Mom and I like to watch the old Datelines on channel 49. Every single time, at some point, the narrator will say something like “Then nearly 5 years ago to the day. . . ” or “just over 8 years ago to the day”. If any qualifying adverb appears in a statement such as that, it pretty much nullifies what it is describing.
I am not qualifying my statement with a “nearly” or a “just over”.
Five years ago today, I sat in a chair at a beauty shop while Wendy made me as beautiful as possible so that I could do my husband proud. After doing my hair, she watched me apply my makeup and told me I had accomplished my goal.
Next, I headed over to the church to change into my new outfit bought especially for the occasion. I think the pastor was already there, but I’m not sure anyone else was. For a few quiet minutes, I had the whole place to myself, a bit of time to prepare my soul for what was to come.
The bathroom where I changed clothes was not far from the sanctuary and directly adjacent to the hallway leading to it, and when I heard the noises made by several people rearranging things, I knew it was time. As I write these words, it is 4:55 p.m. That is the time this occurred on February 11, 2016.
I asked my pastor if I could go ahead and go in, just for a minute before everyone else started to arrive.
I opened the double metal doors leading to the sanctuary, the set that was nearest to me, half expecting to be blown away by the smell of chrysanthemums.
There were a few plants, and there may have been some flowers — I honestly don’t remember — but certainly not enough for the scent to permeate the air in the cavernous room.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the front.
There he was.
If he’d been there, really been there, he would have been annoyed with me. We had discussed this possibility, half-heartedly, of course, anticipating the occurrence sometime far in the nebulous future; and he always told me to just “throw him in a field somewhere.” Aside from that being illegal (I think), there was no way this would happen, and I told him so.
As was usually the case with me when we were together in public, at least for the previous 6 years anyway, I made my way toward him, the one whom God used so greatly to help heal my mind. He was my safety net. He was the one who helped me not be so afraid to socialize. The one who prayed for me daily in such a way that I could feel it. The one who not only thought I was beautiful but told me I was a blessing! He was my angel.
I took his hand. Rod was always hot, no matter the temperature; but I anticipated his hand this time being cold.
It wasn’t exceptionally so, but as I slipped my long fingers around the webspace between his massive right thumb and index finger inserting their tips into the space formed by the palm of his hand where it rested beside him, there were no similarities between any other time I’d held his hand.
Nonetheless, hold his hand I did. I talked to him. I don’t think I cried. Couldn’t mess up my makeup. Wanted to make him proud as he’d so often been throughout our 6-year marriage. To this day, he is the only person who has made me believe that is proud of me.
Then the people started coming. The woman in charge wanted me to take a place at Rod’s feet. I refused, wanting to be near his precious face. He had not been ill prior to his death–it was sudden– and he truly did look like he was simply asleep. The muscles of his face were so used to being in a smile, the person who prepared him for the viewing couldn’t completely get rid of it, and the left side of his mouth was tilted up ever so slightly.
Many people passed.
Some of his guy friends dropped things in with him. One young man came through the line early, and upon seeing the knives and hunting paraphernalia already there, went home to retrieve one of his favorite pocketknives, returned, and left it there as well.
Most said something along the lines of “If there’s anything I can do. . . “
Of course there wasn’t. Well, there was, and many of them were already doing it. Praying.
Not for Rod. No one who knew him could doubt he was now healthy and whole and happier than he’d ever been in the land of the living, happier than any of us could even imagine.
No, they were praying for me. His daughters. His sisters.
Those for whom this day and the day 4 days prior had created a tremendous hole in our worlds.
Rod was a Valentine’s Baby. He missed his 56th birthday by 7 days. This Sunday he would have been 61.
I didn’t know you were an angel when you were here. I do now. And even though I know you probably can’t hear this. . .
And don’t want to read it. . .
I miss you, my angel.
In Memory of
Roderick Lloyd McDougall
February 14, 1960 – February 7, 2016