Two years ago on September 28, I waited for a text from him. So did my parents. We called one another, scared, hopeful, then relieved—we’d gotten the day wrong. He was coming home tomorrow.
Except, he wasn’t.
I went to bed laughing at my mistake, and before leaving my bed the next morning on the 29th, found out that something was, in fact, wrong. My fear was right.
I’d replayed this scenario in my head over and over for 22 years, yet, this time, I wasn’t alone in it. I cannot explain the depth of my loss except to tell you it was everything. Everything. Only recently have I been able to own up to the amount of pain and show all of my cards, but the simple word “everything” is a start.
And yet, only and solely by the grace of Jesus, it is and it isn’t.
I heard a recording of his voice for the first time a few weeks ago. I have three voicemails from him saved on my phone, but I’d never before had the courage to listen. I didn’t know what they were, and I’d avoided them, thinking his teenaged voice with old news would be a stinging reminder that I’d never hear him as an older adult with new news.
But I did it. I listened to his silly messages, about picking me up from work, or asking about my burrito order, or planning a trip to visit.
I’ll never forget his voice—the one that was beginning to sound just like my father’s—but I’d forgotten the inflections in its sound, the way it got quieter with worry or higher with excitement. After hearing his voice, I began to remember details about his face, his handwriting, his mannerisms, and his stories. Everything. My biggest gain, my deepest loss.
I replayed those messages over and over, then continued to listen to my life.
I miss him when I remember an inside joke and realize I’m the only one laughing.
I miss him when I attend an event I never imagined he’d miss.
I miss him when I have good news to share or need his advice.
I miss him when I feel very-much alive, and know he is not.
But this aliveness, this living, has also helped me to see the fullness of grief, of death, and what Kendall took with him.
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis describes something I’d experienced, yet been unable to put words to:
Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.”
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets
Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.
I miss the specific pride in my parents’ eyes when he entered the room.
I miss the way my dad would discuss the details of sports that I don’t understand, but he would.
I miss the way my mom would teach him new songs on the piano I didn’t have the patience for.
I miss the way his entrepreneur friends would interrupt a movie night to run their ideas by him.
I miss the way his best friend would perfect his ping-pong skills for a match with him.
I miss the way his girlfriend would throw her head back and laugh at his jokes.
I grieve the way anyone who meets me now or in the future will never fully know me without him.
I grieve the way others will never realize something inside of themselves because Kendall didn’t have the opportunity to bring it out.
But I’m thankful God made us this way—permanently tangled around and dependent on one another, fearful and hopeful and grieved all at once. We are yanked and pulled and hurt, but we are loved.
The fullness of grief does not diminish the fullness of hope. Now, we have both, but one day—today, for Kendall!—we will only have fullness in Christ. And that, my sweet friends, is everything.
Happy heaven day, brother.