I Can’t See Through Shadows

“Because death is so full
and man so small.
And I’m scared of what’s behind
and what’s before…”

-Mumford & Sons

I sit here in the silence of a new morning with a quiet heart. The shadow of something heavy lingers in the back of everything. The knowledge of news imparted, but not yet fathomed.

Death is a mysterious guest, isn’t he? We think we know. We tell stories of a better place; talk about the curtain between life and beyond. It carries its own solemn poetry wherever it goes, but we don’t wholly understand it. We can’t. Those who walk the path never return to tell the tale. It takes faith to believe they are still there, somewhere, because all we know is they’re no longer here. And to think that they aren’t anywhere… well, how are we to understand that?

How can someone with a single breath simply cease to exist?

That is an idea I simply cannot wrap my head around, much like death itself. I do not fear death. I’m probably one of few who can say it and mean it. I am not afraid of my fate. I know it will come one day. What I fear more is not living before that day comes.

But when someone I know passes through shadow, it is always so hard for me to comprehend.

My dear friend, when I close my eyes, I still see your face. I remember the smell of your shirt, the life in your eyes, the sound of your voice. How can I forget? I was barely nine when I moved to North Carolina. You and your wife owned the only hardware store in town. I would go to your store with my Daddy where you two would chat over the counter.

We still laugh about that time with my brother and the ‘stolen’ pine needles… how many times have we told that story?

I’ve read the e-mail over and over again telling me you were gone. I’m not up there to see the funeral. I won’t get to say goodbye with the rest of town. I won’t see your face just one more time. But I have yet to cry and it’s because…tree light

Well, it’s because I cannot fathom the words on the page.

You were just there. I wrapped my arms around your neck that Sunday in December, and you wished me luck on my new adventure. I told you I’d see you soon. I am not there to see the empty chair beside my seat on Sunday. I’m not home, I cannot begin to perceive the hole you’ve left behind in your absence.

Because I’m still trying to realize those first words on the page:

“Joe died.”

What does that mean?

I don’t think I really know.

All I know is I love you, dear friend. And I miss you, just like I do every Sunday when I wake up and realize I won’t be going to my Dad’s class. I won’t be sitting between you and Jean and Ed and Grace. My story’s changed. It’s a different chapter now.

And so it seems the same for you.

Mitakuye Oyasin.


“There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”

-Mumford & Sons

2 thoughts on “I Can’t See Through Shadows

  1. I’m so terribly sorry that his death, even though it is difficult to fathom, is difficult. I have yet to experience the passing of a person close to me. I feel blessed for this, but also a bit naive for it. My friend Justin says that he doesn’t feel bad for people who have died in his life because of this incredible legacy they leave behind. Incredible, to him, does not mean what most people define as incredible. Incredible means fulfilling in that person’s eyes, or in their family’s eyes.

    Maybe thinking of it that way can ease the sharpness of this pain. If not, I still feel it is an incredible gift, and curse, I believe, to acknowledge life and therefore mourn it when it is gone. How many species on this plant really gets to do that?

    Take care, my friend,

    • *hugs* Thank you for your kind words, Jennie.

      I don’t feel bad for Joe. I think the sorrow in death is for those left behind. Because that’s just it. They’ve gone somewhere we can’t go. Not yet. And it hurts knowing someone was there, and now they’re not, and being unsure when the next time you will see them will be, if there is a next time at all.

      I was talking to my mom yesterday, about how even though it hurts there’s beauty inside our pain. I believe you’re right when you say to mourn is a gift, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It means we’ve been moved by something, or in this case someone, and we deserve to acknowledge that.

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