My grandfather had been suffering from a disease that had crippled his mind for quite some time. His memories were confused, incomplete, and, in many cases, missing. He was unable to remember the many faces and voices that made up the story of his life, including those of his own ten children. Even his sense of structure, progress, and time were gone. As members of my family who lived closer to him reported it, he believed near the end of his life, in 2010, that Jimmy Carter was president, and, worse, he believed he was a good president. In spite of all of this, when he was told that his wife of 58 years, my grandmother, had passed away, he cried and yelled that he wanted to go to his wife. A few weeks later, he died.
Amy Welborn's Wish You Were Here is a story about that kind of love and that kind of loss. Her story of the premature and unexpected loss of her husband is an insight into the kind of love that, like my grandfather's, overcomes decades of hazy memories and alters the courses of lives. In other words, it is a story about the kind of love we should all seek to cultivate in our lives.
We are told, as Christians, that Christ has defeated death and that death and sin have no more power over us. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, an early Christian writer, once said that “the business of a Christian is to be always preparing for death.” Death (and taxes) are the only things certain in life, as the old saying goes. And yet we still mourn for those we have lost. We still doubt and fear for what death means for them and for all of us. We still wish that we could only delay it just a bit longer. We still struggle with how this pain fits into God's great plan. We still feel the loss of their presence, even as we retain hope that we will be with them again in a better place.
Amy's story is that story. Amy's story is our story. Her husband, a pious Catholic, a loving husband, and a father to her young children, was taken from his family one morning. No one expected it and no one could explain it. In her efforts to deal with her loss and the loss felt by her children, Amy took three of her children on a vacation in Sicily several months after her husband's death. While there, they explored the beautiful and ancient cathedrals, churches, ruins, villages, and countrysides. They spoke with the people and experienced – often, endured – the culture. And amid those medieval buildings, created by men who lived and died and whose bones crumbled into dust long ago, and those people there today with their strange communal afternoon naps, she discovered something. What she found is not a way to make the pain go away, but a way to transform her feelings of loss into the yearning for something higher.