"Away down the river, a hundred miles or more
Crossing over Jordan, to the other shore.
I'll be standing, waiting, with all who've gone before,
I'm just away down the river a hundred miles or more."
We played that song by Alison Krauss at Greg's memorial over six years ago. Sometimes it seems like he's far more than a hundred miles away...... but sometimes I feel he's so close I can hear him whisper a smile to me.
I went to another memorial this weekend. My friend, Ross, who grew up just a few miles down the road from me in Georgia, was an Imagineer at Disney World. His colleagues said he touched the lives of millions of strangers by making dinosaurs laugh and presidents dance. But he also touched the lives of his friends and family by being uproariously funny, thoughtful, and kind. He once spent all day getting a virus off my computer and I painted the Vermeer Milkmaid with Lobster Claw Hand in appreciation. It's been hanging in his house ever since. I have a copy on my wall if you ever want to see it. I think about Ross now when I look at it......and when I drink my coffee from the enormous Pixar mug he brought me from Disneyland.
I started not to go to the service since it was in Orlando. We have no mutual friends (we met online) so I wouldn't be missed. Only Ross and I would know I wasn't there. But I knew we would both be disappointed if I didn't show, so off I went. I was anxious about getting there at the right time and finding the right building and all. Why do I worry so much about the logistics? But I do.
After I got in my car, I had to go back in the house twice because I forgot things (a CD and something else I can't remember). I started to go back a third time for my rings but decided I would probably be okay unaccessorized, just this once. Then of course I went by Starbucks so I could have a latte lunch on I-4 where, predictably, there was a major crash and back-up. Almost to the church and I made a pit stop because of.....well, you know, the latte. (btw, NEVER go to a McDonalds in Orlando unless you have a carload of wild and crazy kids and are looking to spend the day. I needed my GPS to find my way out of that place).
When I finally heard the "destination is on the right", I pulled in the first driveway (huge campus) and saw cars. In perfect animatronic synch, my car and another car drove up side-by-side in the parking lot. The other driver and I slammed our doors at the exact same time and started walking in the same direction. We naturally spoke and I found out he was Ross's cousin from home. His mother taught business at Roswell High School when I was there. Instant affinity. Later, in the reception line, he was first and introduced me to the rest of Ross's family. I thought of all those annoying delays that put me right there in his path at the right time. Think Ross was behind that?
I am extremely angry with Ross. He could have had a stroke or taken a fall from Cinderella's castle. But some anguish deep inside drove him to make a dreadful decision......one he couldn't reverse. I am looking for words that don't sound like cliches but I'm blanking out. I'm thinking...."at least he's at peace now", "he's in a better place", "no more pain", yada, yada, yada. They say survivors often feel betrayed. I think that's what I'm feeling. We are a close-knit little band, we middle age Christian singles. We have sworn an oath to be there for each other and hold on to each other and not let each other fall. Ross let go of the rope. God, I hope I didn't let it slip out of my hand.
A few weeks ago I started training as a bereavement volunteer for Hospice. I've been learning what NOT to say to those who are hurting and heartbroken. What should I NOT say to myself? What should we all not be saying to ourselves when life acts up.
"Away down the river, a hundred miles or more......." My odometer read 99.4 miles from my house to the church.......from my personal sorrow to the healing synergism that grows from shared sympathies.....from my lack of understanding to the place where that just doesn't matter.
"Away down the river ......." I'm standing on the bank gazing in wonder.