Piecing Together Puzzles in the Valley of Suck


The story winds its way to the end.  Be it action adventure, romance or tragedy, the end will come and bring resolution.  Maybe there will be a sequel or an epilogue.  But the end will come and the lights go up or the book will be closed and the audience leaves.

What is that? A shadow? No, a shape...a form...an outline.  Someone is left sitting in the dark.  Some of us are left wondering what happens next.

The end is not the end of the story.  Even the epilogue does not clear all the loose ends.  For real human beings and not characters in a story, life continues.  The tragic death of my wife because of colon cancer does not end my story.  It does not end my kids’ story.  I do not even believe it ended Heather’s story (I just do not know what it looks like now).

We are not frozen in time.  We keep living.  We keep “writing” if you will.  But our story is marred by missing one of the main characters, one integral to the story arc.  We did not see it coming.  As authors, the three of us are scrambling and scurrying about many days it feels.  It does especially become difficult at each “first” as it is right now on our first vacation without Heather.

What storyline do we take now?  

What do we do next?  

What do I do next?

Conventional wisdom following the death of a loved one, especially for widows and widowers, is to make no major decisions in the first year.  Of course, this also presupposes said widows/widowers are in retirement or near about.  But what of the new single adult or the new parent? How about when necessity demands decisions to be made?

Or let's consider another word picture such as a puzzle. When the pieces aren’t coming into place and don’t match the picture on the box, at some point, a somewhat sound person stops and sees there is no progress.  We look carefully and observe the pieces of our puzzle and the image on the box are not the same ones.  

Assuming we cannot return the puzzle, do we quit, do we try to put together the puzzle on the box, or do we try to put the puzzle together with the pieces we have?  The first two options are what is so very tempting to do.  Quitting would just save us a lot of headaches.  Trying for the picture on the box is the way it is “supposed to be done.”  If it doesn’t work we can just blame the box, the pieces, the company, the employees, the lighting in our house, etc.

The third option is the hardest.  It sucks that we don’t have the pieces to match the box.  We might even cry about and shout about it but we know there is a COMPLETE puzzle here...we just don’t know what it is supposed to look like.  But it can be done.  Some have puzzles with pieces and a picture to match.  Good for them.  Give them a cookie.

Right now, I feel like someone keeps taking my puzzle and changing it again and again.  Just when I get the border done, I look away, turn back and a whole puzzle is in front: a bunch of pieces for the wrong picture.  That is what I feel like on this first vacation without my wife.  

I’m not wired to give up and I found, as tempting as it is, blaming others or trying to put together the picture with pieces I don’t have is futile and no fun.  Even more futile, for me, is trying to do this without God, without faith.  Some think this is ideal and feel it is their role to try to destroy other’s faith.  Rather than focus on their own puzzle, they go messing with other people and their puzzles.

These days after death are a time where many caregivers are forced to face their futures far too soon.  The puzzle of their life, once on its road to completion, is now a mixed up jumble of junk.  Only, it isn’t junk - it is our lives, thrown about through chaos, confusion, and catastrophe.   Our story’s outline is nothing more than toilet paper and fire starter.

But words can be rearranged and even a puzzle without a picture can be put together.  It will take time.  It will take tears and it may take a few years.  The draft you had made of the future is gone and like many other drafts of literature, it gives way to a new story.  I have a new story to discover.  You have a new story to discover.  Look intently at the pieces you have and start moving them around.

Before you know it, you will find a word or piece move into place.  A new sentence is written, a new piece joined to another.  This is prevenient grace - God’s Spirit working before you and I even knew it.  



Image used with permission: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/open-book-1424269
 http://www.freeimages.com/photo/puzzle-1624119

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