I was in an all-day, off-site meeting for work that Thursday. My plan was to pack after work and leave the next morning for Birmingham so I'd have plenty of time to get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Mike and I had had a "discussion" that morning before work about his not coming with me. He was staying behind to celebrate our church's not-so-momentous-in-hindsight 25th anniversary, feeling obligated as a staff pastor.
Instead, we found ourselves on an emergency flight home that afternoon because Jeff had been involved in a gruesome car accident. We spent Saturday planning Jeff's funeral rather than attending Wayne's wedding.
A singular moment in time made the snapshot from the rehearsal dinner a twosome rather than the familiar threesome. The only trace of Jeff was that bracelet on my wrist that had been Jeff's necklace a lifetime ago.
The wedding was six weeks later with a few alterations and a heavy sadness pressing our meager attempt at happiness and hope for the future. We were all still reeling from tragedy. And in many ways, no matter when the wedding was held, it would forever be linked to the week that it didn't take place. Jeff, the Best Man, was absent. It was a glaring reminder that the wedding, the marriage, and life itself must go on without him.
There can be nothing more excruciating, and no one was really ready. The hole that remains in my heart is now merely not so freshly dug. This time Mike was not only in attendance, but officiating, and I had been asked to sing. So it seems that Jeff was holding us (bringing us) together, even still.
Just when I was beginning to think I would never recover, God blessed us with a miracle - new life. The very first great-grandchild. A new chapter, a new generation. Something for all of us to look forward to and rob our gaze from grief. A tangible touch of the future, growing from within my own body, completely invaded my desire to go back to the past.
Nine days after celebrating the first of Jeff's birthdays without him, I gave birth to a son who would grow up to be ever so much like Jeff. Mike brought me a single tulip to commemorate Jeff's birthday; He sent me a dozen when we brought Adrian into the world.
Easter that year was tucked, like a gift, between those two special birthdays. It was springtime, when all else around me was coming back to life. On every level, God was using new life to drag me forward. Just like green shoots breaking free from the cold earth, joy and hope were breaking the sadness, finally.
It was God, gently and creatively bringing me back to life. A resurrection of sorts.