December 5, 2021
I glued my mouth shut recently. Literally.
Before I get into that tale, you need to know three things about Joe. He loved to pick on me about my age, he loved to get the “last laugh”, and because I always seemed to get myself in one fine mess or another, he lovingly referred to me as his little “walking catastrophe”. On this day, I did not disappoint.
My students were busily cutting and gluing as part of a creative project. I keep chapstick in every drawer, cabinet, pocket etc because my mask makes my lips dry, and because I am possibly a wee bit addicted to it. So….standing at my podium, I absentmindedly grabbed my chapstick and smeared it on. My eyes locked with a sweet student on the front row. Her eyes grew as big as saucers as she squealed my name, but it was too late. I had grabbed a GLUE STICK instead of my chapstick and SLATHERED it across my lips. Oh yes I did.
I had two panicked responses. First, I grabbed a tissue and wiped. This effectively stuck wads of Kleenex the size of chicken feathers to my face. Second, I coughed and sputtered and actually SWALLOWED a glob of the glue.
It was at that point that I had the actual thought, “So…this is how it ends for me. I have glued my mouth shut and now my insides will stick together and I will die in front of my kids and we do not have a sub to cover the rest of my class.” Bless my own dang heart. 😂
Later that week, I recounted my tale to Joe’s mama. I guess I had that event and Joe on my mind that night, because I dreamed about him. In my dream we were at Rouse Funeral Home, viewing Joe’s body (hang with me…it’s funny…I promise). As I stood at the casket, Joe grinned and eased one eye open just a bit—much like the expression in the picture above. He whispered in that slow, southern drawl, “I declare…I never dreamed I’d end up married to a 46 year old school teacher.” Not to be outdone, I responded, “Well, I never dreamed I end up married to a 43 year old dead man, but here we are!” I was so proud of my quick comeback, and felt thoroughly satisfied that I had gotten the last laugh.
I was mistaken.
Joe said, “Reach in my shirt pocket. I’ve got something for you.” So, I obliged. I reached in and pulled out A GLUE STICK.
Joe whispered, “Still a walking catastrophe, ain’t you, shug?”as he eased that eyelid closed and readjusted the very satisfied grin on his face.
JMP got the last laugh, indeed. Bless us, Lord. Bless us both.😂
One year without my sweet Joe…I have given much thought to what I might say on this day. December 5th has been so heavy on my heart lately. I finally came to the conclusion that there are no words in the English language that I might string together to adequately recount for you my love for Joe or my sorrow in his absence. December 5th was the day my entire world came unglued, and I have been standing in the middle of all those pieces ever since.
As the date drew close, I decided to focus my attention on December 4th instead of December 5th, because that day, Joe’s last day on this earth, was filled with many blessings. We were off work that day to attend a funeral. Even in the midst of that tragedy, Joe had conversations with so many long time friends and family. Because of that event, I DID hold him a little longer and squeeze him a little tighter. As we stood in that cemetery, I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for the life He had given me with Joe. I am so thankful for that moment. Joe enjoyed a steak for supper—his absolute favorite. We also enjoyed a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut, time with family and literally talked and laughed until we drifted off to sleep.
So, this week, as the familiar ache of grief tried to rise up in my chest, I pushed it away, determined to “hold it together” by remembering Joe on his last day. Over and over, I did this. I also kept myself as busy as possible, doing whatever I could to keep myself distracted.
And that’s what got me in a real pickle last night.
I made a Target run late in the evening, and as I sat at a stop light, my thoughts were fixed on Joe. In my distraction, I let my foot off the gas and ran myself right up under another person’s vehicle. Thankfully, everyone was fine, and I was blessed with quite possibly the sweetest officer on the Goldsboro Police Department. We pulled over into a gas station parking lot, and he patiently waited for me to locate my license and registration. I was on Joe’s truck, and could not find what I needed. I handed him my license, and continued to dig through Joe’s glove compartment. I found peanuts, ear plugs, tools, napkins, TOILET PAPER…but no registration. I began to explain my predicament to the very patient officer, and out of nowhere, the tears sprang out of my face. And y’all…I sat there and blubbered by sad life story to this young man. I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t stop talking. The only thing I stopped doing was breathing. Oh yes…full on hyperventilating panic attack. I got myself together eventually (it took a while), and was then completely mortified. I had come completely unglued.
A sweet older man pulled over when we first collided, and I had not noticed that he was still there until the police officer left to write my ticket. Still sobbing just a little, I offered my apology to him for losing control of my emotions. I said to him, “I haven’t done this AT ALL today.” He patted my arm and responded, “Then I guess you were long overdue.”
I guess he was right. I was long overdue.
It occurred to me today, as I lamented over a wooden figurine that I have broken and reglued about ten times in my lifetime (I glued that thing together one more time today), that coming unglued is the effect of letting go. Each time it falls apart, I glue it again. Over and over. That little wooden figurine depends on the strength of the glue…probably gives the glue too much credit, thinking it will hold tight forever. But it seems inevitable that the figurine gets bumped this way or that, gets dropped, twisted, etc, and it is suddenly in pieces on the floor. Shattered. Unglued. No choice but to let go.
On December 5, 2020, I felt much like that little wooden figure. Joe was the glue that held my heart together. I didn’t see the blow coming, but just the same, I found myself in pieces on the floor. It is such a bittersweet irony to me that in the very same moment, as Joe’s sweet soul left his body, as his heart was made whole in the arms of Jesus, in turn, mine had to break. It had to come unglued.
Over the last 365 days, I’ve tried in many ways to glue the pieces. Sometimes, I think I’ve done it, only to find that the glue didn’t hold and I am shattered all over again. That actually happens a lot. I’ve blamed the glue, I’ve blamed the pieces, I’ve blamed the people who bumped into me, I’ve blamed Joe, and I’ve even blamed God.
But yesterday, and then again today, God reminded me of some truths I had forgotten.
Holding it together in my own strength is never going to be the answer. In all my pushing away of the hurt, pressing down of the grief, all I was really doing was stretching the glue to the point that it was bound to give way. And give way it did. That poor young officer deserves a gold star, a raise and a chocolate cake.
Yesterday, God also reminded me that no day is perfect. I really think He could have gotten that particular point across without damage to two vehicles, but I digress…I can romanticize December 4th all day long, I can focus on the goodness in it (and to some degree I think we should do that every single day), but in the end, there are bumps and scrapes in each of them. And just as He provides the sweetest of blessings when life is good, He wraps us tightly in His arms when life is not so good.
You see, Jesus is the glue. And Jesus does the gluing.
Finally, God reminded me that it is when we come unglued, when we let go of all of those things we never did have control over, that He does His very best work.
December 5, 2020 found me as a wounded wooden figurine. If you’d asked me then, even I would have said I was too far gone to fix.
December 5, 2021 found me much like the wooden figurine I glued back together this morning. I look different than I did a year ago. I am chipped in places, skinned up in others, but from a distance, I look pretty normal. If you get close, though, you’ll see the lines of glue. They look like tiny scars. I guess that’s what they are. All the places where My Maker put me back together again. All of my edges don’t line up just the same, but even that is a blessing. God knows that we will never be the same after we’ve been broken badly, but He loves us enough to put us back together anyway. Over and over.
But then He gives us a choice. We can hide away, ashamed of how many times we’ve landed in a million pieces, or we can bear those scars from where we’ve been put back together, for all the world to see.
Sweet friend, here I am. Just a bundle of broken pieces and glue.If you study the pieces, you’ll see my love for Joe there. It will always be there, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But, now, I want you to take your hand and rub my scars. Feel that? Those bumpy lines of glue? There’s so much love and mercy in those jagged lines. That glue holds the love of Jesus. It holds the tender mercies sent my way in every moment of the last year. It holds His ability to love me through times I was not very lovable. It is the blessing of His love, His strength, His grace and His promise.
I didn’t think I was worth saving, my friend. Jesus thought so much more of me than that, and He thinks just that much of you. Let Him hold the pieces. Let Him put you together again.
I took this picture on the morning of December 4, 2020. I’ve seen some mighty pretty sunrises in my time on the pond, but this one was special. I’ve never seen colors so vibrant before or since.
Looking back, I like to think that God was up there just a showing off, rolling out the red carpet, pulling out all the stops, getting ready for Joseph Morgan Price to arrive. But today, I also see it as the precious reminder found in John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
My days have been dark, my friend. Even now, a year later, sometimes my heart aches for Joe so much I can barely breathe. But there’s a light. And yes, that light is a promise of the day when I will see my sweet Joe once more. But that light is also a promise that until then, there is hope for broken pieces like you and me. Over an over. Every single day.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.” -Lamentations 22-23
In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald…It was always you, my sweet Joe. It was always you.
❤️And it always will be.❤️
–Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe