Three weeks the love of my life has been gone. It's a lonely I've never felt before.
On the one hand, it's weird that I would be talking about loneliness. I'm surrounded by an incredible family, dedicated to their Mom's passion to "take care of Ron."
And I'm supported by a massive outpouring of love for my Karen and me from so many wonderful friends. I'll be doing a better job of being there for other broken hearts now that I know what that means.
But I know why I still have a gnawing loneliness. I'm lonely for my baby.
She's the only person I ever did my whole adult life with. We could finish each other's sentences. Communicate everything from whimsy to worry with just the look in our eyes.
Karen and I have done all the battles together, made the same memories, learned from the same mistakes, prayed through so many moments with prayer we'd only want God to hear. And each other.
No one can replace that. Because no one else on earth has walked every mile with me. Oh, I'm lonely, all right. For the one-of-a-kind love of a shared life.
The hugely uplifting Karen-tributes from so many friends - and strangers - make me love her even more. Except she's not here to tell.
But beyond the void, there's the Hand. And that's why I can laugh, why I can stay on mission, why I literally know where to step next on this uncharted road.
It hit me one morning. I was experiencing my Jesus in a precious new way. I am the lost little boy, not knowing where to go. And He is the loving Daddy, literally grasping my hand and leading me every step of every new day. Karen is gone. He is so here!
"Be quiet right now, Ron." "Here's this Scripture, just for this moment." "Stop and write what you're feeling." "Call that guy who needs you right now." "Your grandchildren need more of you today." "Turn up the praise music now." "You're ready to get some work done." "Share some of your journey with your kids." "Watch something that you can laugh at." "Take some flowers to her grave."
I've shared with so many hurting people the Bible's assurance that "God is a very present help in time of trouble...therefore, we will not fear" (Psalm 46:1-2). Now I'm living it. Very present. Very close.
Because my Jesus "gets" brokenhearted. He "gets" lonely. Just listen to Him crying out as He carried my sin on that bloody cross - "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Answer: He was absorbing my hell for my junk. Cut off from His Father so I would never have to be.
In that moment of unspeakable soul agony, Jesus became the loneliest Man of all time. For me.
And that's the Jesus who has hold of my hand! Doing what He promised - "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them" (Isaiah 42:16).
I've never needed Him more. He's never been closer. Karen is safe. And even when this road is lonely, so am I. As one friend wrote of our love: "She was the wind beneath his wings. Now she rests beneath His wings." Yes, she was. Yes, she does.
And so do I.
Because the hand that's gently leading me along a way I "have not known" will keep leading me. All the way Home.