You died in February when the snow covered everything else that was dead. I didn’t notice when it melted, but your sister asked me to come on a bike ride with her.

Before I knew it I was following her on our familiar loop through the countryside. It was the first time I was out in the world with the reality of you being gone forever. With each pump of the pedals, the mantra pulsed through my head: my-son-is-dead, my-son-is-dead, my-son-is-dead.

There was a man mowing the lawn and my son was dead. There was a family reorganizing their garage and my son was dead. Shouldn’t we all be frozen in time, gazing at something horrific on the horizon? Didn’t they know life is a tragedy?

I could see the real world. But I felt like I had shown up at the wrong dress rehearsal. I was cast in a Dark Broadway Opera while everyone else was in Mary Poppins. If I could just find the right stage and cast of characters I might feel at home again.

I finished that ride in a disparity of torn soul vs. the real world and lived that way for many months.

It was a whole year before I tried cycling again. And it was easy to see the difference between the last time. I made it through the whole loop with no missing-you mantra. But I noticed that this ride was becoming a picture of my grief journey itself–

I thought this was a balmy day, but now the sun is WAY too hot. It’s sapping what little strength I have. Oh, thank the Lord, I see shade up ahead. Just in time! Wow, it’s amazing how a simple tree can bring such reliefOh no, now a hill, I can’t! AND the wind is against me? What the heck, I didn’t feel the wind pushing me along helping me get here but it’s strong enough now to make everything worse! Double the pain. God, can you somehow get me up this grade? And where is McKenna, she was just ahead of me! At least now I can glide down this hill and do nothing. I think the road ahead may be flat and easy. But does it get harder around that bend?

My cycles of grief are going to be like this. It’s not slowly better bit-by-bit, but it’s uphill, downhill, uphill again. Burning and shade, over and over. And sometimes the wind won’t help me.

A wise friend encapsulated it all in this email:

“As you go forward you will find that there are moments that are good, that you can smile and even laugh.  It doesn’t mean that you have forgotten, or that it doesn’t hurt as much, but just that God is giving you some moments of relief…and a glimpse of the fact that someday you will be joyful again.  It will never be the same, as you have experienced such deep grief and loss and pain, but it will be possible. So I’m praying that you will have more moments like that, and that the times of despair will be further apart.”

“A glimpse,” she said. I like thinking of any joy I encounter as a glimpse of the ultimate joy waiting for me in heaven, with you, and with the One who saved us both.

Dear God, It feels scary to remember those first burning-hot days. Glimmers of them still break through into the fragile peace You’ve worked into my shady days.  Just when I think I’m not going to make it, Your shield over me provides the shade I need. I miss providing like that for my Tristan and I still can’t believe it’s not my job anymore.  I know he’s with the One who loves Him best. I can just see him having fun up there with You and all the adventures You have yet in store in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Help me to wait. Kiss my boy for me. Save me from myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.