Old Maps Over New Lands
It’s been a long time since I wrote to you, or about you. Recently I’m finding that I’m treading into new areas of grief, as well as revisiting well walked areas of grief. But I’m not sure it can be as distinctive as that. Because lately life seems to be a like an old map over a new land. A combination of the new and the old, the familiar and the foreign. Like I’m navigating new foreign lands by grasping hold of familiar old knowledge.
I’m in a foreign emotional land releasing parts of my identity to God, channelled through revelations long ago discovered. I’m in a foreign spiritual land discovering who God is, reaching out to truths long ago exposed. And I’m in a foreign physical land, where I’ve been for 3 years, but still relearning how to live life.
And well, there is you.
And where do I put you?
You overflow into so many of my lands Mike, and suitcases for that matter. How do I possibly begin to help someone outside of my heart to fully understand the depth of this? You are one whole of my identity as my brother; like the waters of the earth which are completely connected. One third of my identity as a sibling; the way the stars, dust and dark matter complement each other to create the galaxy. One fifth on my identity as part of the “Knight Family Clan”; the way the world knows of the “Big Five” Animals.
I’m not suggesting any, “we are one with the world” type of thing by saying these things. I’m simply trying to navigate foreign lands, with old knowledge, to illustrate a reality I face in my heart. Once upon a time something that was once “complete”, is now incomplete because the rivers topped running, the stars died, and the Big Five became, “Just Four”.
At so many land marks and sign posts I think about you Mike. When I see other people with their brothers. When I see pictures of you. When I think of something I want to tell you. Sadness is one dimension of grief, but being sad is an incomplete picture of grief. For example, I love talking about you. I would talk about you all the time if I could. The retelling of such precious memories warms my soul and draws me as close to you as possible. In those moments, it’s the underlying reality of separation that makes grief bittersweet… and BEAUTIFUL.
Mike, people here often say I am the glue that drives and hold our community together. It’s something that is incredibly honouring to be told. But Mike, I want to give you credit for that. Because any truth in these statements comes down to you. In your death, you taught me life is fragile; to seize the moments; to make the memories; to live freely and intentionally because we only get one shot. You always said you wanted to lead worship and you did. You, lead me into a different life style. God used your death to change the course of my life. How wonderfully redemptive and tragically broken.
I wish someone told me Mike, that in time the life alternating revelations God gave me through your death would lose its power as I allowed other things to take priority again. Busyness, compartmentalising, superficiality, worrying about what others think, allowing things to rent space in my mind. Your death was so precious, and for a while there I felt the freest I have ever felt.
If I could do it again, I would hold onto to those revelations harder. It’s not about staying in sorrow, it’s about ensuring the life death brings isn’t wasted. The very concept of death bringing life is one of grief’s truest and most beautiful conflicts. Embracing the fullness of life and death; walking fearlessly in the memories, lessons, regrets, revelations; and recycling everything you carry to give purpose to the present day.
Being in South Africa is hard Mike. I’m away from mum, dad and Laura and I’m not around for so many things that are passing by in their lives. I only get one family; and I don’t want to get to the end of their life or mine to find I regret not doing life with them when I had the chance. I struggle with the thought of living anywhere but England. Not because I love England, but because my family are there. I don’t want the separation from them Mikey. It’s already my story with you.
I left home to go to university when you were 15 years old, and I missed out on the three most important years of your life. I missed your 18th which was your last birthday. We missed our last Christmas. I missed your whole adventure of going to the ship for six months. I missed out connecting with you when we were at the age where we could relate to one another. I missed out on every imaginable, boring, special part to your last three years. And then, you were gone. I wasn’t even home for that. I wasn’t home when you left.
The thing of not being home is hard Mike. So flippen hard. Any thoughts I have about not being there for you, I try to use to wisely influence present day decisions; like about community, intentionality, living with open hands, and vulnerability. But when it’s thoughts about not being there for mum, dad and Laura… it breaks me a little sometimes. Every day I’m stepping forward; every day I’m choosing to follow God; every day I’m believing that being in the centre of His will is greater than being home… But that daily decision to step, chose and believe so often feels like I’m dragging an elephant over a mountain size step.
Mike, I honestly don’t know what the future holds, or what it looks like; especially when it comes to family. I have a lot of questions, some fear, and some pain. But at least with pain I can use it to physically push me forward. The fear thing though, it competes exhaustingly with having an open heart.
I’ve been given so much freedom, and an unimaginably honouring privilege, to do vulnerability so openly. However, I often wonder if the people around me have any idea the price said vulnerability came at, or still comes at. The price of choosing to reach down into the depths of the stinging pits and to recycle your very being, in hope that from your vulnerability is birthed hope, freedom and life for someone else. That’s the most intense type of bittersweet.
Death still amazes me. It’s power to shift the entire landscape of one’s life. The way they think. The way they operate. Their decisions. Their behaviour. Their words. Life becomes so unimaginably intentional. Whilst I sometimes feel the shudder of the earth under my feet, whilst I sometimes see the walls of water racing towards me, whilst I don’t always know how to read old maps, and whilst I don’t always know how to draw new maps… I wouldn’t trade these valleys and mountains to not be in a foreign land.
That all being said, I miss you Mike. I really wish we could just chat and I wish you could see me. Not that I want you to sacrifice the fullness of what you have in Heaven; but just so that I knew there was still a connection between us. Because no matter what people say, and people try to say kind words, the reality is death separates. Jesus redeemed the eternal consequence of death, but until He comes again, death still momentarily exists. And in its existence, separates. No matter how short the time is until we’re reunited, the separation is still awful. I wonder if that’s why Jesus cried when Lazarus died, because he knew the reality and power of death on Earth.
Anyways Mikey, I’m going to stop for now. I could write and write and write to you. There’s so much I long to share with you. I love you. And I can’t wait to see you again.