored in hope this weekend.