I avoid the gate sometimes. If I get too close to what those big doors mean, I start to cry because I miss Jessika too much. Today, though, I feel like sitting here next to the gate. Closed, and waiting for something.
I sit here, and rest my hands on the ground. I look at the shoes. Jessika left her shoes.
Jessika loves sparkly things. Her shoes sparkle, because anything bling is anything Jess. Her shoes sit here, looking so heartrendingly familiar, and yet so forgotten. I think she slipped out of them in hurry because she wanted to run faster.
I set the shoes gently to the side, after touching the artificial stones that don't really sparkle now. The manufactured threads poke through the worn places. The plastic is cheap and dirty. Some of the bling is missing.
I shake myself, and I put the shoes next to Heidi's. Heidi's shoes are purple. But, they are starting to look less like purple and more like nothing. Heidi's shoes sit next to my grandma's orthopedic sneakers, the white faux leather now gray. Heidi knew my grandma. They weren't related, but she knew her. I think if I touch my grandma's shoes, they'll fall apart and the shoes won't look like shoes anymore. But, nobody needs them anyway, and I'm just too curious about what death feels like to leave them alone, so I touch them.
I touch them, and they do fall apart and I sob, because death feels the way I thought it would.
Shoes. So many shoes. Jessika's bling, Heidi's purple. Generations of leather and treated animal skin. Pretend fabrics mixed with real things like cotton. Some have bullet holes from wars I've never lived. Some of them, I can tell, were gifts. Some, hand-me-downs. All of them sitting along the gate, down the wall, off into memories that exist because people lived to build them.
Memories are the hardest part.
I find Erik's shoes. They are too far along the line, too far too soon. I see baby shoes, lots of them, hundreds of them, too many of them. I know I can look, but I won't find them. My babies didn't get to wear shoes.
Then I start to shift the shoes around. It's hard, because they fall apart and it hurts tremendously. I arrange them the way I think it should have happened. Babies in the future, grandmas much later, friends the same time as me. But, it's useless. These shoes just sit there where I put them. The stories don't change just because I move them around. They just sit there, and be as they were. It just is.
Oh my gosh, You scare me. Just when I think I'm alone, You're sitting there too, and I never remember to pay attention. No, I don't want to leave. I want to just sit here and look at these shoes. I don't care if they decay in my hands. I don't care if colors disappear and laces fall apart. I don't care if all the bling on all the shoes in the world fall off. I want to look at them.
You put Your giant lion face hard into my belly.
Ok. I'll come.
You take me to the ends of the earth. I see houses being built. I see dinners being made. I see cars being purchased, and birthdays celebrated with gifts. I see money raised for charities, and I see everyone treating themselves to caramel mochas. I see classrooms and books and teachers enjoying Christmas treats. I see plays and productions. I see legos and crafts and movie nights. I see people laughing and loving and living.
But, I don't want to do all that if it means that sadness always comes. I don't want to do any of it if it means that my shoes will only fall apart. Why build a house if I won't live in it forever? Why save money when saving it might be for nothing? Everything is meaningless. Your Word, the living power of what breathes in those flimsy, perishable pages, says so. So, why can't I just sit at the gate and wait for the doors to open? It'll be safe that way.
You bite me, and it's never tasted so sweet. You remind me that Your Word is not perishable, though all things fade, and You look at me with those gentle eyes that remind me of my dad when he says he loves me. You head-butt me, and I laugh so hard that it breaks my heart open and all of the sadness falls out. It falls into my arms and my legs and comes out of my eyes, and You lick it up. This is just so hard.
Then, You give me a flower. It is living here, with me and with You. It isn't on the other side of the gate. It's here, all the time, every spring. It's beautiful, and I cry.
I will live. Lord help us, we will live.