The arrow released smoothly from her bow and sped to the target. THWACK! It made a satisfying sound as the sharpened point buried into the red ring, just barely missing the yellow center. A small, satisfied smile crept across her face as, in a practiced move, her hand reached for the next arrow. She anchored her feet, raised the bow, checked her draw and let the arrow fly. THWACK! This one hit the outer yellow ring.
“That’s a nine, Mama!” She tossed the words happily over her shoulder as she pulled another arrow from the quiver stand at her feet.
Three more arrows confidently, carefully released. Three more points buried in red and yellow rings. My girl was definitely improving. With an ease that belied the weight of the blue Genesis bow in her small hands, she carefully hung it on the rack and waited for the instructor to blow three tweets of her whistle: “Go Get Arrows.”
When the lesson was over, we loaded into the Durango and headed home.
“I hit almost all red and yellow today, Mama,” she confided proudly. “Only some of them were in the blue. Do you think I’m getting better?”
I smiled into the rearview mirror at her bright face in the backseat. “I sure do, baby girl. I think you’re getting awesome! You’re like a little Robin Hood!” She giggled, then said, “Music, please,” and settled in for the ride home.
It’s true. She’s getting better at this sport that we just stumbled upon five months ago. We’d finished reading about the adventures of Robin Hood and his band of merry men and an idea had sprouted in her mind: she wanted to learn how to shoot arrows, too. I had just joined a local homeschool group and, as luck would have it, two days later came an email inviting kids to join a class for homeschoolers at a local archery range. We went, and she was instantly hooked.
At first, she missed the target some, and hit the outer black and blue rings a lot. A LOT. She got frustrated but she never gave up. When the instructor tweeted the whistle once – “Shoot” – she eyed the target warily, determinedly, and shot. Again and again and again. Her shoulder ached and her fingers hurt sometimes. But perseverance paid off, and with each lesson, she got better and better. She learned to slow down, check her stance, then take a breath and release. The arrows took flight gracefully. Soon she was hitting more blue and red rings, then more red and yellow rings. We purchased her own target and bow, marked off ten and twelve and fifteen yards, and spent our summer evenings shooting in the front yard.
I like watching her shoot. I like seeing her straighten her posture, and stand tall and proud. Her quiet confidence in nocking the arrow. Her absolute joy when the arrow’s flight is true and she hits the yellow rings. She’s taken this sport that she knew nothing about and made it her own.
It hit me the other day, as I sat and watched the arrows fly, that if finding some peace and contentment are the goals in this new life without Kevin, I’m starting to — at least occasionally — hit more red and yellow rings. I think back to that morning fifteen months ago, the first morning I woke up without him. My memory of that week is so hazy. I know my younger sister drove me around as I made funeral arrangements. I selected songs, wrote his obituary, accepted dishes of food at my front door. But I don’t really remember any of it. Just bits and pieces, a few moments of clarity. The next few weeks weren’t any better, as I struggled to figure out what to do next. I’d stumbled into a life I knew nothing about. And it scared me. I didn’t know anything about being a widow, being a single mother. I know I must’ve missed the target a lot. A LOT. I know it wasn’t easy for my daughter to see me grieving. She’d seen me strong, seen me taking care of Daddy, seen me work with doctors and teachers. She’d never seen me crumbled and broken and devastated. Aimless.
So for her, I had to get it together. I had to aim for something more than tears and sadness.
It’s hard. There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t want Kevin with me. But I try to find some joy in each day, some piece of life that makes me content.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:12)
I haven’t exactly learned that secret yet, but I’m working on it; I’m aiming for it. I can’t give up – my girl needs me too much. I eye this new life warily, but some bit of my daughter’s determination steels me to keep going. My heart aches and the grief is raw, so very raw. Some mornings I wake up and my pillow is soaked with tears because I dreamed of Kevin. Those are the days that my contentment-seeking arrows go awry, and all I can see are the black rings of grief. But some mornings I wake up and I hear a giggle as blankets are tugged away from me. And a cat purrs warm against my feet as he stretches a paw out to bat away the sunlight streaming through an open window. Those days – those are the days that I’ve learned to slow down, to check that I’m standing solidly in God’s love. Those are the days that I take a breath and then…release. I let some of the sadness float away. I let the love that builds up inside me spill over and drench my girl. I see the moments come and they’re filled with hope and beauty and life and I breathe it all in, gratefully. Gracefully.
“I hit almost all red and yellow today, Kev,” I whisper softly. “Only some of them were in the blue. Do you think I’m getting better?”