You do not know what you are capable of, until the situation asks of you what was never thought possible. I know this now. I can think of conversation after conversation where I’ve said, “I could never handle that,” or “I could not live through that,” only to find that somehow, supernaturally, I did.
It amazes me and yet in truthfulness it scares me as well. What will be asked of me? And while I do not spend much time dwelling on the possibilities, the realization that the human spirit can endure the unthinkable is not always assuring. I would feel better knowing that there is a limit, not this seemingly infinite ability to be stretched and scarred and traumatized and still be able to live -- to love, to believe. Is it a good thing? Or a terrible thing?
I look back over the past 16 months and stare in disbelief. Thinking back to the intensity of those first months in the hospital, the move home to live alone with four injured children, the round-the-clock care and attention necessary to meet the demands of so many undeniable needs and responsibilities -- I cannot believe it was endurable. And yet here we are. Here I am. We live this life seasoned with the perspective that our gracious God supplies our needs; that we were supported by the goodness of friends, family and strangers; and that for so many around the world, our experiences would not even be close to their worst day.
I find myself breathing a sigh of relief, thinking the worst has passed only to find that there are those things that feel as though they should be simple, do-able, easy in comparison…that aren‘t. Sometimes it is those little events that cause the biggest stirrings, that create an unforeseen strain and I find myself mystified that I can walk the depths of sorrow, then stumble over a relatively simple task.
We are not predictable.
The past couple of days have been difficult. A couple of weeks ago a good friend called me after visiting Myron’s gravesite and simply and graciously said, “Gillian, it’s time.” I knew she was right and yet I had been dreading it. Did not want to think about it. I had not yet ordered his tombstone. Was unable to do it, literally.
Every time we’ve gone to the grave I’ve felt a sadness and a burden that there is only a plastic marker with his name and yet I have been rendered incapable of putting this final touch to his death. I’ve tried. I’ve given myself deadlines, spent hours writing epitaphs, looked on the internet for help…and could never take the step to actually do it. At first it was because I truly could not physically attend to another detail, but as time went on, I knew I was facing something that was far more difficult than I had ever imagined. And so when my friend gently asked permission to nudge me, I asked her to please make the appointment for me. Because I knew I never would.
How do I encapsulate the life of someone so meaningful with a few words on a stone? How can I possibly express who he was, what he meant to us, who we are without him on a 2x2 foot slab of granite? It felt impossible. It is impossible. And so, like so many things in life, you do the best you can and hope it is something you can live with for years to come.
Today was the appointment date. Today I ordered the stone that will mark his grave forever. Today is the day I did the last thing that needed to be done for Myron’s life on earth. Today was hard.
It lifted the shame that in expressing my sadness that I hadn’t been able to do it sooner, my friend reminded me that Myron’s supernatural gift of procrastination wouldn’t have necessarily guaranteed a speedy stone on my grave either. That helped. A little. At least it made me smile. As did the memory of a particularly colourful relative who one can only describe as a genuine hillbilly, a distant cousin who lived as a bachelor in Montana, gone to glory now, who always carried a squeeze bottle of ketchup in one of his backside overall pockets and a bottle of BBQ sauce in the other…just in case. Who kept a shotgun inside his hollow, wooden peg-leg. Who was about 6'3", 300 lbs, and handed out baggies with a chunk of sausage and assorted pieces of rock candy to all of us kids whenever we saw him. Who once, after a ride at the carnival, threw up his dentures into a trashcan, fished them out, licked them clean and replaced them in his mouth. And, when we visited him at his family homestead many years after his father had passed, was found living with his father’s tombstone in the living room, propped up against the side of the couch. Maybe I could give myself a little grace, after all.
And so I found the picture I wanted, a professional shot of Myron running the Vancouver Marathon, and wrote and wrote and re-wrote what should go beneath it. Nothing seemed perfect. So I went with what moved my heart.
Myron Neil Berg
June 15, 1962 - December 28, 2010
You’ve finished the only race worth running; keeping
your eyes on Jesus, and loving us all along your way.
There was no room to say all I wanted to: To thank him for all he had given us; to memorialize all he was; to pay tribute to all he had left behind; to emphasize all we miss and long for without him. I guess I will have to be satisfied that I’ve made those statements here. That we’ll live those statements forever.
Yes, today was a hard day. I finished what needed to be done, then went to my first baseball game since the accident where my daughter played and my husband was missing. It was a day of finishing and a day of beginning. And it was all hard. And I felt my spirit stretch again for the millionth time.