Day of the Dead

For a large chunk of my life, January 2 was a holiday in my house. A day of solitude, reflection, pondering. I considered it akin to the whipping-boy of old- that if I could just get out all my self loathing, depression, inner sadness for one day, maybe the next I could put back on the game face I use for my daily life. I would allow myself one full day to wallow in anything I felt deserved it. Cry, pray, lament, regret, be ashamed- whatever needed outlet so that the rest of the year could be whatever my version of healthy looked like.

I picked that day because in high school, that was the day Natalie broke up with me at Hume Lake, the day my heart was truly and deeply broken, so recalling what that felt like seemed like a good place to start. But then as time went on, and Natalie and I got married, it seemed not right to be lamenting a day that in the end turned out for the better.

So A few years back, I moved it, started calling it Hunter Thompson Death Day- and used it on the day of Hunter Thompson’s suicide. He was an influential author in my upbringing, and someone that shaped my perceptions greatly, so it seemed like a good day to use.

But then Bob and Audrey died. Both in April, a couple years apart. And I find myself automatically feeling down in the month of April without any needing to remember or try. It happens on autopilot. So this year is the first year where I let the Hunter Thompson day pass unnoticed, and my yearly day of mourning has been relocated to April 11th, or April 30th. April 11th Audrey left, and Bob on April 30th. So either works.

But what do I have to lament? Truly, I have an incredible life- I’m loved well by my wife and my daughter. I have a happy, healthy family, I’m loved by Jesus, and I love Him. I have a job that pays me fairly and I get to do tasks I enjoy and love. I work with an amazing collection of people who I feel humbled to be a part of.

I am not lamenting the core parts of my life, just what could have been, spending a day celebrating my unholy ingratitude.

I wish my little Maddie Lane could have grown up knowing the reason for her name- the people who loved so well, and that her fathers love is just a reflection of the love I felt from them. My own father hasn’t even met Maddie yet, and my mother met her once as an infant and that was it. They don’t facetime, they don’t call, they occasionally send gifts. But Audrey who only lived for a year of Maddies life held her many times, and Maddie has heard from Audrey “I love you” more times by thousands how many times she’s heard it from my own parents. I strongly considered changing my legal name is Steven James Lane, or Jim Lane. But Natalie would have none of that, and it’s the only reason I still have my birth name.

I would say my life’s greatest regret is not calling more, writing more, loving better the two people who changed my life for Jesus. That helped curtail the generational sins I was set to inherit from my family. I would have spent my life manipulating the weak minded, pursuing wealth and power, and being satisfied in nothing. Ever seeking, never finding the calm. Creating the very conflict and stryfe I claimed to despise. And that is the life I would have had, the life my parents had (or at least had years ago when we started limiting the relationship- I haven’t spoken to my dad in years, so who knows, God could have changed him greatly since I last knew him).

But those 2 people- the ones that changed everything about me for Jesus, not by applying force, but by applying LOVE- Bob never met my little Maddie Lane- he died while Natalie was pregnant. And Audrey made it a year or so into Maddie’s life before joining him.

And I miss them still. More deeply than typed words can convey. Not just on a yearly day of remembrance, but daily. There’s a hole in me that is never filled. Now I spend a day a year being ok with how bad I feel about it. The rest of the time, I try to focus on the good, focus on all the impact they had on so many. But for this day, I just miss them. I just wish they were still here, for me to share the highs and lows of life with. I hate the phrase because it’s so often an empty platitude- but I know they’re in a better place, and if it’s a thing allowed or possible, I know they check in on me. They’d want me to focus on Jesus and not them. They’d want me to love others well, and care deeply for those God puts in my path. And I try. But when they went to a better place, this place I’m in got distinctively worse.

God is still God. He’s still good. I know He loves me, and I know that I enjoy so much in this life I have no right to. No claim to. And when I die, if a single person feels like they know God better because of my time here, then I’ll have spent my time well, and honored the investment of years they put into me.

Bob, Audrey- I love you, I miss you so much. I regret so many times I put off calling, put off visiting, because I was ashamed of the gap since the last time we’d spoken being too long. If I had it to do over I’d have listened far more, loved more evidently, and let you know infinitely more how much I appreciated you both.

How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news.