You meant God. You said you were trying not to suck, which was funny then, and is funny now, because what I thought was: THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL PEOPLE THEY ARE WALKING AROUND SHINING LIKE THE SUN. Because you were. You were so bullshit-free, we had to avert our eyes. You showed us how an interrogator could listen to a prisoner; how a soldier could put down his weapon; how a Christian could best hear these words from a Muslim: Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy. And then do that. You actually did that.
You showed us how a son could put his work aside and move home to his dying father and lift and bathe and feed him day after day. Then when you got sick the very next year, you said “Why not me?” which messed with our heads. And you found goodness where we strained to see any. You said your suffering was like the suffering of the Iraqi people, and that there was even “a certain sense of relief” that you shared this with them. You said we’d burned those toxins in their fields, poisoning their children and their food. You wed your suffering to theirs, you yoked it; and set about reconciling all of us. Now what are we supposed to do with that?
You died 28 days ago, Joshua. I’ve been doing awesome flips in my head to avoid this plain fact. Even after your funeral, with your face on the program, I still don’t believe it.
I got the news like a lot of people. It came through my computer. I read, “Our hearts are broken,” then I got down on the floor and sobbed. Later I tied Bess to my body and we walked out into an obscenely lovely afternoon. Bess held my pointer fingers in the warm knots of her hands and tethered me like she does. That evening I did the only thing that seemed right—I wavered through every verse of that hymn you liked, trying to overcome the crying with a stronger thing: the singing.