Tag Archives: hope

Surviving

I’m reading this book with my girl — Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan — and it’s complicated and touching and if I owned it, it would be marked up by a yellow highlighter because so many of the thoughts and conversations mirror my own.

This passage especially made me pause; this past Memorial Day weekend was harder than I’d imagined it might be — for both of us.

“I have seen trees that survive fire.
Their bark is burned and their limbs are dead branches.
But hidden under that skeleton is a force that sends a single shoot of green out into the world.
Maybe if I’m lucky, that will one day happen to me.
But right now, I can’t see it.”

Advertisements

Still Throwing Clouds

From a post in July 2013:

Little bits of fluff – dandelion puffs, maybe? – float through our yard. My girl jumps from her swing, chases the bits with outstretched hand, slowly guiding them to land delicate on her dirt-scratched fingers.

“Look, Mama! Clouds! Daddy’s throwing bits of clouds down to me!”

And she is surprised and delighted by the joy of a new game with Daddy. And I want to believe her whimsy. I want to believe that Kevin has found a way to play with her, to continue to share our little moments of life, to somehow fill the deep void of aching sadness.

I want to believe that little puffs of joy float through the air, impossible to miss if you watch and wait.

From this evening:

We were on our way to my girl’s award ceremony, where she’d be presented with the badges she worked so hard to earn, and take part in a bridging ceremony, as she moved to another level of the troop. A night of accomplishments, of celebration…of family. I felt the familiar twinge at what — rather, who — was missing from this evening for my girl.

Her Daddy.

And then, as I drove down the highway, on this beautifully cool late spring evening, we cruised through a cloud of puffy things floating about in the rays cast by the setting sun. Little bits of fluff, swirling, circling the truck, dancing along our path.

She giggled, “Daddy’s throwing LOTS of cloud down to me, Mama!” And I smiled and we laughed and she hoped Daddy wasn’t getting in trouble with God for tearing up the clouds so he could play a game with her. She still believes in the bits of clouds, knows that her Daddy will always find a way to be with her.

And finally I remembered.

He’s not missing. He’s still right here with us.

Throwing bits of cloud. Throwing us joy.

Always Safe

“Mama!” She squealed in delight when I joined her at the edge of the beach, the cool water splashing over my toes. She danced in the surf, jumped over the waves, and shrieked when the sand rushed from under her feet, pulling her into the ocean. Water has always been her magic, and to have the vast gulf spread out before her was almost too much.

“Mama! Come in the water with me, please?” She turned her shining blue eyes, her Daddy’s eyes, on me.

How could I resist those beguiling eyes?

I tossed my phone into the beach bag, then took her hand and followed her into the pounding, yellow-flagged surf: medium hazard, moderate surf and currents. If she wanted to play farther out, she’d definitely need me with her.

“Mama?” she confided in a voice low over the waves’ roar, “I like it when we go in the water together, because we can go out farther, but you can hold me up when the big waves come so I’m always safe.”

And, boom – there it was. God always finds a way to remind me of His promises.

Kevin died two years ago – and I’m still here. Somehow. Honestly, in the weeks that followed his funeral, I’m not sure I thought I would make it through that much pain, that much grief, that much heartache. It hurt too much to breathe, to sleep, to eat, to talk…

It just hurt too much to live.

And, honestly, sometimes it still does.

But God is still here. He’s been here through it all. And when I forget that, as I have lately in the loneliness of grief and the busyness of life, He speaks through my beautiful Bear.

Stay with me, He reminds me. We’ll do this together and when this pounding, yellow-flagged life comes at you too big and too much, I’ll hold you up. You are always safe.

I smiled wryly to myself and waded out a little farther with my girl. She watched the waves rolling toward us and I swung her up, over and over, laughing at her screeches as she kicked the white caps that rushed by. And even when a massive wave caught us unaware and knocked us into the surf, I held on to her and kept her safe. We came up together…drenched…and laughing.

She is always safe. And so am I.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Psalm 5:11

Sand and Life and Two Years Later

It’s in that moment when the waves crash to the shore and I watch the tide pull back and pull everything with it, when shells skitter as they wash back into the sea and precariously-close-to-the-water sand castles crumble and dissolve, and footprints in the sand disappear – that moment when it seems everything is destroyed – that’s when I see it. An intricately formed sand shape, carved into the slope of the beach, pounded into beauty by the relentless surf. Standing firm in that moment against the tide, not disappearing, but letting the waves work to create something new and magnificent.

God, I think to myself, if that’s a message to me, it’s a beautiful one. Thank you.

We trekked across five states to the beach where we’d last vacationed with Kevin. It seemed the best place for us to be on the anniversary of his death – a new tradition and a beautiful memory to get us through what is still a very hard day. Trusting the hope of heaven to keep us going.

Two years ago, on April 16, I lost the love of my life. My daughter lost her Daddy Bear. In an instant, our world changed completely and forever. So much loss, so many tears, so much heartache…even still. I wasn’t sure how to go on without him, but I knew I had to, especially for our daughter. It wasn’t easy, but nothing about this life alone is. The idea of being cheerful and thanking God and believing that all things work for good – that seemed impossible…still does sometimes, if I’m honest. I felt so pounded some days, so pulled under by the grief and the tears and the missing him. Everything destroyed by the relentless battering of life. I sobbed at his graveside; I screamed into a pillow in my closet; I sang lullabies to my girl as I rocked her in my arms on our sad days. And when it all still seemed incredibly overwhelming, I simply told her what I had to believe was true: “Life’s not fair, but God is working good, Baby Bear. Always. We have to trust Him.”

Slowly, the days went by, then weeks and months, and we started putting the broken pieces of our life back together. She made me laugh and I helped her learn and finally we started to really live – not just exist. Parts of our old broken dreams and traditions got swirled around and mixed up with our new dreams and traditions and Kevin is still so much a part of everything we do every single day because he’s always, always, always in our hearts. We remember him with happiness and love and laughter and celebrate everything that was and is still beautiful about this family of ours that God carefully and lovingly created.

So we came to the beach, to be here on this hardest of days. We came here to be by the water he loved, that his daughter simply adores; to be in a place where the memories are all happy, where we were all so happy.

And at the beach, when I look one way, all I can see are the waves, the grief and loss, constantly rolling and swelling and sweeping the beautiful bits of shells, the beautiful bits of life, away forever. But when I look the other way, when I look ahead with faith and love and hope and joy, I see the shape of something more, the shape of something formed by the hardest parts of living, the shape of something breathtaking and intricate and resilient. I see those shapes in the sand. And I see something that felt impossible two years ago, but something I know Kevin, out of the deepest love, would want for me – something that God has planned for me.

I see a beautiful life. Not beautiful because it’s easy and carefree, because it’s not; the loss and sadness are part of me forever. No, it’s beautiful because God is using all the parts – the pain and the tears and the joy and the dreams – and forming them into a new story for me and my daughter. It will shift and change, as stories – and sea-sculpted sand creations – do, but it will be okay. It will be better than okay because God is working all things – all things – for good.

I love you, Kevin, I whisper it into the waves and the salty sea breeze. I love you and I miss you, but I’m taking you with me as I keep moving through this life with our girl. You always said I was strong and beautiful…I guess it’s time to find out.

Some Assembly Required

I didn’t know that opening that box containing pieces for a new kitchen island would open a box of memories and make me smile and laugh out loud. I didn’t realize, until it was all over, that the slow, tedious, hand-blistering, detailed work of putting those pieces together to create a beautiful, functional structure was the perfect metaphor for the journey through grief I’ve traveled these past two years.

I thought I was just finally getting an island for the kitchen.

The box was too heavy by far for me to carry into the house by myself, so I cut it open in the garage and started carrying the pieces into the kitchen, one by one. Slowly, a pile grew in front of the refrigerator, the white planks tipping precariously once when a curious Katje tried to navigate their height. I kept carrying and the pile kept growing until, at last, I brought in the last piece and stood for a moment, surveying the mess in front of me.

In all the time I’d admired this kitchen island on the website, and saved my pennies to purchase it, I’d secretly hoped that “Some Assembly Required” really meant just installing the shelves behind already-attached cabinet doors. Not so much. “Some Assembly Required” was actually a bit misleading, I thought, once more taking in the piles of pieces littering my kitchen floor. “Total Assembly Required” would be more accurate.

“Mama, are you sure you can do this?” My daughter came into the kitchen and looked around doubtfully. “It won’t fall down on me while I’m eating, will it?”

I stuck my tongue out at her. “Beary, do the drawers in your dresser slide in and out? Is your armoire still standing?”

When she answered yes, I said, “Well, I put those together – and I was eight months pregnant with you when I did it! – so I think I can manage this little island. Now scram while I get all this stuff sorted out!”

She giggled and ran off to play with the cats, and I got busy. I unearthed the directions, and started laying out the pieces in order.

It was time.

For the last two years, my daughter and I have eaten most of our meals on trays in front of the television. After Kevin died, I couldn’t stand sitting at our kitchen table, trying to get food past the grief in my throat, looking across at his empty seat, knowing he’d never smile at me again over a slice of deep dish pizza, or sigh with satisfaction after filling himself with roast beef and gravy. I moved the table and chairs into the basement and convinced my daughter that having our meals as a picnic in the front room would be so much fun. She happily agreed – partly because of the novelty, I’m sure, and probably partly so she could eat a meal without watching tears stream down my face.

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain…then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

I looked at the directions, pulled the first two pieces toward me, and reached for the screwdriver. And I smiled, remembering all the times I’d put furniture together with Kevin and he always handed me the wrong screwdriver. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, but taking a pile of random parts and assembling them into a bookcase or a television stand or a rocking chair just wasn’t his thing. We had a running joke, whenever I got underway with a project. Like our daughter, Kev would look doubtfully at all the pieces and say, “Sure you can do this, Baby Doll?”

I always replied, “Kev, I come from a long line of people who just get in there and figure out how to do it.” And he’d come back with, “Well, I come from a long line of people who HIRE people to get in there and figure out how to do it.”

We’d laugh, then he’d pull up a chair and read the directions out loud and hand me the wrong parts until finally I announced the project was finished. We put together an elliptical exercise machine, a desk and hutch for his office, and all of the Bear’s nursery furniture like that. Just the two of us, apprehensive about all the pieces and hardware, but game for an adventure, for a good laugh, for just spending time together. He was just so much fun to be around. I miss that.

I thought I might be sad putting the kitchen island together by myself. I thought the memories would overwhelm me and tears would stain the directions and I’d end up on the floor, just another broken piece among all the other parts scattered about. But it wasn’t like that. I felt happy and content and full of wonderful memories and even when I accidentally put a section together upside down and had to take it all apart, I didn’t get frustrated. I felt peace, I felt assurance.

I felt Kevin.

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside…then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

Sometimes I catch myself writing the date and I wonder how it can possibly be almost two years ago that Kevin died. Time is so weird and relative and fluid; it feels like it was just yesterday, it feels like it’s been a lifetime. And I still stumble through the hours and days and weeks and months, feeling broken, feeling unhinged, feeling like I will never be able to fit together all the bits and pieces of my shattered heart. My life couldn’t be more disassembled than that kitchen island scattered across the floor.

The kitchen island is complete now. It looks lovely and solid and functions perfectly.

And my life? My journey with grief? Well, that will never be completely finished; I know that. I love Kevin and I will miss him every day for the rest of my life. But through the grief, through the tears and the excruciating pain of loss, through the cries to God and the whispers of joy, through the laughter of my girl and the silence of the lonely nights – through it all, I’ve been picking my way through and sorting things out, putting the pieces of my life together, fastening them with moments of peace and bits of happiness.

It’s starting to come together.

Lyrics from “The Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)”, sung by Chris Rice.