Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend in Indy

Work took me to the Indianapolis area Thursday and Friday of last week. The old stomping grounds. Where Leslie and I first met, dated, were married, lived... We still have many close friends and family there. I decided to bring TJ along with me on Wednesday night, and we made a little mini-vacation out of it and stayed through the weekend. When I wasn't working, I got to spend some time with old friends-- some of whom I hadn't seen in over a year. TJ got to spend a day with his cousins Tori and Jonathan, as well as some quality time with other friends of his in the area. It was just all so good.

Since moving to the Chicago area, whenever visiting Indy, we had always stayed with Leslie's dear friend Anna and her husband Rob. TJ and I saw no reason to change up our accommodations this trip, and Anna was pleased to have us invite ourselves over for the stay, as we always would have. TJ has always just felt at home there, and now Anna and Rob have a 1-year-old of their own, whom TJ was excited to play with (he LOVES being with other kids). Leslie and Anna used to talk about how they'd get their kids together and play for a weekend here and there, once they both had kids to share with each other. Last weekend, the two friends got to live their dream. TJ and William hit it off wonderfully. TJ was very "gentle" with "Baby Will", and Will got a huge kick out of TJ-- giggling his 2-toothed baby belly laugh at TJ's antics.

Anna's family is no stranger to loss and suffering in their own right. Anna is one of 5 sisters. One sister, Sarah, is now partying in Heaven with Leslie, having gone before her about 3 or 4 years ago, after completing her own war with cancer. Leslie walked with Anna through Sarah's sickness years ago. At Sarah's memorial service, I experienced grief and emotion and tears like I never had before. I was almost embarrassed, because certainly I'd been to other "funerals" before, and here I was, bawling my eyes out, literally brought to my knees in seemingly unbearable pain... and I hardly even knew Sarah. I only knew Anna, and her only through Leslie, really. I was just so overwhelmed and shocked by my own response. I know now that God was weaving this family into a special place in my heart. Years after that day, Anna walked with us through Leslie's battle with cancer. Anna and Leslie had their own language-- were so similar in their spirits, personalities, and hearts that they could seemingly communicate with each other the depths of their own souls without hardly saying a word. To be honest, I used to be jealous of Anna, in this regard... I had to work so hard to understand Leslie... and to be understood by her. Anyway, Anna was such a blessing to Leslie, and Leslie to Anna, throughout the life of their friendship.

As Leslie got sicker, Anna and her family were remarkably encouraging to us-- and to me, especially after Leslie died. I know now that God was cutting into my heart, that day of Sarah's service, making a place for this family, that they could speak into me and encourage me the way they have these past few months (a period which has also been difficult on their family-- not only losing Leslie but dealing with the death of a dear grandpa, amid other trials). TJ and I got to hang out with Anna's whole family this weekend-- sisters, parents, brothers-in-law-- and it was a truly wonderful time.

A friend of mine had tickets to the Colts game on Sunday-- a 35-3 mauling of the Cincinnati Bungles (not a typo)-- so Rob and I were happy to fill a couple of seats there with some other buddies. And on Saturday night, I got to meet up with bits and pieces of the old "crew" in Broadripple-- where Leslie and I used to meet up with friends in the area. It was a new experience, to sit around a table with familiar faces without her at my side, busting my chops and loving on me all at the same time. It was encouraging and heart-wrenching to look into the teary eyes of people we once loved together-- some of whom had not seen Leslie or myself in years-- as I recounted bits of her story. As we shared tears and beverages and laughter and hugs and stories and memories. It is just so surreal to be reminded that these are people who are grieving Leslie, and they have not really had the daily experience of "living without her" to help them along their way. It's like it was almost as therepeutic for them as it was for me, to sit there and listen as I spilled my guts and wrestled out loud with the thoughts and events of the past year-plus. Crazy...

This is just so much different than I expected. I never thought it would feel this "normal" to just sit around a table at the Broadripple Brewpub or Ambrosia, or at Anna's house, or wherever with our group of friends and/or family, minus Leslie, and just remember her... to talk about life and death and God's love and suffering and how it all somehow makes more sense now, when piled all on top of itself. It is odd to look across the table and see tears as I share stories with friends who I have not talked to in months or even years, who miss Leslie dearly... It is beautifully heart-wrenching to witness their grieving of my wife, whom I am learning to live without. That's what this is, you know... Living. Certainly, without her... But living, nonetheless... Living all the more. Carrying her with me. Telling stories. Sharing her legacy. Partaking alone of the cup we once shared. And somehow... enjoying it...? It is just all too... perfect.

Indeed, one cannot fully experience life until one has experienced death. One can only know joy to the full extent that one has fully known suffering. One has not lived by faith until one has experienced true trial. Those words of Paul, of Jesus, of Job, of David, of Solomon, of Peter, of John... that Truth has never been truer... My faith has never been stronger. Life has never been fuller. Now that I'm home and back to work, with those memories of beautiful moments and conversations of the last several days in Indy fresh in my mind, I again praise God and give Him thanks for Leslie. I've said this before, but each day it is even increasingly so... She taught me how to love. She taught me how to die. And she is teaching me how to live.


L & J Gutwein said...

So glad that Broadripple & the feel of that place with friends could be there for you. Luke & I just recently returned (we lived at 63rd & Washington Blvd. for four years) to eat at The Brugge (sp?) with friends. If you have not tried it it is fantastic. I am so glad that you have someone who understood Leslie so much; as I imagine it feels like a bit of her. I have always tried to imagine who I would want to sit by me in silence if something happened to Luke... probably no great answer to this. -Jenny G.

Luke said...

I am so incredibly thankful that you're willing to share your heart and be vulnerable on this blog.

Praise be to our Sovereign for giving you the grace it takes.

Jessie said...

Possibly my favorite post yet! I'm always thinking of you and wanting to take the time to write to you. Next time you're in town and have some free time, let us know and maybe we could take the boys to Evan's new playland.

Sarah Schieber said...

It is amazing, isn't it, how God weaves the intricate tapestry of our lives. I love the story of Joseph - how when he was down in the well, in need of rescue, the gypsy's came along. They had left home months and months before . . . long before Joseph ever could have imagined that he would need to be rescued. God was so faithful to set the answer in motion before anyone knew an answer was needed.

In that same way, Anna and Sarah were woven into the tapestry of your life and how it would all unfold. God is so good to care so deeply about us.

I must say, Tyson, that I am intrigued by this post. I'm not sure I know what to think . . . I am so thankful that you are doing so well. (I love your references to Indy . . . as I have spent many years in that area, as well.) I am thankful that you had a great weekend with old friends.

What perplexes me, though, is how different your grief looks from mine. And I wonder . . . is it because you began to grieve before Leslie went Home? Chad was so, so alive the last time I saw him . . .it was just such a shock! We were in a complete hays for the first three months, at least. My two youngest didn't even BEGIN to feel it until six and NINE months after. So, I wonder . . . is that it?

Maybe it is more simple than that . . . maybe it is more along the lines of you being male, and I female. Perhaps your faith is greater than mine. It took me a good year to rejoice for Chad. Don't get me wrong . . . I knew I should, but I sure didn't want to.

I am thankful that you can rejoice for your beloved and that you can 'live.' May God continue to bless you and TJ as you live.

The McEwen Family said...

I found it ironic that you have spent time in Indy, as we recently moved BACK here from Chicago. I am a friend of Amber Smith's and stumbled onto your blog around that night your wife died. Your style of writing is so much like mine, i find it funny when you say something. I'm like "That's how i would have said it..." Anyway, wanted to tell you I really enjoy your writing and the way you let us all have a peek into your soul.

-cristi mcewen

Anne said...

Beautiful words Tyson - and the real experience behind the words breathes of God through and through. I look forward to the day when your journal is in book form and can be shared with thousands more.
Continued blessings,

Anonymous said...

You do not know me. My friend, Sarah Porter, sent me your information asking for prayer for your precious wife many months ago. I followed her blog and have continued with yours. I am so thankful, encouraged, and convicted when I read your words. So thankful that you and TJ are feeling the depths of His love during your transition, encouraged to see the peace and hope that springs from your words, and convicted to the point of asking myself, " Do I love Him that much?", "Would I grasp onto Him and cling to Him that way if I lost my husband (when I lose my husband)?".
All this to say, Leslie has not only left a legacy by the way she lived her life, but she too has left a legacy in her death. Her story spurs me on to treasure each moment that much more. To be that much more intentional about serving, and delighting in, these 4 precious little girls that He has blessed us with no matter how sick I am of questions, messes, and diapers. So, thank you and Leslie for allowing all of us into your lives and journey so that He can not only refine you but He can refine all of us total strangers. Blessings to you and the precious little man of yours. I pray that you will continue to experience the fullness of His love and greatness. Merry Christmas.