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