It’s been a year. In one way, that’s very easy to believe, because so much has happened. Some of it has been negative, but most of it has been positive. I’ve made new friendships and deepened others. The numbing fog of loss has given way to hopeful – but sober – clarity. Yet, in many ways, there is still a certain unreality about what happened.
Did we really lose Tim, Paul, and Carl? It all feels a bit illusory still. I replay the events over and over in my mind. But, for some reason, it becomes less real – not more. I know the story through and through, but full acceptance remains elusive. I suppose that’s true for almost any traumatic loss.
And, I’m certain there are other impacts that I can’t quite see, because I’m in the thick of them. I don’t chase storms the same way anymore. I don’t think about tornado victims the same way anymore. I don’t think of friendship the same way anymore. So much has changed. And yet, I feel that the changing isn’t near done.
But I think that this is good. The smelling salts of tragedy are not pleasant, but they can be beneficial. Feeling the impact of extreme loss can afford the sobriety that causes one to treasure the gifts that remain. I know, for my part, that I cherish my relationships with my family and friends more than ever. It’s a direct result of experiencing the loss of Tim, Paul, and Carl. And while I would – as my friend Marc Austin puts it – trade all the tornadoes I’ve seen if it would bring them back, I know that my life is all the better because of what happened.
And yet, I still miss them. I can still hear Carl trying to talk me into chasing the next setup, his cheery voice almost convincing me to join him. I can still hear Paul talking hopefully about his ambition to become a movie maker, and me not doubting for a minute that he would succeed. And I can still hear Tim talking about tornadoes of antiquity, and feeling that I had found a kindred spirit. I wish I’d had more time with them. But I thank God for the time I was able to spend with them.
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer