I wanted to write a story about the Bridgewoods because being with them on Sunday gave me a lot to consider concerning the nature of loss.
It’d been a year & a half since I had last seen Mary. Last time I came to the door, Mary was so weakened by the unbearable loss of her son, barely able to hold herself up, eyes spilling out tears. Her brothers and sister-in-laws and best friend Gabby were all there. Family members who had driven from New York spent the night on the living room floor with her, on pillows and cushions. The house was just as full this time as when Danny had passed.
This time the same faces were there, only everyone wore delightfully tacky onesies and Christmas sweaters (except Emily, who wore a leather skirt and mahogany lace up boots). A few bottles and shades of wine stood on the counter next to the tray of gingerbread men. Bobby and Patty were giving each other dares, so Patty was secretly shooting at people with her hand gun. Mr. Bridgewood had grown a great big mustache. And Mary was smiling.
Things were different.
Lori looked completely different for one thing. Her face had to be reconstructed after the car accident, which was I think only a month ago. She lost her four front teeth.
She had a totally different nose.
Emily and I went out on the porch to smoke. She told me about being at Snowden in September. John had found her lying in a heap on the side of the house, near the woods. He carried her back inside and they rushed her to the hospital.
“It was my first time on the adult ward!” Emily smiled at me. She breathed in the cool night air. And the tobacco.
“I sat there in that ward and remembered everything. How completely insulated I had been, living in my own reality.”
“Tim drove over to see me. “Dad fucking lost his job today.” was the first thing he said. “What?” Dad lost his job? Then everyone was there. They just sat there with me.”
Aaron fell in the ditch on his way to the porch, he smoked a cigarette with us and we went back inside. I talked to Lori some more.
“Lori, you look so different, but I can’t remember how you used to look.” I told her. “I know, it’s weird for me too.” she said. “Every time I look in the mirror, I surprise myself.” She took me in the office room and held out a framed photo of how she had looked before the accident. It triggered my memory and images came back into my mind of her old familiar face. Her new nose made her look like Tim.
Then she told me about getting cancer. I was shocked. Right after I left in August 2015 she had been diagnosed with cancer.
She pointed at the table where a woman sat wrapping presents for the children at the children’s hospital. “That’s one of the doctor’s who helped me.” she said. I hugged her and she hugged me back. “It’s all gone now.” she said. “I’m cancer-free.”
“Your family is a load of freaking soldiers.” Aaron told Emily on the porch.
“Yeah, I guess we are.” Emily said. “huh,… yeah.” she thought about it. “we’ve been on the battlefield.”
“Everywhere I look I see His hand.” Lori told me while we were in the bookshelf room.
“We got an anonymous check in the mail that paid for my teeth. And Tom still hasn’t found work, but every month we’ve paid the mortgage.”
I just looked at her in silence. “He’s faithful, Mikaela. I don’t mean to say that it hasn’t been hard. I don’t mean to sound cheesy. It’s been hard.” Her New York accent was starting to come out. “But where else could we go?, like it says in Scripture, you know.”
We went back into the kitchen. I noticed the picture on the fridge of the whole family. I looked at it for a minute. Lori didn’t have her teeth replaced yet. Tim’s head was popping out in the back, like a shy gopher. Tommy and Mary were smiling. Emily looked hardcore.
A picture of Danny boy was also on the fridge. I looked at his face. His sweet brown eyes.
I went back outside to say bye to Emily. “Remember when you were playing Wolverine in the car?” Tommy was on the porch too. ” I had to head bang. My soul had to.” He started head banging a little bit at the memory of it on the porch. Emily was smiling and naming off other metal bands.
Tommy asked me about school. I told him how I quit. I immediately start to hate myself when I remember that decision, but Tommy eyes were filled with encouragement and his face just lit up. “You know what I tell my 8th graders?” “What?” I said. “I tell them the cross is our success. Our success is found there, and every day we carry His cross we are doing well. What worth is our life apart from grace, anyway?” he said.
I felt like I had been injected with a weight of something eternal, but it was more so like awe, because it wasn’t too deep or too heavy. It stunned my whole body and mind as I drove home. The awe I felt in response to seeing Mary again. Emily’s hugs. Lori’s new face. I went home and the house was dark. My dad was on the couch watching the news and my mom had gone to bed.
I went upstairs and lay in stillness on my bed, at rest.
I think, at least from my own experiences, the nature of loss is a form of dying. It seems to take without healing. The nature of loss is destructive. Loss itself is cruel.
I hate loss.
Yet through these losses, there is something else. It’s a mystery. I don’t think that it is loss itself, but the something that is experienced through loss that is quite indescribable. I would say surrender, but it also something more than surrender. It is something very pure, and it makes me cry to realize that this is part of the beauty we have has humans. To go through horrible things, and to face such horrendous things like sudden death, or forms of dying which are more complex than , the many various losses that come to us in life, such loss as there being distance between you and people you love..loss of dignity that comes through the abuse of power, or poverty, …it is in and through these very destructions we must face that we experience things like, letting go. Things like perseverance.
And also love.
Part of the mystery here is I think, love. Love is so pure and so much sweeter than I have thought. I’m starting to see it now, that love is not equal to romance. It’s not. Love goes beyond being connected to my worth, or my means of becoming valuable to another person. In loss, there is a discovery of real love. If you lose your beauty, (which gives you much value in this world) if you lose your independence, (aging) your money, etc. these are the times as a human being when you really get the chance to experience love that is not selfish.
When you lose the people you love, that’s the hardest though, and it’s different. but even in the worst kinds of loss, there is a mystery. It has something to do with discovering Christ’s compassion for you as a person, that He somehow is alive to you in pain. That in the worst kinds of loss, He draws near.
So while the nature of loss is to destroy, there is a mercy that comes I think when we are scorned by its heat..