He called me at 5 a.m. my time after he had checked in at the airport and before he went through security. He asked how our dinner went last night and how was the house blessing (the priest and his family had come to bless the house and for dinner) and I sleepily recalled how it had gone. The priest’s 3-year-old son must have asked my brother-in-law about the picture of Zack and I at our wedding that was in the living room because he padded into the kitchen in his footed pajamas to ask loudly about a man he’s never met, something like, “Where’s Zack? Why isn’t he here?” My thoughts exactly, dear one.
I wish you could meet these people, I tell him in the early morning darkness. I wish you could be here. I want them to know you, too. Maybe that’s why I have half a dozen pictures of him and I framed around this basement room that is now my home. Maybe I’m a little afraid I’ll forget the sweetness of his face. Mostly I just want anyone who comes down here to remember that I’m not just a me, that there is an “us.”
Neither of us really want to say goodbye, but he has to go through security and I kind of want to go back to sleep. So he just says he’ll call me again before he gets on the plane. I fall back to sleep, but sleep fitfully and dream.
He calls again at about 7 a.m. He’s had breakfast. He spilled his coffee before he had a chance to drink much and I feel sorry about this, although it’s a small thing. They’re about to start boarding the plane. “I’ll try to find WiFi when I get to Japan,” he says, “And send you a message somehow.” And then we really have to say goodbye. Being an hour and a handful of states away feels so much more manageable than being a day and half the world apart.
When I wake up again a little while later, I feel so empty. Hollow.
I know a lot of good things. That there is hope. That I’m sure I’ll hear from him soon. We have the Internet, for God’s sake. Many, many people are separated from those they love most and many of these are in far more dire circumstances than he and I. Don’t lose perspective, I tell myself. Don’t wax melodramatic and lose hold of Truth.
Maybe it is okay, even good, to embrace the emptiness, the grief and loss. Maybe God will honor my tears as prayers. Maybe if I live with grief for a while, I’ll grow up in compassion. And maybe we will meet God together from a world apart.