One year ago today, he was taking his last breath.
I still remember standing in the kitchen, baby on my hip, pounding my closed fist on the brown countertops. Weeping out the only word that made sense, “Nooooo.”
Tim was leaving the hospital, screaming into the steering wheel after the sheet had been drawn over him.
That night, I sang hymns over the girls until they fell asleep, letting the lyrics flow over us, trying to smooth over the open wound.
I still turn my head and nod slightly whenever we pass his neighborhood, in a sort of aching act of remembrance.
Death doesn’t make sense. Especially the aftermath – the way the world marches forward, babies grow older, hairs turn grayer, the sun rises and sets.
I think of Grandpa Sheaffer when country music plays, when the meteors fall, when somebody says “hotter than a pepper sprout,” when we pass by the milk chocolate raisins and the pizza stand at Costco. More painfully, I think of him when I watch Audrey dance across our tile and clap her hands. He would have loved her sparkling eyes, her cheerfulness, her endearing courage. And she would have adored him, his house – where we always felt welcome, no matter the day of the week or the time of day.
Kayla sometimes stops in the middle of a game or a drawing, just out of the blue, and mourns the loss of him. She’s memorizing a poem by Charles Dickens for school and, when she stands up to recite it at Thanksgiving, I will wish he was there to hear it.
This will be our second Christmas without him and we’ll miss him showing up early. We’ll miss his quips about Santa Claus, the way he adjusted his belt and wore his shining polished shoes so proudly. We’ll miss his strumming of the guitar, his faltering voice singing “Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong…”
Death is not ultimately Victorious (I know that to be true). But it does sting this side of heaven.