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I haven’t written much about my husband in this space, and I’m sorry for that, as he’s my much more interesting counterpart. Firstly, the man is a proud West Virginian. Once, when my uncle teased him about being a “hipster” for wearing all the flannels he does, Cody corrected him that he is not a hipster, but a West Virginian. My husband’s mind is always moving, like the second hand on a clock. He is often sketching at something with a pen and a scrap. He is a toy inventor, professionally. He is intensely hopeful. He is stubborn. He says I am more stubborn, but here we can never agree. He has a way of being just who he is with everybody. I don’t know a Cody at work and a Cody at church and a Cody at home. I only know Cody.

The other day he told me about a virus that causes bee's wings to fall off. He then went on to make plans for government officials: mandated that citizens work as part-time farmers, beekeepers, any agriculturally rejuvenating effort. This led him to a new topic. "So, the jumping worms." He paused, "have you heard of the jumping worms?" I shook my head. There, sitting on our Ikea couch, he launched into the full thing - crop rotations, seed-eating worms, preventative measures. We circled back to the bees. "I'd rather live in a world full of bees than a world full of mites," he ended triumphantly. I agreed, stupidly, ignorant of all things mites and bees. The night before he taught me about nuclear fusion, the source of tritium and deuterium and the costs associated with both.

You know those posts that say, “marry a man who…” where they mention things like “my husband does the dishes every night, wakes me with a coffee and a massage, only speaks in library tones, and never lets me open the car door?” Yeah. Well I think those things are great. I’m happy for those people. I would love the whole thing, but I just can’t get behind that qualifier: “marry a man who…”. My husband is a bit of a wild bird. He has never done those things. Well maybe the car door. But the point is – and you know the point – you can’t prescribe these kinds of things. What you can do is love for and love despite. Learn to honor that person like your own face in the mirror. This is hard stuff. We know this, especially, because we make mental lists about the hard stuff. Things like: #1,452 doesn’t clean sink out after shaving or #297 is too goofy with kids at bedtime. Then this person leaves the state on a business trip and you know as you trudge upstairs alone that you have never known a better person. You pray fevered prayers about their safety. You watch some Netflix alone, but it’s less sweet because they aren’t downstairs waiting for you. That subtler list, the one with all those good characteristics, comes to mind in rare form, all caps. Things like: #78 lets you drive even though you take corners like a NASCAR driver or #27 bakes a honeyed salmon that makes your knees weak.

Just for kicks and giggles, let’s go back to that “marry a man who” stuff. Let’s really immerse ourselves in it. Really get it going. You can play, too. I’ll go first. Marry a man who invents toys. Marry a man who knows everything, like Encyclopedia Brown. Marry a man that is so blasted stubborn, maybe even as stubborn as you, that you ebb away at each other’s hard corners, and you start to be shaped a little smoother. Marry the goofy one, who’ll stuff a whole piece of pizza in his mouth just to make you laugh, and you’ll think, “who is this nut?” Marry that guy.

Now it’s your turn. Go on, and be specific - tell us who we should marry. Maybe you’ve been married for fifty years or maybe you’re a fledgling; maybe you have a friend that you love like a sister or a brother. Whoever they are, I bet you know the secret to loving them. I bet, even, that if they have the audacity not to wake you each morning with a Michelin Star omelet, you’ll suffer to keep them around.

Two or three years ago my mom broke her foot. She was nearing sixty at the time. There are only three steps off the porch, but she missed one, sent the ankle sideways, crack. She had to have it wrapped, use crutches, the whole deal.

One day I had to drive her to Wal-Mart. By the end of our trip, she was tired, so I went for the car while she waited by the doors. When I swooped around the lot toward the doors, the car ended up being at an awkward slant, a little too far from the door, a little too far in the road. Mom started hobbling toward me just as I was getting anxious about the car’s position. A young man was coming out at the same time. He watched my mom elbow one crutch forward at a time, probably making little huffing noises as she has been known to be dramatic. Just then I started inching the car forward, maybe five feet. She hobbled on, trying to catch up when she’d just been almost to me. Then I gassed it five more feet. By then the young man had fully directed himself at my mother, offering his assistance as my cruel self could be seen hollering from laughter in the driver’s seat. Mom started chuckling, too, under and around her exasperation. His face was scrunched up in concern as he grabbed the door and opened it for her, probably trying to stave off any more driving. Mom thanked him and assured him she didn’t need any more help while I continued to bark laughter inside.

Mom texted me the other day. She was lying on her back-patio couch, looking up at the bluebird sky. A canopy of green branches spread out like a fan above her. She sent me a picture. She said I could use it in a blog post, and said she’d like a word on “perspective.”

Mom’s always been able to see the positive, believe the best. When our next-door neighbor made snide comments after we accidentally kicked a ball onto her property, I called my mom to fume. Her first thought was that maybe I misunderstood. Turns out we probably didn’t misunderstand, but for every insult, mom comes back with a kinder perspective.

After my cousin died she started reading up on death experiences. What people said as they were dying, what happened to people who briefly died and came back. She said there were a lot of nonsense stories. She also said there were lots of stories that held to a thread. Random stories that corroborated the others, had the same details, generally piecemealed a coherent story about Heaven. Vibrant colors. Always that. Sometimes family members. Sometimes music. Sometimes Jesus talking.

We’re a fairly conservative family, spiritually speaking. Not overly expressive in worship or prayer. Most of our lives we haven’t thought over much about Heaven, or put over-much stock in what people who have claimed to visit have had to say. But when my cousin died, we did see some things. The veil between Heaven and Earth seemed, for just a tiny bit, thinner. Ross heard music. (“What did it sound like?” my Aunt asked. “Contemporary Christian,” he said, and when we heard that we chuckled a little.) Ross asked his friend at his bedside, “can I touch you?” and seemed amazed when he could. He’d been afraid of dying, leading up. But that day was all peace. He spoke with confidence. Said, over and over, “I love you, Jesus.”

It changes the way you see things, seeing that. Makes you curious. Gives you a face to look forward to at the gate. You wonder things like, “what have I got wrong?” and “maybe there’s more than I thought.” You start planning your life here a little more for the life there. Like, “would Jesus like this? What gifts has He given me? What’s He want me to do?” All of the sudden, the grumpy neighbor beside you starts looking not so bad. You start thinking, “I want you in Heaven, too.” You start baking muffins and making small talk, taking the jabs she throws with more patience. You start giving her the benefit of the doubt. You start praying. “God answers prayers.” You know this now, for sure. You see the backyard forest all lit up, the sun catching the East leaves in glowing Arugula greens; you think, “that’s nothing” and try to imagine it even better.

A gentle rustle and a cry from the crib woke me this morning. Last year it was a call.

Today is Good Friday; we've been watching it coming for weeks, but today it feels surreal and impossible. It’s April 15th, the day we lost my cousin to cancer a year ago.


The day he passed was like a labor. I've thought that a million times. We held his hand. Rubbed his feet. Brushed his hair. We were doulas. We couldn't do this for him, but if anyone could ease it, I know my family tried.


My labor comes on fast. The pains are bearing down on me, so that I have to remember to suck in breath, let it out. We barely get to the hospital. In the room, I crawl onto the bed on all fours. I close my eyes, because the pain is breaking me open and I feel afraid. I am trying to breathe, but it's hard. My hand is empty, and I yell for someone to fill it, hold me, help me, and in no time, I feel someone’s grasp. They turn me over, tell me I'm at an eight, and immediately, a fire cry bursts up from somewhere deep. I push harder than I ever have.


We got a miracle that morning. My cousin's breathing had changed and we were singing songs, sure it was the end. And then he was awake. Breathing like himself again, calling us all by name, remembering things. The nurses were talking in low voices in the kitchen, unsure how this was happening. We gave him hugs, and he gave us words to hang onto. Commissioned us into the world as he was leaving it. He said, "you know you're coming here, to be with me," like he was already there. He often looked beyond us, and I wonder what he saw.


It doesn’t take many pushes, but it feels long. I burn and breathe, burn and breathe. The doctor encourages me, “keep going. You’re going to feel a great relief.” They tell me he is here, and I push shoulders into waiting hands. Our boy breaks into the world. I take him on my chest, shaken and relieved. It’s over. He’s here.


When he left I hardly knew it. It was so quiet. There was a game of baseball on the TV. His game, always. And then he was gone. Low cries, like riptides. An undercurrent of relief. We held each other’s hands, that day and after, and we remembered holding him.


Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus’ death. It is good because it wrought good from pain and grief. It whispered of resurrection, but desolation was the cry that night. On Sunday we will sing. There will be drums and our hearts will nearly burst and the peace that passes will be unbelievable, as it always is. Yet it is right to mourn. To hold the graveclothes with incredulity, wondering, "how?"

How could He do this? And Who would choose this? It is good, impossibly good, because it means a miracle. But first it breaks us open. Even now the earth is laboring, bearing down, breaking open. We are all of us breathless, waiting. And don’t we know what it is to wait? When that waiting is longer than life? But into the dark there is a hand reached out. If we take it, desperate, it will save us.

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