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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Hard to Get

Like A Thief in the Night

You who live in heaven hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth:
Who are afraid of being left by those we love, and who get hardened in the hurt.
Do you remember when you lived down here, where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread?
Did you forget about us, after you had flown away?
Well I memorized every word you said.
Still I'm so scared I'm holding my breath,
while you're up there just playing hard to get.

You who live in radiance hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was, still we do love now and then
Did You ever know loneliness?
Did You ever know need?
Do You remember just how long a night can get -
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat?
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted...
While You're up there just playing hard to get?


Friday night was like any other. We put the kids to bed, worked on organizing the still-disasterous house, filed some bills, and talked about what we were going to do the next day. Mrs Hammer had picked up some items for us to do a shish-kabob on the grill Saturday night, since her parents were supposed to be coming over. The plan was for Mrs Hammer and her mom to go to the mall and check out some household type stuff while Mrs Hammer's dad helpd me plant osme bushes and a tree in our yard. The shish kabob was pretty brave of my wife, as I had nearly burnt down the house with our charcoal grill earlier in the week (note to others: the critical angle of a Weber One-Touch Silver Classic is about 5 degrees, not 45 like you might think). I even played a little bit of "The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind" since my "Rome" Total War" has yet to be discovered among the boxes. For reasons I have yet to determine, I didn't pack it in its own box. Instead, I put it in my "Mysteries of the Bible" series by Dr. Frank Harber. I felt pretty tired a bit early, around 11:30, so we went to bed.

The phone rang at 5:30 AM. I let it go and listened for the message. After all, most middle-of-the-night calls are wrong numbers. The machine picked up, but no message was left. The phone rang again. I knew it was bad news - the only other kind of call that comes at 5:30.

It was my wife's mother, Pat. Her husband, Jim, had suffered a cerebral hemmorage and was in the hospital. The prognosis was not good: Jim, although living an active life daily, was on a blood thinning medication, cuminin, that was preventing the hemmorage from clotting. He was taking it because the doctors felt that he was more in danger of a clotting stroke than a rupture.

We rushed over to the hospital, although packing up two babies makes this a much longer affair than I would have liked. When we arrived, Jim was unconscious. He never woke up. He passed away at a quarter after midnight.

I only knew Jim for less than four years - but he wasn't just my father-in-law, he was a good friend. Really, he was my only friend I talked to about lots of stuff regularly: politics, sports, home repair, lawn maintenance, books, and the like. It's not that i don't have good friends, but when you are a soldier, your friends go other places and you play the long distance game. Jim was such a class act, too - he is a USC alumnus, and we would talk about Notre Dame and USC each year. Each of the past three years, he has never mentioned a word about the thumping that ND received at the hands of USC - not even when I called him in '02 after the Irish were winning after the first quarter (which degenerated into another USC rout).

He was a wonderful grandfather to our three children, and they were truly the apple of his eye. He loved all of the children dearly, but the way he interacted with our 20 month old son, Corin, is the most memorable. He was the same with our oldest, but that was before, this was right now. Corin especially loved to go out in the yard with his Poppa and "help" mow the lawn with his little plastic lawnmower. Jim even parked them side by side in the garage - the real mower and Corin's toy mower, both green.

Seeing those two lawnmowers next to each other is so heartbreaking. I am broken with the loss of my friend, with the heartbreak of my wife and mother-in-law, and the choking thoughts that come when I realize that he won't be sitting at his table, cursing the editorials in the paper, or watching the news in his chair, or in the garage tinking with a tool or painting something for my wife. He's not down at the hardware store or at morning mass - he's gone, and not coming back. I won't ever get to hear him on the other end of the phone, or hug him when he comes throught the door of our house, or hand him baby Grace as he points out her "flaming redhead". I weep most of all for Corin, who will likely never remember his Poppa and the love they had for each other, and how he is robbed of that. Our older son, Gaige, will always have his memories, and little Grace is still an infant. Corin, though, had a relationship with his Poppa, and while he knew enough to hug Poppa's bedside in the hospital room, he'll never remember the bond they shared.

It sucks.

And I know you bore our sorrows, and I know you feel our pain,
And I know it would not hurt any less even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow All I really need to know -

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret I can't see how
You're leading me...
unless you've led me here:
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led.
And so You've been here all along I guess.
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get.

5 Comments:

  • I weep at the loss of Jim. We, J and I, can't believe that he's gone. We can't imagine the pain that you all are going through, though having lost my parents know that it's a heart wrenching and gut clenching pain. We lift you all up in our prayers, especially mrs hammer and her mother who will for the next months go through so many grieving emotions. Hug Mrs. Hammer tight and let her cry and let her know it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be unemotional at times, it's okay to be a ball of tears at drop of a hat. We will always remember Jim as a truly awesome man of God who had such a spark.

    May God surround you with His love.

    By Blogger anna, at 6/08/2005 03:41:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I was hoping you were over-reacting with your previous post. I am very, very sorry to hear you weren't.

    My wife and I lost her Mom in January. We knew she was dying, so we had a little time to prepare. Here's a little advice if you are interested. Give Mrs. Hammer plenty of time, and plenty of space to grieve. You probably need some time to grieve, too, but when she is grieving you need to be strong. Make a commitment to not start a fight or continue a fight. I had to learn the hard way.

    You are a good man. I'm sorry for your loss.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/08/2005 11:20:00 AM  

  • I'm SO sorry Hammer. My dad is very sick right now and I am thinking about the day when I may get that 5am call. Anyway, the Lord gave me a post this morning that He may have meant just for you--maybe that's why he gave me what I call a little jewel. If you feel better, go read it, it's about healing our hurting hearts. I will pray for all of your healing hearts. God Bless!

    By Blogger Teresa, at 6/08/2005 10:40:00 PM  

  • Thank you all for your wonderful words of encouragement, support and advice, as well as your prayers. Your comments are exactly what grieving people need. I'm putting together a post with recommendations for those who know those grieving from a loss - how to help, and how not to.

    Mrs. Hammer and her Mom have it much worse than I, and helping them is therapeutic(sp?) for me as well.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/10/2005 11:30:00 PM  

  • I have a wwe toy site. It pretty much covers wwe toy related stuff. Check it out if you get time :-)

    By Blogger Jim Naka, at 10/09/2005 06:58:00 AM  

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