It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. We go about the business of living as if we aren’t dying. But in reality, each of us has eternity stamped on our hearts. It just gets buried under the tragic beauty of this life. It is suppressed by all the necessary and unnecessary components of human existence—pink slips, birthday parties, first kisses, job changes, flat tires, parking tickets, home games. It’s as though if we can just pretend its not there, it will never make its way to the surface and become a reality.
But today, as I curled up next to you in bed, it was a reality. I listened to you breathe. You silently rubbed my arm as the lyrics “earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal” wafted from the radio speaker. It was just like you, the one who is dying, to be comforting me instead.
It's funny what comes to mind in surreal moments like this. Here I am, crying into your hair and clinging to my last few moments with you, and all I can think of is you laughing at me for always wearing unmatched socks. I picture you sitting across from me at Applebee's, splitting a meal with Scott. I hear you reassuring me that my stinky Basset Hound is doing just fine at your house while I'm away. I see myself curled up on your couch as we laugh and cry about this hard, beautiful life. I suppose I should've been thinking deep things, serious things...but in that moment, I just closed my eyes and listened to your laughter on a reel of memories.
Driving home, I realized something. Most of the time, it isn’t until we get serious about dying that eternity makes its way to our face. You are a rare exception, my friend. Yes, I saw eternity on your face today, but looking back, I realize it had been there all along. I saw it when you played the piano with those long, beautiful fingers. When you sang. When you talked about your Jesus. When you walked with such dignity and grace. When you treated people with kindness, your eyes alight with empathy. When you smiled at Scott. When you listened, really and truly listened. Indeed, for all the years I’ve known you, you’ve had eternity on your face. I just wasn’t ready to see it there.
But today, I saw eternity on your face, and it was beautiful. You do death so well, just like you’ve done life. You’ve made your dying everything you’ve lived for, the culmination of all your priorities, the intermission between this old world and the wonder that lies beyond.
Your last words to me were so perfect: “I love you, but quit your cryin’ on me.” As you wish, sweet BJ. I’m not crying. I’m remembering. I’m rejoicing. But, most of all, I’m grateful.
Until we meet again, my friend. I love you.
BY MARYANNE TUCK GRIMMETT