There was a time in life where I knew the faint whisper of sadness, the echoes of trauma from a life filled with all sorts of turns and twists, but not the total honesty that comes of breaking. There was a time where I thought to be whole.
At many points in my story up until April 3rd, 2012, I believed I had overcome the pain experienced through childhood and those wonderful teen years – building a new life distanced from the epic center of chaos. What I discovered was that all I had done successfully was layer on a sealing cover over a very broken heart.
Today is about taking the minutes slower than normal and remembering. The past two years on this date, or let’s be honest, the entire week leading up to this day, I’ve had a bottle of wine in hand tucked away somewhere alone, or with a friend barely breathing through these minutes. This year the ache is a bit duller and the memories sweeter.
Three years ago we said goodbye to the very best man I have ever known, my Uncle James. After a valiant battle with Stage 4 cancer he said goodbye after days surrounded by his people, toasting with wine and listening to Adele til the very last. The last moments you have with someone who is an intricate part of your heart, I learned, become the ones you think you might stop breathing from – and everything around you seems to stand still. Your mind trying desperately to understand the moment you’re existing in. I’ll never forget my goodbye to him – but that will always just — be something I hold. To this day, having the chance to say goodbye has been an ultimate treasure, one I have not taken lightly.
It was a brutal journey, the loss of him. Ended up the gateway to intense depression compounding from a life of brokenness not dealt with that led me discovering my truest self. There hasn’t been a day in three years that I haven’t thought of him – and on the normal one there is a heaviness that settles when thinking how he can’t be part of what’s happening today. To see his best friend and wife of 30 years champion being a single parent – tenacious in her pursuit of a life well lived. Or be able to see his beloved daughter start high school and start to dream. I want to sit in his living room and talk about the state of the world, good wine, hear what books I should read, and listen to his unmatched sarcasm.
What’s interesting about loss is that when you pay attention – you see the spirit of that one you loved everywhere. It’s in the sun filled mornings with the birds singing outside your window or in the countenance of someone you’ve just met – taking you by surprise when you recognize the glimpse you’ve been given.
On April 3, 2012 – I broke. It was as if the jumanji of my heart toppled down – propelling me into a place so dark I wasn’t sure if I could ever find the light again. It was the first time I encountered my fragility as a human, and it’s a scary place to find yourself in.
But, through the sweet grace of God, and constant love of friends I did find the light again. I have come to understand what real loss, pain and grief feels, tastes and sounds like – enabling me to connect with people I could have never before. I wasn’t yet capable to sit with them in their pain because I had yet to face my own. Realizing you don’t have to have experienced the same loss or broken heart, something in-explainable binds you together.
His incredible story was cut short far too early and has only caused me to want to live mine fully alive. Creating a legacy and life that he would be proud of, because of the vital role his life played in the shaping of mine.
In the published eulogy at his funeral it was written “ James encouraged an open door policy, always ready to set another plate at the table, always ready to welcome a stranger into his world”.
It’s that example of the life he lived that taught me what it means to show up for people, and to love in real ways, things I try do my best at everyday. While still failing and learning.
Loss broke me, Jesus redeemed me, and hope rescued my tired heart. Today, these minutes will draw out and if grief is an ocean, I am not drowning in it’s waves – but standing with my back to the shore feeling the ebb and flow of it’s approach. It’s like that, you know. When you’ve met the center of sorrow and come back. It’s easy to sense it coming and a choice to stand rooted on the shore.
I have learned so much through saying goodbye to that man I loved. Seeing our family navigate life without him and start new chapters all the while taking pieces of him with us has been a testament to their strength.
Through his life and death I learned that all can be redeemed – even the most profound breaking of human spirit. That new life can be produced from it and if given the chance it can hopefully be a life our lost loved ones can look down from heaven and say “ it was worth it ‘. Oh goodness, do I ever hope he can see our lives and think that.
James Hendricks was the type of man that left everyone better, truer and stronger for knowing him. He loved his family and friends fiercely, worked tirelessly and was always down for a good martini.
Though he won’t in real time see retirement with his love or watch his brave Mariah graduate high school, or walk me down the aisle when I get married – we are all better more giving people because he loved us.
It’s that love I carry with me everyday. He was in it to win it – and though success would have been more life with him, we were given an extraordinary gift for having him central to our stories.