Book Marks

Dearest Rachel –

I’m going to say something to you that’s probably going to seem a little blasphemous:

I wish you had defaced a few more of your books.

Hear me out, honey. Sure, I’m keeping most of our collection of books as it is (although I hate to say it, but I don’t have much use for the many puzzle books you owned, and I’ll get to that as I go along), and from time to time, I’ll bring one or another down to flip through. But most of them are going to spend the better part of their lives on the bookshelves, serving more as ornamentation that actual information. They’ll just be there.

But as I’ve been going through all the material on your side of the bedroom, I’ve been finding a number of Bible study books, with all sorts of comments. Admittedly, they’re generally answers to questions posed by each study, but still… they still sound like you. Rather than just filling in blanks, you actually comment, even throwing in a “Well,” or “Oh, I don’t know,” as you start to reply, as if you were simply talking to someone rather than simply writing words on a page.

All in your trademark purple ink. Jan tells me how appreciative she is that you used those colored pens, so she can see at a glance, without even having to look all that intensely, what absolutely needs to be saved.

Because it’s all I have left in your own words.

You never kept a journal, sweetheart. At least, not as far as we have been able to find. There are these study books, the odd notebook here and there, and some twelve years worth of sermon notes, all copiously written down (perhaps everything should be copied as a record for Pastor Scott or the church – I don’t know how much of what the teaching staff prepares is saved for posterity, after all), but that’s about it. Naturally, they show you as a studious, thoughtful, and – to say the least – self-effacing woman, keenly aware of your flaws, always resolving to do better. Which is all well and good; you were all these things. But that’s not really the person you were from all outward appearances.

These notes don’t capture the free spirited, fun loving, effervescent girl (yes, girl… you may have been a fully-grown woman, but you strove mightily to always be a girl at heart. And you succeeded better than anyone I ever knew – and probably better than anyone who ever met you knew) that everyone saw. It may be part of the reason I’m struggling with the burden of cleaning this house out – you were always engaged in having as much fun as possible (and dragging the rest of us in your wake – not that any of us objected), that something as joy-sapping as organization was simply not a priority.

[Not that you couldn’t be organized – you have at least one notebook full of specific lists of items to bring to specific events – this series of lists for this anime convention, another group of lists for the island trip. And yes, each trip contained multiple lists – foodstuffs, games/toys, electronics, et cetera. So you could be very organized when it came to planning for a larger fun time.]

And the energy! You may have been quoting the Doctor when you said it, but I’m certain you believed with all your heart that “sleep is for tortoises.” Not for you those golden slumbers that I cherished – which is perhaps why I can better live with the empty bed than some widowers, although that’s perhaps a subject for another time.

You would also never have described yourself as an all-loving hero – but that’s what people who knew you saw. You literally were unable to hurt a fly, but would rather cup it in your hands if you could, and carry it outside to release it. Even one of our pastors described receiving a hug from you as “like if Mister Rogers gave you a hug.” And you would almost hug anybody, too – why, it’s how you made your introduction to my extended family (again, a subject for another day). Would you have written that down about yourself? Would you have even thought that about yourself? Hardly.

So what I’ve found of your writings, while perhaps more copious that what I ever had lying around (although it is amazing to look at this site and realize I’ve written over a hundred thousand words to you in less than three months), still leaves huge holes in who you were to me, to Daniel, to everyone who knew you.

And I wish you had scribbled more down in your books.

I’ve been pulling one book and another out from under your nightstand. These, I would guess, would have been the ones you kept physically closest to you because they were (by dint of being so much more accessible) most important to you. But aside from those study guides and the puzzle books (which I’m afraid I’ve gotten rid of, as they were full of little more than numbers – I’m sorry, honey, but sudoku puzzles contain no soul in them. They’re only numbers. I know you did them as much to stave off the mental decline that affected your mom and grandmothers, but there’s nothing more to them that serves as a message to anyone reading them later), there isn’t much you left in the way of commentary. Not in the book about “Men – An Owners’ Manual,” not in the one about “Sensual Massage” (couldn’t you have at least had a “this technique is particularly good” somewhere? I know I’ve seen a few comments elsewhere about my talented fingers), not in the several books about raising an autistic child, not even in the books about raising a “Scaredy Dog,” which you must have picked up specifically to figure out how to deal with Chompers and the emotional baggage he arrived at our doorstep with.

I’m not getting rid of these books, necessarily. But your comments here and there would have rendered them absolutely indispensable to me.

There is a relatively modern parable (which someone turned into a song) wherein an old violin is being sold off at an estate sale for a few dollars, until an old man takes it from the auctioneer and demonstrates the beauty of the music that can be wrung from even a battered old instrument. Upon completing his impromptu virtuoso performance, he returns the instrument to the auctioneer, who now resumes the sale, but the asking price – and the bids – are now orders of magnitude higher than they were. The crowd is surprised at the change in the price, but the auctioneer points out that ‘the touch of the master’s hand’ demonstrated the true value of the violin, and proved it could command the amounts now being bid on it.

Of course, this is meant to illustrate the value of our lives and souls, and how the Master can take us and fill us with true worth by using us as properly intended. But on a smaller scale, your comments are what render those study guides of any value to me – and indeed, rather than being more or less worthless (after all, I didn’t attend the lectures, I never saw the videos, I’m missing out on a large chunk of what was said – or, in the case of the sermon notes, I hardly remember what was said so many years ago), these are some of the dearest treasures left to me, because they are in your ‘voice’ – a voice that I will never hear again on this side of the veil.

And it’s disappointing when I find something that might be expected to have something written in it that doesn’t. I know you admired Jessica and here collection of tiny cards that she carried around with her of people that she prayed for (and perhaps some blank ones to write additional requests as they came to her attention). So when I came across this tin:

…I thought you might have likewise filled it with people and things to pray about.

But no.

This was all that was written in there

Of course, maybe this is a mantle you would want me to take up. I can’t promise anything, but I guess I can try. That way, maybe I can leave something behind for Daniel (or… some other loved one?) to find someday.

Because we only have so much time on this earth, and only so much time to write things down. One of these days, I will have collected everything you have written of any real importance (and that won’t necessarily include everything you’ve ever written – the sudoku puzzles being an example). Some time in the fairly near future, I will have gone through all of the video of you on our many vacations. And there will only be so much footage, only so many pictures, only so many words in your purple ink, to remember you by.

And while I would wish for more, I might as well also wish you were back to just be here with me for all the good that would do (and frankly, your words are a poor – if wise – substitute for your actual presence). When that day comes – and it may well be soon – I will miss you that much more because of the fact that I will have truly reached the end of you and what you’ve said to and of and for me.

And I probably should do something about leaving behind my own collection for the people I’ll be leaving behind. I suppose I had best start with that prayer box, eh?

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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