I was checking in with one of my favorite soon-to-be spouses when her post touched me. (Head on over to From Pearls to Dog Tags and offer a little encouragement if you can.) What she talks about is something we all feel sometimes.
I have said over and over again how much I love my city. The city of my birth, my childhood, of most of my life. I know it gets old, but you just have to get over that, because no place in this world is like New Orleans. There are no words for how much I miss that place. If ever I cease to love ...
I hadn't been back during Mardi Gras in years. Strike that. I had been back but I had been pregnant and about to have Eli. This year was the first time I could go to any of it and I was beyond excited. (And for those of you who are not from there, please remove any images you have in your head of grossly inappropriate things. Only tourists do that. The locals don't.)
The day before Mardi Gras - Lundi Gras - I spent the entire day at Spanish Plaza with one of my best friends. I was foolishly happy. We sang along with the bands and we danced and danced and danced. I love to dance. I'm not very good at it - in fact, I look like a fool - but I love it. The atmosphere is amazing - the bands, the noise, the music, the people. Man, I love that place. It was truly one of the best Mardi Gras days of my life.
When I got home that night my body hurt, I was exhausted, I barely had a voice, and I was on cloud nine. The smile had not left my face since I climbed into my friend's jeep to go. But that night, when the boys were asleep, I lost the joy. When everything was still and quiet I was hit with the deepest sadness. Like Cate talks about in her post, I felt empty. There really is no other word for it. All the air had been let out, the ecstasy has dissipated, nothing was left. It didn't make sense.
I had just had the best day and night in a very, very long time and C didn't share it with me. Not only did he not share it, he didn't get to see the joy that I know he would have loved to see. He didn't get to be part of it. On top of all of that - I had had the best night while he was in a war zone, far beyond the parties and joy of Mardi Gras. I felt almost guilty.
I cannot tell you all how good C is about these things. About me going someplace and having fun with my old friends. He tells me to "Have fun" and that he can't wait to hear about it. He tells my closest friend who is always with me to send him pictures. He wants me to be happy - whether he can be here for it or not. He is such a remarkable man. I am so very blessed.
But that makes it that much harder. Because I know C would have had so much fun. I know he wouldn't dance but he would have a beer and sit and laugh at me looking like a fool. He would have loved it just as much as me and I wanted him to be there for it.
So much of our life is lived without them present. Without them beside us. So much is left up to telling stories in an email, reliving it through Skype, but it just isn't the same as having them here. When I finally got to tell C about it the next day he laughed when I told him I danced for four hours, when I told him I went up and hugged someone I thought was an old friend only to have the real old friend come up to me an hour later and tell me it had gotten back to him about my mistake. He said how glad he was that I got to go - that he was sorry he couldn't be there. I was so sorry he couldn't be there too.
This is on our bucket list. C and I have never been to a Mardi Gras parade or ball together. He went to one or two before he knew me but the timing has never worked out for us. But someday, we are going to go together. Someday we will get to experience it at the same time, in the same place. And that day will be the best day.
So often the best moments are bittersweet because we experience them without our other half, without the person that we always want to share the joy with. That doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy this life, shouldn't embrace the times of separation. That day is still one of my favorite days. I would never take it back just because he couldn't be here for it. We have to enjoy the life we still have when they are gone.
These bittersweet moments allow us to appreciate the small and big moments that they are here for, that they do share in. There is a goodness in that. We have a better appreciation than most because we know how precious time together is. We know how prized those moments are. We know how to cherish them.
We have to learn to still live in the in between. To still find the happiness. It keeps us going. It keeps us feeling. The in betweens count too.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.