1:55, Wednesday, August 29, A. D. 2018
I was coming around the corner between the bakery I worked at and the place I’d parked my car, to get my lunch. As I turned, I saw a certain truck coming down the hill, and as it slowed to turn onto Main Street, Levi stuck his long arm out of the window and waved at me, grinning. I waved back with all the enthusiasm I could put into my own arm, and then the truck turned and was gone.
Thirty-two hours later, he was dead by his own hand.
I didn’t know, when I waved and smiled to him, that I was saying goodbye.
No matter how often I listened to Brahms’ Requiem (and I listened to it almost every day for a couple of months, the first half on the half-hour drive down to work in Granite and the second half on the way home), I can never quite remember the place in the first and last parts where the turn from sorrow to joy comes in. Life, too, seems to make it easy to escape noticing the moment you come out of the shadow into the light, even if for only a little while before things go downhill once more. I would notice, halfway through a day, that it had been a good one, but not remember when that had started or what had brought about the change. Or I would catch myself noticing the little good things around me without having to prompt myself to do it, and wonder when I had begun. Grief goes in cycles, but eventually good days — truly good days, not just neutral ones — become part of the cycles too.
Always, said St Benedict in his Rule for the monastic order he founded, we begin again. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Things never go back to the way they were before. That holds true whether “before” is before the Fall of Man, or the fall of Levi. But the fortunate fall means things can be better than they were before. Perhaps when we come back around, as here we are now, we can be a little higher on the spiral. For some of us the bad days begin to be farther apart, or aren’t as bad when they do come. For some. —
This time of year, we can focus on his last moments, or our loss, or the fact that he’s happy now in Heaven — or we can focus on how God has orchestrated everything, taking advantage of a/our lengthened perspective to notice all the small ways he has provided: in food (especially that first weekend), in comfort, in physical needs, using people to give each other his word when they needed it [most]. This is what “God is in control” means, not that he’s a power-hungry bully. He is wise enough and good enough to use his control well, not the way people always make a mess of it — like Levi, thinking he was in control of his life, thinking it was his to take, whereas it never was. “God is in control” means (as Mrs Mary reflected over and over again in those first days) that Levi’s death did not somehow surprise him or not fit in with his plan: it was in a way Levi’s appointed time, as much as when a ninety-year-old dies after a life well spent, or even the death of Caleb and Jenn’s baby at the same time.
“But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned,” says Aslan, speaking of the White Witch who had killed him the night before, “she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” Most Christians’ deaths glorify God, martyrdom not required; Levi’s death was definitely evil. Because he willed his own death, good does not automatically come from it, as it did from, for example, Mr Dale’s mother’s. God working in us, it is our responsibility now to make Death work backwards. Every single day someone gets up and refuses to let Satan win him for another victim, every single day, is a victory. That Mr Seth, for example, seeing all he has seen and suffering all he has suffered, still gets up every morning and continues in his faith, is one in the eye for Satan.
1:55, Wednesday, August 28, A. D. 2019
I was coming around the corner between the bakery I work at and the place I’d parked my car, to get my lunch. As I turned, I saw a certain truck coming down the hill, and as it slowed to turn onto Main Street, the driver regarded me. Though I didn’t know him — Always wave when you get the chance — I waved, and he tentatively waved back.
But this is not the last line of the book, because things never go back to the way they were before.
What is the last line of the book? I have a guess, but it will be at least next week before I know for sure. I can’t wait till I find out. But for now it’s a secret.