Diamonds and Ash

Dearest Rachel –

I would say “I wish you had been there” for this year’s Mother’s Day sermon, but when I am always wishing you were here as it is, it really doesn’t carry the weight that I mean for it to. The thing is, as a general rule, we don’t really have a sermon about motherhood on this second Sunday of May. Oh, it’s mentioned, along with the acknowledgement that there are those for which the day has some very painful implications – the inability to become a mother, for instance, or the reminder of a, let’s say, less than ideal maternal relationship – as well as the obvious situation of mothers lost to eternity, like you.

I don’t mind telling you that we’re among those ranks these days. Indeed, I suppose it would be quite strange and rather inappropriate if we weren’t bothered, on this first Mother’s Day without you (of course, it begs the question as to whether we’ll ever be able to appreciate the holiday again going forward – is everything ruined for us from now on because it’s all tainted by your absence? I know it’s all still fairly new and fresh to us, but I can’t imagine whether and how this could change in the future, and I really don’t like the idea that nothing from here on out can ever be properly enjoyed again).

But as I said, the topic the sermon of had nothing to do with motherhood, as it rarely does. Indeed, the topics covered in the month or so after Easter have generally been dealing with the difficult questions that what we might refer to as ‘seekers’ would ask about God and Christianity – the things that, left unanswered, might well be what’s keeping the average Joe on the street away from God and his people.

This week’s question was about… what happens when we die.

Now, at this point, I suppose you’d be an expert on the subject, albeit no more than anyone else who you might be associating with these days. But of course, we can’t consult with the likes of you or any of those people – much as we might desperately want to – and in the end, we’re left with the words of Daniel and John and (of course) Jesus about the topic.

Since you already know what happens, I see no reason to offer any spoilers – and in fact, the words we have are most likely quite inadequate to accurately describe the truth, especially given the few specifics we are given about heaven. What I got is that it is apparently much like Eden was, only better – but at the same time, the New Jerusalem is enormously urban as well. Basically, the best of both worlds, for those who prefer nature or the big city.

I do hope there will be maps and directories, at least at first. I’m sure we’ll get used to where everything is eventually, but I’d probably want to know where certain specific places and people can be found in rather a hurry to start with.

At the same time, while the main focus was on what happens on your side of it all (and you should know, it was gut-wrenching to endure, thinking about where you are, and how I’m not with you… yet), Junior did offer a few stories about our side of the veil. Evidently, his wife Nicole wants him to marry again should he outlive her. Granted, it seems to be because she doesn’t want him to be bringing up their three daughters in an Airstream trailer on the side of some mountain in Israel (one of his expressed dreams he’s spoken of in previous sermons – I can vaguely understand either part of that vision, even if I wouldn’t have it for myself, but I’ll admit that both together seems like asking too much out of life), and another woman would keep him somewhat in line.

Honestly, I think it’s a good thing that he has that permission up front, even if he swears he’d be terrible at dating. Believe me, in another decade or two, he’d be that much more rusty. I certainly don’t feel like getting into the dating scene, partly because I share his lack of confidence, partly because I keep being given the indication that it’s too soon, and partly because I’d really want to start with someone I’m already good friends with first, the way you and I were. The only problem is, what few female friends I have… would (understandably) rather just be friends still, as cliché as the line might be. One has actually stated flat out that she still sees me (and probably always will) as your husband, and would imagine dating me to be somehow poaching me from you. It would have been nice to have had your permission to move on at some point. I remember clearly telling you that I would have been honored if you had enjoyed being married to me enough that you would want to continue the experience, but you (like Junior with Nicole) pointed out that you couldn’t imagine anyone else you would want to be with after me. It’s a moot point now, anyway, I suppose.

Another thing he mentioned was what he might do with Nicole in such an event. In particular, he mentioned that he was fascinated by the fact that there are a number of companies that can turn cremains (yeah, that’s the word for what’s left of you, honey – I know, it’s a particularly silly-sounding portmanteau, isn’t it?) into diamonds. Honestly, I have to admit, while I know you want the majority of your ashes poured into Schoolhouse Bay off of Middle Bass Island, I’d still be interested in doing that to part of yours as well: it would probably be more appropriate, and display-worthy, than carrying a vial of ashes with me forever so as to be buried with you.

What I do promise, though, is that – should God be gracious enough to allow someone else into my life (and I do hope so, forgive me, honey!), I would not give her an engagement (or wedding) ring with your diamond set in it, like Junior suggests. Yes, it would be a case of recycling you might just approve of, but it strikes me as being in poor taste. The poor girl already would know she’s in your shadow – why put that burden on her finger forever?

Still, I think that would be an ideal treasure to carry with me, and keep at least a small part of you with me to my own end. Some years ago, I’d sketched out what I thought could be our headstone one day, but since I couldn’t quite figure out how to fill the verse in, I don’t think I ever showed it to you, so I don’t know if you’d entirely approve. Still, now that I’ve found it in amongst so many other papers in the bedroom, I thought I should show you:

Underneath the cameo portrait it should say “Married – September 12, 1992 | Parted – January 23, 2021 | Reunited – ” well, that last will be filled in later. I hadn’t considered the “Parted” portion when I drew this up whenever I did this.

As for the verse, well, I know it sounds like something from a bygone era, but that doesn’t seem all that appropriate for when we’ll both be bygone ourselves. And I think I might have something for that missing third line, although I’ve had to modify the last line as well. See what you think:

The Lord has been most good to us
To let us into heaven above
But here on earth, He also blessed
Us both with one another’s love

Just a reminder of the little taste of heaven He gave each of us in allowing us each other. And while the next few (or many) years will be long without you, we’ll see each other again soon enough – at least in terms of eternal scale. As D. L. Moody claimed as he saw the end approaching, it should be glorious, indeed.

Until then, I am yours.

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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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