Two years ago today my cousin stopped breathing. And she never started again.
A lot of bitterness and anger has marked the past two years. The death of a child, even if it's not your own, changes you -- permanently. And when that child's death is at the end of four hard months of intense academics and other assorted family issues AND the death of a very close friend, it can break you. I am only just beginning to actually process what happened to my cousin. I've spent the past two years working on the backlog of all the crap that happened before her final asthma attack.
But in recent weeks, I have finally begun to approach that date -- 28 April 2015. Thinking about this is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. Even as I type this, that date and what it means threaten -- in a very real way -- to destroy me.
For two years I have screamed at the empty blue sky, screaming for God to answer me -- where were You that night? Why didn't You hear us? Doesn't our love for her mean anything to You? And if You couldn't keep her here with us, couldn't You at least comfort us in her absence? I have heard largely nothing -- not from God.
But He has created and sent us an artist, a man by the name of Terry Scott Taylor, a man who himself endured loss -- but who was also given peace in the midst of the loss and a talent for songwriting to express the intensity of the emotions.
This man, this artist, wrote a beautiful song of release in 1987, and it appeared on his second solo album -- the second solo album born out of terrible loss. The first song, the title track, began with the journey between the two worlds:
Take a burning spear and the Saviour's promise
Ride a horse of air through the burning forest
With our Father's faith and a child's wonder
Down the halls of grace -- by His mercy go under
It will seem so sudden
Yes, but through God's will
The season will dream and time will stand still...
And it was so sudden -- how suddenly one missed breath can become two, three, four... and eventually beyond the hope of starting again. The horse may be made of air, and so was her life -- take the air away and it's gone. To say death is a mercy -- well, that's a matter of perspective. I am still too bitter about this to comment on it, although I suppose for her at the moment, it probably was. But time does stand still -- on both sides of eternity. In many ways I am still -- two years later and in another province -- sitting stunned in a chair at the kitchen table, feeling my heart shatter into a thousand cold pieces without a sound.
Close your eyes and rest secure
Your soul is safe, your body sure...
'Your body sure' -- even as it turns against you, even as it starves you of the oxygen it needs. Christianity teaches that the body will rise again at the last day, and this is what Taylor is referencing here, but it still sends a twinge of something through me -- irony, perhaps.
But the part that broke me the other day was the next line:
He that loves you is He that keeps
The One that guards you never slumbers, never sleeps...
When I last listened to this song, once again begging God for peace, if not answers, Where were You? Did You ignore us? this line hit me: He was not sleeping. He was carrying her -- carrying her beyond the wall of sleep, beyond the stars. Away from us.
I don't know how I feel about that. Yes, she is safe in His arms. But she is not here.
It will seem so sudden, but you will laugh as you run
You will wash in the river, you will shine in the Son...
And yes, she is laughing, and running, breathing freely. But what of the rest of us, whose every breath is shot through with pain from the sharp shards of a shattered heart? What of us, the broken hearts in waiting?
I don't know. The song doesn't address that. Rather, it takes a posture of yearning but contentment -- waiting for the reunion.
Title: A Briefing For The Ascent
Artist: Terry Scott Taylor
Album: A Briefing For The Ascent
Label: Frontline Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.
Artist Patreon page here.
Even the instrumentation is light and airy, floating up, up, beyond our reach, with her and her Guard -- gentle acoustic guitar, mellow steel guitar, open drums, and the lightest of keyboard touches. It's heart-wrenching and soothing. One of the greatest songs Terry Scott Taylor has written to date.