You’re not gone you’re still here
With me all the time
You’re still here
When I close my eyes
I still see you I still feel you

Dianne Warren, Still Here

“You are never happy.” She was pulling into a driveway, for delivery. Listening to talk radio was just about the only company she seemed to get these days.

“I am, too!” The voice was shrill, complaining. “How can you say that?”

“You complain about the sun, it’s too bright, there are too many people, there aren’t enough people, it’s a gloomy day, where’s the sun. You’re never satisfied.” He sounded strident, accusatory. She could imagine him jabbing his finger at the woman.

Then the moderator asked her what she thought about that? Was it true? Did she always complain like that?

Just the other day her mom had wagged a finger in her own face, ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones,’* Joni. You need to snap out of it and get on with your life. She’d tried to smile, but deep down, that had hurt.

She switched the radio off, left the truck running, ran up the steps with her package, took a picture, then texted it to the address. Another hour, she could call it quits for the day. She had been so grateful for this, after losing her desk job. After losing her partner. He had only just moved in, a few months ago. They had been old fashioned, it had been a lark, she bought a pretty dress, he bought a suit, they invited some friends and headed over to the courthouse.

She remembered how fun that had been, their apartment done up with borrowed folding chairs and rolls of white crepe streamers. Their friends had done everything, really, and they’d had such a great party. Dinner and cake, and so much laughter. She found herself smiling again. She had been so achingly in love.

Stop it. Don’t be that person. She checked her log, punched in the next address, and started out of the quiet neighborhood, noticing toys left on some of the lawns, a child’s basketball hoop. She swallowed hard and coughed around her tightening throat. They had both wanted to start a family right away. She grinned, unconsciously, remembering how they both had giggled and giggled when they threw away all their contraceptives. Then caught her breath as she remembered that night together.

She swore under her breath. God. Almost missed that sign. Concentrate!

I love you, Joni, he had breathed, I think we made a baby tonight. But they hadn’t. And they wouldn’t. She could feel the tears sliding out of her eyes, and wiped her nose with an arm. God, she missed him. how can you time missing somebody? How can you ‘snap out of it’? She suddenly felt a surge of anger go through her like furnace heat. Her fingers clenched the wheel, and her jaw clamped tight. She flipped the radio back on. Better listening to the crabbing couple than be alone with her thoughts.

But it was a new show, some talking head. She was about to punch in another station when the woman’s voice said, “You have to really feel it. To try not to feel something only makes things seem okay. If you genuinely want to experience happiness, or anything at all, really, you have to feel what you are really feeling, right now.”

The woman kept talking, but Joni was already lost in thought, half watching the road, half wondering about feeling. What did she feel? She thought about his heart walking around in somebody else’s chest somewhere. She smiled, knowing how right that was, that his heart lived on. That man had been all heart, from the first day. Wore it on his sleeve.

How she wished she could pick up his underwear, now, and wipe off the rings of wet left from his cups on their nice wood furniture.

And how he had loved her—he had always been leaving little Bible notes for her, in her jacket pocket, on the bathroom mirror, stuck in the silverware drawer, wherever he could get a laugh and an “awwwww.”

She pulled up to the side of a house, left the engine running, ran up the lawn with an envelope, took a picture, texted it, then jogged back to her truck. I just wonder, and flipped open the glovebox. A crumpled napkin fell out with a breakfast bar, one of her favorites, stiff with age. On the napkin, he’d written, Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.**

Even as fresh tears started down her cheeks, she found something good was welling up into a smile.

*Proverbs 17:22 (NRSV)

** Jeremiah 31:13

[Woman driving |]

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