She lolled on the couch, musing out loud. Fortified with sugar cookies and Mountain Dew, we were in it for the long haul, determined to make it to midnight to see a new year begin. The clock chimed. One…two…three…
Eleven o’clock. Almost there.
“You know what, Mama?” she began. “I wish we could make a deal with life. If we don’t like the year we’re in, we can either go back or skip ahead. I don’t know if I’ll like 2015…and if I don’t, it would be good to get out of it.”
She paused, and her words hung silent in the room.
Then she looked straight at me. “You’d go back to years with Daddy, wouldn’t you?”
Yes. Yes. Yes, my broken heart cried. A million times…yes.
I knew she wasn’t judging me, or accusing me, or doing anything other than acknowledging the Kevin-sized hole in our life. It’s not just me – she feels it, too. We miss him, and as much as we fill our days with work and play and laughter and crazy cat antics, we crave his presence and we still can’t understand why he’s not here hanging out with us. Why did he have to die? Why do we have to live without him?
I remember my first New Year’s Eve with Kevin. We were newly engaged, and he’d made reservations at a hotel’s dinner-and-dance party…where it turned out we were among the youngest people there. We laughed, and ate the delicious food, and danced to the live Glenn Miller-type band, and promised that we’d come back in thirty years to see if some other young couple had stumbled into the same delightful mistake. I didn’t know then that the clock had already started ticking for us, counting down the already-numbered and too-few days we’d get spend together.
We looked forward that year, and there was no thought of making a deal with life and going back to a different time. The times behind were what brought us to each other – they’d served their purpose, and we didn’t want to go back. Then the New Year’s Eve I was pregnant with our Bear – we looked forward to the new year and our new life as a family of three, with new names: Mama and Daddy. The first New Year’s Eve after Kevin’s diagnosis, when the numbers were going in the right direction and it seemed like we’d won a few rounds of our battle with cancer – we looked for a year of respite, and maybe remission. Forward, forward, forward – always looking forward. Looking forward to time together, time with our Bear, just time…more time.
And now? Well, now there’s too much time, and there’s a lot of truth in my girl’s late night musings. How many times have I begged for the same thing? The chance to make a deal with life? To only live the years I knew I would like? I knew on December 31, 2012, as I stood in the dimly-lit hospital hallway with the doctor, barely hearing the words he didn’t want to say, that 2013 was not a year I wanted to live in. I was right. And last New Year’s Eve, the idea of 2014 – a year where Kevin never was and never would be – it scared me. I didn’t know if I could do it, even with my little Bear dancing alongside, carrying her Daddy’s spirit wherever we went. And this year, with my constant companions, grief and loneliness, I stare into the future of another year without Kevin. And another. And another. Go back? Skip ahead? Where’s the place where I can be at peace again, and feel safe and loved and whole?
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me… (Habakkuk 2:1)
Between the swirling uncertainty of the years ahead, and the solid loving comfortableness of the years behind, there’s one place I need to be right now. I know it – and as tempting as my daughter’s theoretical deal with life sounds, it’s not the answer for the aching loneliness and hesitation I feel in going on without Kevin.
No, the place I need to be at the beginning of this new year, that place is right here – right here in the middle of this life that God is unfolding every day, guiding me along paths that He set in motion long ago. I will stand here, in this new year, even though I am unsure of the future, and I will stand watch, and find joy, and wait for God’s answers to all my questions.
It’s not exactly earth-shattering, as resolutions go, and it seems too simple, but I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s what I’ve been doing half-heartedly, but now I know I need to do more intentionally. I need to be here – in this year – to stand watch and wait for God. There’s a plan; He works all things for good. It’s time to figure out what my part in the plan, in this next part of my life, will be. It’s time to see how God answers my “Why?” and “What now?”
“Mama?” She bounced up from the couch and settled herself in the recliner with me, cuddling into my shoulder. “Even though I don’t know what 2015 will be like, I’m glad I’ll spend the new year with you.”
I squeezed her close. “Me, too, little girl. Me, too.”