It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. It's like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down through the air, and there's a sickly moment of dark surprise. -Lemony Snicket from A Series of Unfortunate Events (2005)
I was texting with my sister-in-law yesterday when I was having a particularly difficult grief day and we were discussing how much we miss Joni and how there’s no one like her. There will be people we meet that will have similar qualities: maybe their sense of humor, wisdom, perspective, or even appearance. But no one will be able to take her place. The quote from the Unfortunate Events movie (very underrated, I might add) is an apt description of what it’s like to lose a loved one, but there’s more to it, for me at least.
There’s this Joni-shaped hole in my life now. Nothing fits it exactly. I know it exists, but it’s like I forget just how big it is - how much space she occupied in my life - until I take a step and all of a sudden there’s nothing underneath. That sickly feeling of falling when you don’t expect to like not knowing where the edge of the stage is an not being able to see it because the spotlights are in your face then taking a grandiose step forward right into thin air. Pucker Factor 5 (on a scale of 1-5).
The reality is that no one on this earth, no matter how close, can fill that hole. People will step forward to help rebuild those missing places and will help us to identify where the hole is, but only God can fill up the hole perfectly. Whether by providing an incredible support network, teaching you how to fill parts of it, bringing people into your life, or supernaturally. The trick is to not despise the process...or be annoyed at the process. No one will replace Joni. It’s impossible. But it does no good for me to be angry/annoyed/frustrated with the people who are in my life just because they aren’t her. I know that logically, but it’s the difference between knowing and feeling.
I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 during my (semi) daily Bible study the other day. (For those that don’t know, it’s the chapter that contains the oft-quoted verse “Love is patient, love is kind...”) and the piece that jumped out at me was verse 12: “Now we see things imperfectly, as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (NLT Translation)
Another great version is from the Passion Translation: “For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood.”
What happened to the Bentley Clan is unfair. No one denies that and everyone has said it. And no one on this Earth understands why it happened. But that’s because we’re all looking in a foggy mirror. I don’t know about you, but I can’t finish getting ready for the day unless I wipe off the mirror after showering. So we see in part. We know that God can heal, but we don’t know why he doesn’t do it every time someone asks. We all have theories (yes I’ve heard them all), but none of us really knows.
In eternity our vision and understanding will be perfectly clear. But until then I pray that God will wipe away even a small portion of the mirror to help me understand in part why Joni had to go and the purpose of this experience. And I pray that He will fill the hole she left.
Thanks for reading.