Yesterday at church, we observed All Saints Day. Katie’s message focused on an image of the Israelites moving as a group to the Promised Land shortly after losing Moses. They had to cross the Jordan without Moses who had shepherded them there. I remember hearing that story when I was a kid as a happy one: Moses was with God and the Israelites were left in the hands of Joshua to complete the journey.
Pastor Katie’s interpretation of the passage leaned more into the pragmatic reality that the Israelites had a journey to complete, a river to cross, lives to lead, and their own paths to walk. Of course not everyone can make the whole journey, and some people have to cross the river under circumstances that they hadn’t anticipated. I appreciate that, and I find it more satisfactory than the pat, oversimplified “there’s a plan to everything” lens that my childhood self digested.
But yesterday, two years to the day since Allison died, I felt mostly indignant on Moses’ behalf and sad for the Israelites. The gap between the promise of the journey and the reality of its conclusion felt mean and capricious. I imagined the grief of those who crossed the river, simultaneously thankful to have made it and guilty to have made it without the person who was the foundation of their community. There is room for lament in the Promised Land; there has to be. There must be. To deny it feels like a commodification of the people and the process of reaching it. Moses was not a means to an end; I’ve too often allowed myself to think of him (and other people) that way.
Katie and Caleb were with us for the weekend. We hiked, ate food together, visited, played games, and spent low-key time together as a unit. They were some of the last people to be with Allison in November 2021, and their being here felt right and good and bittersweet. We visited old hangouts. We laughed and told stories. We all got to sit together in church. The kids and I have felt and continue to feel the support of so many people in person and deed, especially Al and Amy, but I acutely feel the vacuum of Allison’s absence in all of it. I feel on top of things a lot of the time, but sometimes the enormity of it all still unsettles me and returns me to the anger and indignity that dominated much of my thought for a long time. I want Allison to be an active, present part of it all.
Tobin is in a season of applying to colleges, finishing a brilliant high school career. Evan is thriving as a student and athlete at the outset of his own high school experience. Lauren is diving into activities and band and clubs, making a familiar path through middle school uniquely and brilliantly her own. Their promise seems unlimited, and on my good days I can assure myself how proud Allison is of them and how overjoyed she would be to actively participate in every component of their lives. On the harder days, I can be angry and sad and lament. There is room for lament; there has to be. There must be.