It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? It’s been so long that I hardly know how to begin, and I wonder briefly if we might be strangers again.
Remember when Grandma died? I was so angry at you — so, so angry. And then Lucy died and the boys passed and Grandpa was gone, and that anger was replaced by an overwhelming sadness; suddenly, there was such an emptiness inside of me. I didn’t have them and I didn’t have you and that loneliness was almost unbearable.
I looked for you.
I remember it was the day before Christmas when I decided to take a drive to the church in my parents’ neighborhood. And I sat alone in my car, only a few empty cars scattered across the lot. And I stared up at the stained glass window, at the cross atop the steeple, and I tried to find you. I tried to find you, but you weren’t there.
I remember during the warm spring days I would leave the chatter of the house behind and sit outside on the back porch, reclining so that my only view was of the blue sky and the clouds appearing through the branches of the trees that were just beginning to sprout green buds. I tried to find you there, tried to feel you somewhere along the breeze, but the clouds were just clouds and the breeze was just a breeze.
I tried to find you in the stars, but no matter how bright they were, they always seemed so far away. And when I tried to bring you back, I couldn’t reach you.
And I prayed. I prayed that you would forgive me for forgetting you; I prayed that I wouldn’t feel so guilty for losing you, losing myself. And I prayed that I wouldn’t feel so empty and hollow and alone.
I prayed. And I waited.
I thought, maybe you were gone for good. And my heart mourned, and I wondered how I would ever survive the grief of this loss, ever more powerful and ever more profound.
And then, I stopped talking, stopped searching for you.
And it was then that you began.
I found you in the tootsie roll wrapper spotted on the city sidewalk, torn and faded under the passing of heavy footsteps and nature’s own unpredictability. Just a forgotten candy wrapper — a piece of litter carelessly tossed away — it’s presence was a whisper from you.
I found you in the bright red cardinal that flew among the finches as they jumped from branch to branch along the hedge outside my back door, singing the tune I’d learned over the course of the summer after my grandpa’s passing. It was a song of comfort and peace and hope, a voice growing stronger.
I found you in Riley — in this gentle creature who epitomizes love and faith and who howls his hellos, his forget-me-nots. You were there among the quiet grey of morning as Riley curled up next to me, pressing his body against mine as a reminder that you’re both never far away. You were there when the tears came at night, when Riley’s compassionate eyes watched me, never straying as his presence protected and calmed me. You were there in the sunlit afternoons, in the pure, unbridled joy and unabashed affection of a girl and her dog.
You were there.
You were always there.
I thought that I had forgotten you, I thought that I had lost you then. And now, with so much time and silence passed between needing you then and needing you now, I fear it’s possible that you’ve forgotten me.
I don’t know how to begin. My mind sifts through all the prayers I learned in Sunday school, but nothing seems right. Every Our Father feels too scripted and all the Hail Mary’s feel too impersonal, and I wonder how you’ll hear me if I can’t say the words.
But then I think back to that tootsie roll wrapper, that cardinal among the shrubs, the snoring dog beside me now and how you were there and you spoke to me when I was ready to listen in a language I would notice, a language I could understand.
Maybe I won’t always find you in a church — maybe you’re much closer than that.
Maybe you won’t always speak in a song — maybe a whisper is all that’s needed.
And maybe a prayer isn’t scripted in verse…
Maybe it’s as simple as you…and me.
Maybe it all starts with hello again.
Hi, God. It’s me, Susan.
I know it’s been awhile…