"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
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Category — On Grieving

Lasting Impressions

I stood in his shoes tonight. 

I was hanging up clothes after getting changed for bed and looked at Craig’s side of the closet. Everything is still as it was the day he died, save for a few things I’d given a former inmate we knew from prison ministry. I scooped my arms around a cluster of shirts and rested my head against the fabric. The hangers underneath felt nothing like Craig’s shoulder, and his scent was long gone, but I clung tightly to the memories. 

Looking down, I noticed his flip flops on the carpet. They were a staple of his summer wardrobe, along with his dark grey sneakers and the leather sandals he had on when he passed. The sneakers are still in the same spot by the bedroom door where he left them the morning of July 6, 2018, after working out. I nudge them here and there during the week, and I relocated them for a day when I had the flooring replaced. But for now, they still live by the door, offering the illusion of normalcy. 

I hadn’t given Craig’s flip flops much thought before this evening, but standing in the closet, I saw them in a new light. How could I have overlooked their value? Because, the last thing to touch the padding of those flip flops were the soles of his feet. 

I slipped my right foot into the oversized shoe, navigating my toes into place, then stepped into its mate. My skin touched where his once was. It was the closest I could get to touching him again. I closed my eyes and let quiet tears fall as my feet nestled into the impressions he’d left behind. 

He stood here. 

Probably not here in the closet, of course. Odds are, I’d picked up his shoes from downstairs and put them away while Craig was busy at the computer or watching TV. But he had stood in these sandals with his bare feet, and they had been shaped by his weight and his walk. So, I stood in them, too, hoping to absorb any remnant of his DNA through my skin as I felt the weight of my grief. 

Moments later, I stepped back onto the carpet and wiped away the tears. Self-pity is always lurking in the wings, along with the temptation to hide in dark places. But those flip flops had not lived in the closet. They’d been on walks through the neighborhood and trips to the pool and vacations in Mexico. They were meant for the sun. 

Craig loved people. He used food and travel and new technologies as entry points for deeper conversations and lasting connections. An extrovert and an encourager, he touched countless lives. Standing in his shoes, I reflected on the journey that we walked together, and how he always challenged me to step out of my comfort zone.

Even now, I hear him cheering me on from the rafters, telling me to keep moving. Where grief wants to stay stuck, he says there is more to come. I am walking through unfamiliar terrain these days, but I am never alone. The Lord continues to guide my steps, and I trust in Him. So in the morning, I will get up and get dressed, slipping on my own shoes to pursue God’s promises. Because each day brings a fresh opportunity to connect with others in hopes that I, too, can leave a lasting impression.

© 2019 Leslie J. Thompson. All rights reserved.

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

PSALM 56:13 (NIV)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

PSALM 23:4 (ESV)

October 21, 2019   Comments Off on Lasting Impressions

Breath of Life

Earlier this week, I discovered an unusual video that my husband left behind. He was testing a new camera gimbal and recorded jerky footage of our living room furniture as he fiddled with various settings on the remote control. I watched eagerly, waiting for a greater narrative to unfold, but Craig had switched off the camera after less than a minute. Others may have found the footage unremarkable. To me, it was priceless.

I could hear him breathing.

The sound of Craig’s breath gripped my heart as if he were reading me a love poem. Every inhalation, every sigh, had been imprinted in my soul during our 14 years of marriage. I recognized the slight huff as he lifted the camera and the way his breathing changed when he was problem-solving. I listened to the air flow from his lungs as he went about his work and pictured the way he pursed his lips while deep in thought. The tears came.

We take so much for granted with the people we hold dear. Their mannerisms. Their gait. The sound and cadence of their voice. We tacitly cherish those qualities, yet rarely give them any thought. For 14 years, I laid next to my husband in bed at night, quietly comforted by the sound of his breathing. Those times that he would snore, I preferred to forego sleep rather than have him move to the couch. Even when we fought, I wanted him near. Next to me. Sighing deeply.

In the creation story, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the very breath of life. Whereas God had spoken the rest of creation into existence, man was different. God’s divine breath made Adam a living being.

I could hear the breath of life in that video—the wind from Craig’s mouth carrying the melody of his spirit. That haphazard scene of the living room couch reveals how his presence once filled our home, even when no words were spoken. I will listen to it again someday and cherish a sound I hadn’t much considered before. It’s a sound we should never take lightly, as each breath holds the essence of someone we love.

© 2019 Leslie J. Thompson. All rights reserved.

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

JOB 33:4 (ESV)

September 26, 2019   Comments Off on Breath of Life