An April Family Update

We have just come off a restful four-day weekend. Good Friday and Easter are both national holidays here in Canada, and we enjoyed the days of downtime and the special worship services. With that behind us, we are in a stretch that leads to the Victoria Day weekend which comes at the end of May and marks the unofficial beginning to summer. For now, though, spring is well underway. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, the sun is a little warmer, the nights a little shorter. There is hope in the air.

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Yet there is also discouragement, for Ontario has once again been placed under a form of lockdown-light in which all businesses and organizations have been told to operate at reduced capacities, in which restaurants are closed except for takeout, and so on. The medical establishment and teacher’s unions (among other organizations) are exerting intense pressure on the government to deepen the lockdowns into a full stay-at-home order. The delayed week-long spring break is coming up next week and there is a lot of conjecture that schools will not open on the far side of it. To be honest, it’s easier to imagine tighter restrictions than looser restrictions in the days ahead. But we’ve done this all before and will get through it again, if necessary. (Update: It looks like we are headed into a month-long stay-at-home order.)

My family found Easter weekend very emotional. The hope we have in Nick’s death is closely tied to Good Friday and Easter, so I suppose the extended focus on Christ’s death and resurrection stirred up our hope, but also our sorrow alongside it. Having never faced grief like this, I find myself surprised at how sharp it can still feel even after five months. In fact, in some ways it seems to hurt more now than it did two or three months ago. I find that I really miss Nick in a deepening way—I miss loving him and being loved by him. I think it’s the first of these that I miss the most. For almost 21 years there was always something I could do to express love to him, but now he is beyond any good I can do him, any actions that would bless him. There’s no point even praying for him, since there is nothing he needs, no temptation he has to endure, no good thing God has withheld from him. Twenty-one years of being an attentive and affectionate father ended so suddenly. I still haven’t adjusted to it.

I decided to get up early on Easter and go to the cemetery for sunrise. The air was cold, the ground was white with frost, and there was not another living soul in sight. I brought a little folding chair which I set up at the foot of Nick’s grave. I also brought headphones which I set to play Handel’s “Messiah,” beginning with the third part, the second scene, the 47th movement—right where the bass soloist sings, “Behold, I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” I sat, I listened, I prayed, I wept, and I watched as the sun rose slowly over the horizon. It was terrible and beautiful all at once, and I suspect it may become a new tradition for me.

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Michaela continues to go to ninth grade a couple of mornings a week—the most that’s available this year. The rest of her learning is online. As we come to planting season she will start tending some neighbor’s gardens and earning a little money that way. Abby is coming to the end of her school year down at Boyce College and should be returning home around May 1. We are just now figuring out how to get her back in such a way that she won’t fly across the border and thus need to spend a couple of days in a quarantine hotel. If she drives or walks across the border she will still need to complete a 14-day quarantine, but will be able to do all of it at home. With that behind her, she will return to her job at a nearby grocery store. It sure will be good to have her back under our roof! Ryn (Nick’s fiancée) continues to be an important part of our lives and is hoping to spend time with us this summer if and when Americans are once again permitted to enter Canada. If you’re heading to TGC next week, keep an eye out for her as she’ll be one of the volunteers serving you.

Aileen has begun to turn her attention to our yard as she does each spring. We invariably have the best-kept and most beautiful garden in the neighborhood. Last week, rather spontaneously, we ripped out the deck in our backyard since it was near the point of being dangerous, so now we need to figure out how to lay a patio. I suppose that will be our summer project. Aileen is about to begin cleaning up Nick’s bedroom. For months we have left the door closed and rarely gone in, but sooner rather than later it needs to be cleaned out and converted to a guest room. Most of his important possessions were in his dorm room in Louisville, so what remains is mainly the remnants of his childhood. There are so many memories. It’s a sad, sad task that feels a little bit like erasing evidence of a life.

And as for me, I continue to make the blog my main focus day-by-day though I’m also pressing forward with some book projects. I’ve mentioned before that this year of having all conferences and travel erased from my schedule has given me an extended time to reflect on my future. As I do so, I find myself increasingly convinced I ought to focus more on writing and less on public speaking. I have enjoyed these extended, undisrupted times to focus on writing. I have more thinking and praying to do, but expect I’ll be radically curtailing my outside obligations.

And that’s what’s going on here in Oakville, Ontario. I rather hope that next time I share an update, perhaps in a month or two, the province will be well on its way to opening up rather than continuing to close down…