Sketching Life

I walked through the classroom on my evening rounds, putting away books and other stray bits of kid detritus that I’d found strewn about the house. She sat at the study table, busily drawing a page full of timepieces: a watch, a clock, a timer with seconds ticking off in a penciled blur. When she saw me walk by, she asked, “Mama, can I draw your portrait?” Drawing people is something she wants to be able to do well, so she practices portrait sketching whenever she can.

“Sure,” I answered and dumped my armload of stuff in the reading chair. “Where should I sit?”

“Across from me is okay.” She directed me to face her, and tilt away from the light just a bit.

“Do you want me to take off my glasses?” I’d be more than happy to, because I’d been wearing them for a week while taking steroid drops for an eye issue. The bridge of my nose hurt; my ears hurt. I missed my contacts.

“Ummm, no. It’s okay. I think I can draw them.”

A look of concentration settled on her face, and her pencil began hesitant strokes. She studied my face, then drew a few lines. Looked up again, then a few more lines. So serious with her work.

She caught me glancing at her paper and giggled.

“I know it doesn’t look very good right now, but that’s because all the parts aren’t there yet. It’ll look better when I put in the details.”

She got back to work and I settled back in the chair, my mind wandering, thinking about her words, because it seems that even when my girl’s not trying to be profound, she unintentionally says the most thought-provoking things.

It doesn’t look very good right now, but that’s because all the parts aren’t there yet.

That’s kind of where I am in life right now. Just last week, I ripped away another month from the calendar. Another page that carried me farther from the days when Kevin was still here. Still laughing with me and cuddling with his Bear and gathering us both in for a Family Group Hug. Still with us, making our family complete. It hasn’t gotten easier; waking up and moving through the day, I still half-expect him to wander through the garage door at supper time. He is still so much right here, that it’s hard to remember he’s gone. It’s hard in that moment when reality does hit and I remember: He died.

It doesn’t look very good right now.

I’m trying to float; I really am. I know it’s better for me, and better for my daughter. And some days are better than others. The Bear and I have become bicyclists of a sort. We load up our bikes and find a local trail, and it’s easy to float when I’m coasting down a small incline and the wind rushes against my face. I don’t have to think; I just have to feel. I even posted on my Facebook, “Feeling alive”, because I did. Watching my little girl’s legs pump furiously as she stood up on the pedals, preparing for the next bit of uphill trail, I felt alive and happy and so proud of her. She’s so strong, and she makes me want to be strong, as well, inside and out.

All the parts aren’t there yet.

So I take all the hard days, and the sad days, and days when I drown in grief, and I look at all the happy days, the laughing days, and days when I manage to float. It’s still kind of uneven, but that’s just how grieving works. Someday there will be a better balance; I know it. It’s just that all the parts aren’t there yet. There’s a lot left to be filled in. So many lines yet to be drawn in this sketch of my life. So many details that will help me live with the Kevin-sized emptiness I feel. I don’t know what the days and months and years ahead of me will hold. There are a lot of details God hasn’t revealed yet. He knew me before I was formed, and He knew that some of the details of my life would be hopeful and exciting, like marrying Kevin and the birth of our Bear, and others would be hard, forcing me to lean even more on Him, like cancer and death. I’m trusting Him with the details. I hope there’s laughter and adventures and opportunities to reach out and help others. I hope that when all the parts are filled in, my life looks good and God-filled.

She sketched a few more lines, then scrunched her nose up ruefully as she studied her incomplete work.

“I don’t know, Mama. You kind of look like a cartoon dog.”

We looked at the sketch, then looked at each other and burst into laughter.
Through her peals of merriment, I suggested, “I think maybe we need to add some more parts.”

Nora self portrait
(This is not the portrait we agreed should be called “Mama, the Cartoon Dog” – that one ended up in the recycling bin. This is a, I think, really well-done self-portrait of my girl from last fall, used with her permission. She’s even more beautiful in real life.)

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2 responses to “Sketching Life

  1. if you had a like button, it would be clicked on! Life does go on! Sometimes amidst tears, guilt and confusion…but thank God for life. I think I can be happy again, I think you can too.

  2. Oh, Janene, I hope so! I pray for it. Happy is so hard for me some days, but that’s why I’ve got my little mini-Kev along for this part of life’s ride. She finds happy and content in almost everything and it’s impossible not to get caught up in the contagious joy she brings. Thank God for her, thank God for life — really trying to thank God for all things. My best to you, my friend.

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