This past October, I wrote about the beginning of the end. And this post is about the end.
On January 3rd, 2019, my Joni lost her battle with cancer and went to be with our Lord. On January 12th, 2019 we held her Homecoming.
How can it be five years? How??
Joni would be tickled that I'm using something as nerdy as Red Dwarf (a British sci-fi sitcom) to talk about my grief. Then again, IYKYK. In the episode White Hole, the crew encounters an event and time stops working properly on the ship. The Bentleys encountered an event and time stopped working properly. I frequently remember this phrase when I think about the weird thing that grief does to time. As I said in October, grief is no respecter of time. I'm sad to say that I can confirm what our counselor and my friend Thomas both said - sometimes it seems like it's been a lot of time and sometimes it seems like no time at all. Hence "relative time dilation".
I have decided that this year I will finally watch the video of her Homecoming Celebration and listen again to the song I used during the photo montage, You Are The Rain by Lionel Richie. I haven't done either of those in five years - it's been too painful.
I know I've said it before, but in Genesis, it says "the two shall become one" and ever since she's been gone, there is still part of me missing. That's not to say there hasn't been healing, restoration, or blessing in the last five years, because there absolutely has. It's just that when someone has such a profound impact on our lives, their loss leaves us diminished. With time, the depth of feeling diminished may shrink, but I'm not convinced that it ever goes away.
And how do you cope knowing that a little part of you will always be gone? I don't want to sound bleak or hopeless, because I'm not. What I want to convey is that it's difficult to accept the realities of loss sometimes. One of those realities is that something will be missing from my life until the hereafter. I will not dwell on it and will not mope through life, but I will acknowledge it and work to accept it.
I've experienced a lot of loss in my life and each one has diminished me, but I refuse to let that turn my life into a tragedy. I have experienced tragedy, but I am not my tragedies.
Because just as something is missing, SO MUCH has been deposited in me by the people I love and have lost. Anyone who knows me knows a little of Jack, Jean, Lauren, Liz, Mamaw, Papaw...and especially Joni. So we honored Joni today. Here's what we did:
Had one of her favorite meals: cajun chicken corn chowder.
Gave the kids their baby books along with 1 piece each from a set of four art pieces she had painted.
Finally made plans for scattering her ashes.
Sitting and listening to my kids read through their baby books was an unexpected joy. Not a single one of them waited until later to look at them. They saw their mom right there in the pages in the way she wrote, misspelled things, emphasized certain words, meticulously recounted certain details, and SO many other little things. It was not something I ever thought I'd get to see when Joni first put the books together after each of them was born.
"Wait...ashes?" I hear you ask. "You still have her ashes?" Yep. It's been too hard to plan what to do with them. It's been too painful. I think part of me hasn't wanted to part with them because psychologically they're "her". But I feel like it's time. I have already scattered some of them myself in the new concrete retaining wall and stairs we recently put in our yard. Joni is/was a key part of our foundation, a support, and a pathway so it seemed fitting.
For the rest, we'll each pick a special place in WA to scatter the ashes - somewhere that connects us with her or a favorite memory. We'll also save some ashes aside for members of the family to save, scatter, or use in some other form of memorial.
As I watched her memorial earlier, I started writing out lessons I learned from her. I'm sure the list will grow much longer the more I think about it. But for now, in loving tribute, here are my lessons from Joni:
Always learn, be curious, ask questions.
Look for the humor and make others laugh.
Listen to understand.
It's OK to have strong opinions (aka - be opinionated).
Don't be afraid to speak up.
Sometimes taking medication, getting counseling, or going through a procedure is like wearing glasses or using crutches: if you need it, you use it. Maybe you need it forever, maybe you don't. But you can't correct your vision or unbreak your leg by trying harder.
Try new recipes.
Try new things.
Take risks that matter.
Examine your heart and your beliefs regularly and adjust accordingly.
As always, thanks for reading.