I didn’t really want to come back home. In a lot of ways it’s easier being out on the road exploring, thinking and breathing freely. As my trip came to a close, I felt a feeling of almost dread dread, knowing I would have to walk back into our home. A home where there would be no Josh smiling at me asking me how the trip was, or helping me unload the car.
My homecoming was pretty quiet. I turned on game 7 of the World Series, unloaded the car, sighed a few times and eventually settled on the couch and soon feel asleep. This is what Josh liked to call my "pre-bed nap," which is basically when I fall sleep on the couch, then wake up then go to bed. It would probably be easier just to go to bed when I felt tired but I don't.
My last stop in this grief traveling journey was in Dallas, seeing a few more friends and driving the familiar streets where Josh and I made many memories over a decade ago. I mentioned in my (road ramble) video that coming back to Dallas almost feels like home. There are so many great memories in the city. During this time, God did a lot in our life, ministry, and marriage. I drove by the restaurant where Josh gave me my "double-07" anniversary ring and where we celebrated big days only to see that it was permanently closed. It seemed almost fitting but still sad.
The two days I spent in Dallas were good and not too sad. It wasn't until I drove under the High 5 interchange that tears filled my eyes. As each Texas star etched into the road beam passed, I felt the emotions rise up. Maybe it was remembering how Josh would describe the highway system - he loved explaining just how crazy the city roads were or maybe it was just remembered the hundreds of times we drove this same route, but it got me and soon I was trying to drive with teary eyes in heavy traffic.
As I continued the next five hours home (and my eyes cleared up), I felt the tension growing, knowing I was coming back to a home that’s different. It’s not the first time I’ve been back home since Josh passed away but the first time in a while after many miles of thinking and processing.
I realized as walked back into my home that it wasn't that bad it wasn't my favorite moment of the trip. Especially because one of the first things I saw in my mail pile was a folder titled "Bereavement Welcome Packet" - who wants that!! (Not me! but it is my reality)
Even with all this, being home is good. It's good because our home still OUR home and there are good and hard memories in this place.
As I turn this corner, I pause to say thanks for the moments big and small on this journey. And for God's protection in the 4500 miles of driving and adventuring. I’m thankful for a God who hears me in all stages of my emotions and loves me deeply even still.
I’ll have a few days this weekend to goof around in Missouri but next week, it’s back to normal -- a new normal. My trip over the past almost three weeks has been just what I needed. I’ve had intentional time to talk with God, to process my thoughts and feelings, to sit in this grief and more. I needed this!
I wasn't sure how the day would feel but I just embraced it as best as possible. I started the morning early driving to Dallas while listening to one of Josh's sermons from 2012. In this message, he talked about the faith of Abraham - one of his favorite characters to talk about it. He spends time talking about how the breaks in the sometimes boring Biblical genealogy listings draw our attention to moments in history that God wants us to pay attention to. The sections typically state, so-and-so lived this long, had this many children and died at a certain age, etc . . . etc. . . Hearing Josh talk about this had me thinking how if our story was listed in this format today how our story might stand out as a little different too. Maybe it would be that Josh's life was shorter than expected, that we don't have kids or something else all together that declares God in a more grand way.
No matter, I do know that on this particular day, there is a pause; there is a break in the story of Josh's life here on earth and we as family and friends feel it.
As much as I tried to think about being sad today, I couldn't help but continue to feel overwhelming gratitude for Josh's life. There were moments when my heart sank a little still as I drove down the street we lived on for years in Dallas and walked by his favorite store full of great looking cardigans. But generally, today ended up being a bit of a busy day with getting my hair fixed and then spending several hours with my great shopping buddy at my favorite mall (North Park) in Dallas. I even found the most perfect Kate Spade shirt that has as a "rarh" on it, and a few other great treasures to collect as birthday treats in honor of Josh - I'm sure he wouldn't mind - haha. Of course, I didn't need any of it but still . . .
The night wrapped up with dinner with some treasured friends we meet as DTS students, the Lopez'. We celebrated Josh as we pray for our food, laughed, ate and shared about life. Josh would have enjoyed the company and for me it was so life-giving to be in such wonderful company while eating delicious steak, plantains and churros at a Latin restaurant. In some ways, I would have loved to have gathered all our friends together again for a birthday meal but at the same time, a simple day was perfect for this first birthday minus Josh.
My mind still is racing as I process each new day. I often feel like I am still trying to solve a puzzle that lacks a real solution. But if there is anything to remember on this day, it is that God is faithful. This is a story that continues in many genealogies, in the Old Testament story of Abraham and in the modern day story of Josh and Jenn - even if it is hard to see clearly from this vantage point.
Today is a big day - 10/29 - Josh's birthday. I'm not sure how this day will go but I'll be spending it in Dallas with friends, eating great food, hanging at the mall and more. Maybe this day will feel like every day, a day without my favorite person. Already in my head, I can hear Josh rattling off the date, 10-29-77 - it was the one thing he had to say most often at all the doctors appointments and one he could easily remember even when his brain was muddled. It is a repeating loop in my mind though:
102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977102977. . .
I am both thankful for this day and sadden by it. Without Josh, my life would be VERY different. And here now, without Josh my life IS different and changing. What a riddle.
The photo above is from October of last year as we celebrated his 41st birthday. Oh how I'd love another great photo on his 42nd. I will have a few from today but none will include Josh's fabulous smile. I will celebrate him still!
October 27 & 28
My adventures across New Mexico over the course of two days were both wide and deep. From the white sands dunes as far as you could see to deep caverns with unbelievable formations. Many thoughts crossed my mind during this time from the warning to “not get lost” because tracks in the sand will blow away to “what story can this cave tell us.”
Both concepts resonate with me. As I process each day without Josh, there are times when I think I might know where I’m going, how to do this this, but then I look around and all my tracks are missing and I am again at a loss – asking the same questions. There is definitely a story being told in my life here and with Josh’s testimony of life and faith. This story is deeper than the deepest cavern and there are many, many places that I can’t even begin to see.
There was moment on the cave tour of Carlsbad Caverns today where they turned off the lights to let us "feel" what it might have been like for the first people who discovered the cave. I know this is a common tactic for tour guides but of course this time as I sat in that darkness I thought of how it feels to sit in this new season that I am actively discovering.
There’s a lot of trust needed in this place that feels a bit dark, damp and directionless. While I know trusting God is the best option, trusting still feels like a challenge after such a disappointment. Do I trust that God won't let me down? I don't know. Feel like he has. I have to continue push my mind and heart to thinking eternally but my selfish heart would rather have a different reality.
It's more than complicated. Again, the journey continues and I ask for God’s clarity and wisdom in each new step and path, while focusing on reminders like Psalm 62:8 even when I don't "feel" like trusting:
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
“ Do you have trouble relaxing?” was the question posed by the massage therapist. My answer, “It’s been a hard few months.” Guess that really is quite the understatement but was the easiest answer in that moment. My sister-in-law Julie and I decided to treat ourselves to massages while in Phoenix and it was very nice and needed. I was VERY tense. It could be the driving and traveling, of course, but could be like six months of built up tension, plus...
I tried hard to relax during that time and again later as we hung out poolside in the most wonderful cabana chairs. It was a great vacation resort - felt like paradise. But it couldn’t be.
In this ideal setting, with no agenda, I soon found myself creating my own tiny pool behind my sunglasses. How can I enjoy this glimmer of paradise without Josh? Would I ever feel like I was in “paradise” without my favorite person to share it with? Ugh! This is frustrating.
It’s these thoughts that make it hard to relax as I return to them often. I know in my mind there are a lot of great things to do, see and even celebrate but my heart is still negotiating. I expect it will continue to for a while.
This is the time for God’s supernatural peace - peace that passes all understanding. This peace isn’t just so I can relax on vacation or elsewhere but it is a peace that I need to face each new day. God knows it. I know it.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:7 NASB
You know the feeling - when you are mesmerized by someone's skill and talent, that's what Gabe, Julie and I all experienced as we dance the night away to the cover band at Gabe's work conference evening gathering (that I join in with). Not every song was amazing but most were quite fun, iconic and some of the mixes just perfectly clever.
It was a fun night, hanging out dancing and laughing. For several moments I forgot about all the other background noise of my life. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to get back there though - to feel all the emotion again. It's in the slight pause between songs or walking to or from my car. Crazy fun distractions can only last so long.
Already in the day, I shed a few tears thinking about how much I missed Josh and thinking about how strange it is to meet new people who don't know my story. Do I tell them about why I am really on a road trip? Dropping the "My husband died." comment is kind of a bombshell for the casual bystander at the dog park who wants to know why I am in town. I find even out to lunch with friends/family, I have to pause in the bathroom to breathe or clear up some tears - and I never really know when these will hit. Even when we are just hanging as family we still can't help but want to talk about the "why" - fighting to still understand something that lacks understanding.
Life on the road offers a freedom that life in the city and with people I know and love doesn't. Of course, I need people around me and doing life with me but the complexities of all the emotions are hard to navigate or even try to explain. I have to press forward into these relationships - hoping they'll be patient me in my newfound fear and awkwardness.
Grief is tricky and can shift the melodies of our lives so significantly. I am not sure what the melody even is right now but I am leaning in and trying to listen to understand it.
P.S. I love my brother and sister-in-law and they had the most perfect costume and I know they will love all the photos included below of them looking goofy. :)
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.