“The truth is something you already knew deep in your own bones: Your ship is sinking. The life you lived before is the life you live no longer. Your life feels like a funeral, because there is part of you that is actually dying.”
Jonathan Martin How to Survive a Shipwreck
Joe arrived at my door dressed in khakis and a black polo shirt with the Mayflower logo. He slipped his shoes off as he entered, even after I said it was fine to leave them on. He began the process of explaining the quote, “First, I want you to know I’ve already set things up to avoid having your goods go to storage, so no extras fees will be charged.” I told him I was grateful and he replied, “No matter what else is true, moving is always hard. It is the end of something and people really need extra care and attention.”
I chose Joe because he was attentive, generous, and intuitive. My heart needs these things because it is the end.
Seven years ago, on a hot sticky Memorial Day, we gathered with friends in Texas and while eating burgers and watermelon we tearfully shared the news that we would be leaving. Mark had started looking for jobs in other states. It was the day we officially named the reality of something ending and the hope of something new beginning.
The complexity of holding both was challenging. The day the moving truck loaded our belongings, people came to be with us as we parted with the home we’d lived in for over a decade. Life and death mingled together, down to the bitter end.
We moved to Michigan on sheer faith and hopeful hearts.
We didn’t move anticipating the seven most difficult years of our lives.
Recently, a friend stood in our kitchen and asked how I was feeling. “Sad, disappointed, relieved, hopeful, grateful, aching, and empty” was my reply. He took my words in and said, “You guys have been through hell. I don’t know how any of you even step foot in a church or want anything to do with God.”
I would agree. It feels supernatural that our faith is still intact.
In his book, The Healing Path, Dan Allender says that betrayal is the breaking of an implied or stated commitment to care. Trust is built not on the absence of betrayal, but on the willingness of each person to repair any breach of trust.
The end of our time here has brought me face to face with betrayal all over again. Sorting through the house surfaced unexpected things: a birthday card written to Mark from a youth pastor who betrayed us in unspeakable ways, boxes of unused sparklers for our daughter’s cancelled wedding, and notes from ministry friends who no longer speak to me.
Early last year I found myself using the word “tsunami” to describe what had hit my family. I began weekly therapy. As my counselor waded into the dark currents with me, she became curious about my resistance to death, which seemed to go beyond a heartfelt belief in the resurrection power of Jesus. She said, “Tracy, it seems you believe you can raise the dead.” She named how my belief in my own strength, coupled with a deep sense of responsibility, had produced a wave of energy that was not about the power of God.
“You cannot continue to flail your arms, beat against the sea, and damn the waves. You have to let yourself go all the way under – into the depths of God. You will have to linger at the ocean floor, where the sea monsters live, and confront everything in you that you’ve constructed a whole life out of avoiding.” Jonathan Martin
The arrogance of my heart was exposed and sorrow over the losses began to more fully wash over me. This opened the door for change, and change brought another layer of loss because I had invited others to believe I could raise the dead too. As I honestly named the truth and stopped my ungodly energy, some people were disappointed and it was easy to blame me.
And now we are at the end.
It has been eerily quiet and empty at our house.
Our circle of trust has become small, occupied by those who have engaged in the healing process that is necessary for trust to remain and grow. Their companionship has preserved our faith in God.
These friends have become family, because when death comes and the end is near, your family gathers close, enters the grief, and holds your heart.
I’ve had several breakdowns over the past two weeks—moments where I’ve just wailed. A friend flew in to help me pack. She held the space of death and grief with me as we worked our way through the house. She noticed my tears, often had tears of her own, and then mercifully she’d make another box and start packing again.
Nichole Nordeman’s music gives words to what my heart has felt, here’s her song “Hush, Hush” on the album “Shipwreck Songs”.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 30 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. She writes about her life and her work here.