Here's the latest photo of me. I saw this on Facebook this evening and knew it was me. Actually, I'm the one way down in the middle that you can't see. This is the gigantic group hug that I have found myself in.
You know most of them. The tall ones in the back are family. They're your mother, and Jim and Irene, Lesa, and your nieces and nephews, and they're Mama's cousins and my second cousins, and John and Mary Jean on Daddy's side. They've always been here at my back just in case I'd need them, and they carry a large part of my identity with them. They are where I came from, and they know the part of my story that happened even before I was born.
The ones in the middle are our old friends - some for forty years and some for ten. There are childhood friends, friends from the group of us that got engaged, married, and were newlyweds together, friends from work and friends from church. We've worked on each other's weddings and houses, built church buildings and new denominations side by side, birthed children and buried parents together. In their memories lies the continuity between who we were and who we are now. They bear the stability in our journey.
Around the edges are the social media friends that I've come to know and love over common experiences and catastrophes. Whether it's widowhood, fibromyalgia, a common childhood, or a common faith that we share, they let me know that I'm not alone in it. From every corner of the globe, they give me company on the journey.
Also guarding the edges is my infrastructure - doctor and optometrist, lawyer and CPA. And all the people in town keep an eye out for me - bank, post office, Tom at the pharmacy, both hardware stores, Bob to keep the car running, JJ to answer my plumbing questions, Menno if the washer breaks down, Lana to keep my hair under control, DeWayne, Janet, Adam, and Craig and Dee to keep an eye on the house.
Down in front are our young friends - daughter and granddaughters, godchildren official and unofficial, children we offered years ago to take if their parents got tired of them, the wonderful people that bring fun and a sense of the future to my life. They remind me that it may be a good thing that life goes on.
Being Orthodox tells me about another group - the saints and loved ones that went before. I've been wonderfully supported through all of this by my Grandmother Keistler. I never knew her, but our marriages and widowhoods have much in common, and she has been right my by side all this time. I've known I had your prayers, and those of Fr. Anthony and Fr. George, St. John and St. Theodora, and so many, many friends and family members who are with you now. They aren't visible in the photo but I know just as surely that they are there.
So I am surrounded by a great cloud of love and comfort. No one person could ever brace me to face life like you did. And I miss that. It takes a village to replace The World's Only Perfect Man. Thankfully, I have a village, and they love me and look after me. Most of them are grieving for you, too.
May God bless and reward each one of them richly - grant them many years, all earthly and spiritual good things, and a place in His Kingdom. I am totally undeserving of such unselfish love and support. And I'm grateful.
Thriving in the meerkat group hug,
Ever your wife,