One of my favorite Pierce Pettis songs begins, “The presence of your absence follows me.” The song has played in the background of my week because tomorrow, December 18, will mark five years since my dear friend David Gentiles died.
I could say many things about David, but maybe this will give you an idea: after five years, his Facebook page is still active because those he loved and encouraged have continued to talk to him. And those he loved and encouraged are legion. I am one of them.
For most of the month I have thought we were marking four years, but the other night as I was digging back through memories I realized it has been five years without him here on the planet. Life has gone on. All of his family and friends have waked up and lived and loved and hurt and missed him. And we are not alone. Most everyone we meet is living through the day after and the day after that, stringing together weeks and months lived in the presence of a palpable absence. The more days we live, the larger the cloud of witnesses, the more of those with whom we are without.
Tonight there are Pakistani parents who are living without their children, alongside of parents in Sudan, Sandy Hook, and Ferguson. A colleague at work who is in her twenties spent today at her father’s memorial service. One of our church members was back Sunday from her father’s funeral. The longer we live, the more grief becomes our most common currency.
We have much in my life for which to be grateful, not the least of which are the friends, family, and even acquaintances that fill each scene, that give us a chance to feel connected, challenged,and loved. Everyday we are called to be together, to invest ourselves in one another, to connect, to love, to be with each other, even as we understand one day we will be without.
Such is the risk, the cost of love.
It’s worth it.