February 12, 2008
I drove Grace this past week. I think she remembered me from two years ago.
Let me explain.
Grace is Jake’s first truck, the 2005 Ford SuperDuty, the one he bought when he returned from Iraq, when he was just starting his trucking company, a young man full of dreams, changed from war, lithe and strong, always, always, looking towards heaven.
While in Iraq, he had learned about strapping loads and driving trucks, among other things. Jake didn’t call his super duty Grace, I did, after he went to Heaven. It seemed appropriate, since he had named his company, Sola Gratia which as he had explained and I, only at his loss, recalling that particular conversation, rognized how important the naming of his company way.
Sola Gratia is Latin for ‘grace alone’. Jake believed that, yes he did. So Grace she was and she and I, for about 6 weeks, in the waning days of 2005 and a few of the unknown days of 2006, drove the highways of Houston, making Jake’s deliveries. I look back now, I was crazy with grief. No doubt about it and no way to make that reality different than what it was. I have always hated losing things and losing a son is not survivable unless you have faith.
But even with faith, I suspect that first, you always go crazy. Anything Jake had touched, anything that was part of Jake was precious. I spent a whole day looking for the last magnetic sign Jake had made, advertising that Sola Gratia was a veteran owned company. It must have peeled off in the wind of one of my freeway rides. It was my failure to make sure it was well placed on the side of Grace and now, yet another loss. It burned and tore at that heart whole in my chest. A whole day, I mean an entire day of retracing, stopping, and exiting Grace when I spotted something lying along the road that might be his sign. If I could have figured out how to stop traffic on I-45 I would have.
Yeah, that’s crazy.
But, there it is and there is not much that you can do about it and maybe it’s a crazy kind of normal, and maybe its okay; you suffer through the sorrow and go on and be crazy until you get to a place where you can figure out “now what?.” You don’t worry about how it looks, well maybe a bit you do, but most people around you either understand or have gone there with you. If you are lucky you have a second son who, when he finds you wandering the house late at night, holds you and comforts you as you have cradled him many times when he was just a baby. If you are really lucky, you also have another who tells you he will be strong, just lean on him, and don’t worry about trying to hold up. And then if you’re blessed beyond measure then you know both, deep in your heart, those sons are praying every night. Going crazy, this kind, has nothing to do not living in the real world. It’s all about the real world. There is nothing more real than death. I drove Grace, back and forth, that season, face dripping with tears and trying to remember Jake sitting where I was. I had to remember all the things Jake did to secure the loads and deliver safely; I had to learn what he did. As it turns out, I learned a lot of things.
This day, two years later, I am back in Grace. I am making a delivery for a customer who is also a friend. This is the kind of friend that no matter what you asked, they would give it to you; the kind of friend that no matter what you need, somehow they know. So despite the fact that our real driving pros were busy, it was my pleasure to put on some hard toed boots, grab my safety goggles, and get behind Grace’s wheel.
I sit in her and listen to a little bit older engine, warm up and begin the familiar whine peculiar to a diesel. The canned smell of fresh linen that Jake was a bit obsessed by once he returned from war and sprayed every time he got in her is now only barely perceptible. I step out, off the truck step, and unwind the straps and ready myself to secure my load. I have come a long way. By the grace of God, I am at the place where I know, I mean know, that where Jake is so much better than here. Those aren’t words I haven’t thought about, pondered , prayed over, and debated. Sitting in Grace, watching the same season of fallow fields on I-10 and birds of prey from two years ago, it’s a bit of a shock to realize that I don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about what Jake is missing here, or what I am missing because he isn’t here. The reality is that since he went to Heaven, he hasn’t missed a thing. I also realized that my life has never had more purpose and that is a direct result of dealing with the earthly loss of Jake. I am a much different person than I was two years ago and I know very keenly that most of what we do is like chaff in the wind. Earthly life can end in an instant. The meat of life, the heart of the matter, is how I live my life, with honesty, with generosity, with patience, but most of all by grace. Grace alone.. unmerited favor. Yep, that’s what I got.
Happy Monday (Tuesday)