"I could not have lived if you were gone."
Multiple thoughts and feelings went through me at once....
Understanding, resentment, empathy, envy, and even a small bit of hatred for this fictional character.
I said those exact same words; said them so many times I believed them. I no longer have the luxury of saying those words, and haven't for quite some time.
But, it's amazing what one can do when you are pushed --shoved is more like it-- far beyond the edge of what you thought you could not do.
In November 2008, while Micheal was on one of his days long missions, I wrote him a four page hand-written letter (the only letter of all the letters I sent him that returned with his personal effects), telling him how much I missed him and that not hearing from him for days felt like what it would be like if he didn't come home. Just the thought of never hearing his laugh or sarcastic wit again, never seeing him play with his sons or feeling his arms wrap around me again... it felt hollow, cold, and sterile. It broke my heart.
Three months later, that fearful thought became my reality, and it didn't just break my heart. It broke me.
That sentence I read in my book today vividly took me back in my mind to eight and a half years ago. I'm standing in front of Micheal's casket in the RS room, 10 minutes before his funeral is supposed to start. There are literally only a handful of people in the room with me. We've said the family prayer, I've placed all his favorite things (M&M's, socks, shorts, book, and his Country Bear; it's a long story) in there to keep him company. I want more than anything to just crawl in there with him and not face what is ahead of me. Instead, I summon the courage to lean down and gently kiss his forehead. His skin is cold and stiff, and I leave a small imprint of my Apricot Glaze lipstick on him; one last piece of myself I can give.
I stand back as they close his casket. The barely audible noise of the lid settling sounds like a sledgehammer in my ears. It is the sound of finality. Everything inside of me splinters, and I want to run out the door and never stop.
But I can't. I'm one of the speakers on the program and I owe it to Micheal to honor his life, his sacrifice, and what he means to me. So I straighten my shoulders the best I can and walk in the chapel to do just that. Micheal was a soldier, valiant and true, and in my own way, I feel like a soldier heading into the hardest battle I will ever have to fight.... and it will never stop until I am dead as well.
Because the phrase "I could not have lived if you were gone," is what we say when we still have EVERYTHING to lose. We cannot imagine it because we have not been placed there.
When you find yourself on the other side of those words, you realize you can, indeed, still live. Don't get me wrong; it sucks, big time, and there are moments, some short and some lengthy, that shove you underwater where you feel like you can scarcely breath. But there are moments of beauty, tender mercies, compassion, and love that make it bearable.
The greatest one of all, though, is HOPE.
That is what the Savior does. He gives us hope. He gives me hope.
He picks up all the broken, wounded pieces of myself and holds me together. He gives me the strength to push on, always moving forward, always forward. He gives me the hope of a sweet reunion on a distant day, in a far better world.
That is a hope that is worth living for.