i know … It’s been a while. A long while. …
Recently, i received a letter from a good friend who expressed concern for my state of heart and mind, a “haven’t-heard-from-you-in-a-long-time” letter. With her permission, i’m posting my response in case others might wonder if i’ve fallen off of the earth. Thank you for caring.
August 11, 2013
Dear Dr. Pat,
Thank you for your kind letter. Even though it was addressed to me, i read it — as i have all your letters over the years, hundreds of them by now — with a sense that i am simply their guardian until some future day when i turn them over to the children. What a treasure these pages will be for them, a rich window into the good heart that God has given and shaped in you. Abbey, Matt and Jon — and perhaps their children and their’s after them — will be enriched to know that God placed you and them all together in one brightly colorful family. This simply to say that all you’ve written is in safekeeping and that none of your words are ever lost or wasted.
Your inquiry into my long silence is appreciated and i hope that ones like yourself, who have continued to write and reach out to me during the past year, wil forgive what must seem like severe unneighborliness. Your range of possible explanations for my absence — illness, sadness, transition, fatigue — are the same ones that i would have imagined had our places been reversed;. But none of those are quite accurate, and truth is, i really don’t know why i have found it so difficult to write anything, especially about myself, since Gary’s passing.
Over the past few months, Beth has repeatedly asked me to let friends know that all is well with me. And i have approached my desk a number of times with that intention in mind, only to come away empty-handed. When she told me bluntly a few days ago that i was behaving unkindly, especially in light of the support and affection that so many have shown me over the years, i was, as i well should have been, properly and soundly rebuked. Sadly, what kindness could not apparently compel me to do, shame has. …
And so, dear Pat, i write to ask your forgiveness and to thank you for the thoughtfulness that you’ve shown me during this silent season. i have no doubt that forgiveness will be granted and i can only hope that you’ll know my thanks to be sincere. Receipt of missives from Gladstone is always an occasion of gladness for me. … If you can imagine me sitting in my truck, in one of the two parking spaces outside the Hamilton post office, opening mail, propping my arms up on the streering wheel, and reading about the latest happenings from N. Grand, you’ll get some idea of the small journey that your letters make possible. Thank you for the always welcome words.
You wonder how i am doing now, a year removed from Gary’s passing. Is grief still heavy on me? Am i under any weight of doubt or anger or confusion? Truth is, i am doing very well. i miss everything that i feared i might miss about him, and even some things that never occurred to me, but my days are full of pleasant tasks and i am moving ahead with life as i think Gary, and God, would want me to — praying to grow in my love for Christ, endeavoring to serve and involve myself with folks close to home, rooting myself in the life of the community, and being watchful for things that are beautiful and good.
As far as musical work goes, i am very much in a season of transition. Both a need and a desire to be home means that my travels will be very minimal going forward, at least for the foreseeable future. The family land requires time and attention; my parents, at a healthy 84 and 85, are the company i most want to keep these days; and local commitments are increasingly meaningful to me. i still write songs and, at present, am working, at the request of a farmer in Indiana, on a project that is aimed at sharing the Gospel with people who work in agriculture. i’ll send you a copy of it when it’s completed.
My intention, in the short term, is to continue writing and to use the internet more to share what i come up with. i don’t think for a minute that “virtual” communication can ever replace the incarnational reality of people in a room listening to stories and songs, but the digital highway does at least provide a stage for sharing thoughts and creative ideas.
For the last few weeks, i’ve been using some of my time, usually early mornings, to write a book of sorts — vignettes and reflections about Gary — for the family. Recent celebrations of his birthday and the anniversary of his passing have made me realize that i’m forgetting details of his life that i very much want to keep alive somehow. i continue to be disappointed with the inability of words, or, better said, my clumsy use of them, to express and describe the things i want to say about so grand a soul but writing keeps his presence somehow familiar and close at hand. …
At some point, i’ll read old sermon notes, letters, and miscellaneous writings that Gary left behind, and will gradually get to the studio to work on some hymns that he recorded during his illness. i’m not sure what i’ll have when i finish — some music, some photos, some scribbles from Gary and some prose of my own– but, when all is said and done, the audience for the work will be small, 20 or so family members. If you’d like, i’ll gladly send you a copy of what i end up with. … i so wish that you and other far away friends could have met him before he left us.
This summer has been much like previous ones in that i split the daytime hours between studio work in the mornings and outdoor work in the afternoons and evenings. Regular and abundant rains have kept the farm atypically green and have made mowing — yards, pastures, roadsides — an almost daily requirement. But the work is not hard and allows for lots of time to think and pray. Being outdoors late in the day means that i have seen some glorious, truly, sunsets and cloud banks.
“Here i stand, another day behind me,
Sunset, pasture, woods,
This old land, a thousand ways reminds me,
That You, my God, are good … “
And so it does. And so He is.
i regret that i have not been to Liberty in so long now. Our annual day of conversation was one of the highlights of my travel calendar for years and i miss the insight and perspective that you brought to so much of my thinking. Your letters, of course, fill that gap admirably but i hope that someday, when the kids might happen to be home, i will get to see all of you in person.
i hope you’ll not mind me saying again just how fortunate WJ is to have you on its faculty. God alone knows the good work you’ve done and the fruitful seeds that you’ve sown in hearts there over the years. …
And do keep me posted of Aslan’s movements as His intentions become clear.
My best to the three. i hope all of you are doing well.