By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 2, 2020
We moved often when I was a child, so I left secret messages in my various bedrooms to prove I had once lived there.
I found a place inside a closet, where the words would be hard to discover. After all, I wanted the message to last, rather than being erased by the house’s next inhabitants.
The message was simple enough: “Lorraine Viscardi lived here,” plus the dates. It was a little mark on history, a way to create a sense of permanency in a life that was constantly shifting, a way to be remembered.
After my husband died five years ago, I started looking for a message he might have left me. The words from “Message in a Bottle,” an old song by The Police, haunted me: “Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, another lonely day, with no one here but me.”
In the first few months, I would check and re-check the pockets of his shirts and jackets, hoping to unearth a slip of paper with some parting words and advice on how I could survive without him.
Since he had died of a heart attack, all alone, I had been deprived of any last words, any final prayer. I asked the people who had tried to resuscitate him, but they couldn’t relay any message either, since he had apparently died instantly.
Eventually I stopped the search and realized there’d been no reason for him to leave a note, since his death had been as great a surprise to him as to me.
Then one day I was looking in his desk drawer for paper clips, and way in the back I unearthed a journal I’d never seen before.
I turned the pages and there it was—the message I’d been seeking. It had been written 23 years before his death, when he was approaching the age when his father had died.
“Dear Lo, If it should ever be necessary for you to paw through this book (i.e., if something has happened to me and I don’t mean I got stuck at the Farmer’s Market indefinitely) … know that, regardless of what may have happened, I was given the best years of my life by you.
Please go on with things the best you can … there will always be wonder and joy in living. Keep that always in mind, and know that I love you dearly.”
The journal entry put an end to my restless searching for advice. Seeking wonder and joy in small events of everyday life has helped me endure the years without him.
Each day I seek God in the wonders of the natural world—the fat mockingbirds at the feeder, the fancy butterflies dancing on flowers, the boisterous cries of owls, the communion-wafer full moon.
On my daily walks, I take videos of honeybees gathering nectar, a furry caterpillar on the sidewalk, an elusive grasshopper. At home, I notice a squirrel staring through the window, his paws clasped, as if in prayer.
Even during the first years of intense grief, I had discovered joy in friendships and visits with relatives. In the fourth year, a shift occurred, and the lovely promise of Jesus began coming true: “Your grief will turn into joy.”
That year I was filled with joy when I reflected on how happy we had been. Yes, I would have liked more time with Jef, but we were married for 33 years, which is a huge blessing.
After all, every love story has an ending, and the final chapter is written by God. And God had also written the beginning chapters, starting from the moment we met and continuing to the wedding day and the deep friendship we forged.
In the wedding vows we’d promised to love and honor each other until “death do us part.” And death has parted us, at least physically, but the connection between our hearts and souls is eternal.
The little girl who left messages in her rooms so she wouldn’t be forgotten had her dream come true. She will always be remembered in the heart of Jesus Christ and in the heart of the man he sent her.
Artwork by Jef Murray (“Praying Squirrel”). Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.