The Path

With a sigh she was gone, five years ago tonight. Somewhere in these last years it became true that the time since we lost her is greater than the time we had her. I’ve come to measure the years by this date — what has happened since she has been dead four years? And five? I find myself doing an inventory, an accounting of how I’ve spent the months. Am I better or worse? Are we past holding on? What’s still broken?

I stopped screaming at God this year. I don’t believe anymore that he killed her to punish me. I don’t worry that if I’m not good enough he’ll take my other children. These thoughts all sound crazy to most of you, and they feel crazy to me as I write them. I can’t explain to you how I could have believed them so deeply in my bones, yet I did, and now I don’t, and to me that’s a miracle I never expected.

My wife taught me what grace means this year. My children helped me see how God’s love really can be unconditional. I don’t deserve them, and they certainly deserve better than me, especially my wife.

But here we are together, and another year has passed. I’m going to go downstairs now and make blueberry muffins. Then we’ll dress the children in warm layers, load up our hiking gear, and set out for Old Rag Mountain. At the base my wife will put Isaac in a sling across her chest, and I’ll put on a backpack into which I can place Eli when he’s tired of walking.

Then we’ll set out for a place where we planted flowers a year ago, just off the trail, at a turn in the path. We’ll say a prayer, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and remember. Somehow I went down the wrong trail last year and got lost in a thicket of my own design, and with my precious family I aim to go back and find the right path once again.

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