My eyes were closed yet I was frustratingly awake. It was frustrating simply because I didn’t have to be awake for hours, having been given the gift of a leisurely morning alone (yes COMPLETELY ALONE) with no other warm body in the house except the little dog snuggled in at my knees. A person could fail to see the significance of the phrase “completely alone” if they aren’t, say, ALWAYS surrounded by three energetic young bodies to attend to and raise. I can not even remember the last time I was completely alone like this, on a morning, where not another soul was around as I awoke.
I sound like I should have had a blessed evening last night – which I did – and a wonderful sleep – which I did – but I have to admit I was strangely numb and neutral in my current state. What was it? Why was I almost feeling wistful?
My mind ran back to a conversation I had just a day or so ago with my oldest daughter. She was cuddled up beside me chattering away and she sort of just stopped. She looked at me, changed the subject, and lost her words. She tried to explain she knew what she wanted to say, but there wasn’t really a way to do it with words. I encouraged her to try… and she said that there just weren’t any. So I waited. She pondered and then thoughfully and quietly said, “It’s just so different when we go to Great Grandma’s.”
Ah – now I knew what she was trying to say. There aren’t words, so there are no words to find. Not for this. There are no words to describe giant holes in your heart. No words to explain the silence where a person used to be. No words to express the lack of energy and love that immediately dissapears when a loved one dies and all that is left behind are reminders of them, like their favorite chair, a pair of shoes, a tie and belt buckle worn daily, or the collection of toy cars on a shelf.
Like a smack in the face, I suddenly understood my 3 kids better and the last trip we took to Great Grams. Lindsey, who was now suddenly wordless, spent the visit to Great Grandma’s with her nose in her electronic device. I was frustrated at the time, as she was the one who begged to go visit and had me arrange it. She wanted to go badly, but when she was there she was aloof and preoccupied. Her siblings were ornery and fought with each other constantly. I left our visit annoyed and irritated with my three children. But I have had many opportunities to get used to the giant hole in the room. I go weekly to have lunch with my beloved Grams and she and I are building a new relationship – a close one – and I dare say even one different than we had before. We have shared a lot over the last few months, including the last evening before Papa’s passing… But my kids? They have been there twice since the memorial service. Only twice. The hole is large, gapping, and deafeningly quiet. They have no words. This is their first foray into death and to what it leaves in it’s wake.
My nearly teenage daughter turned into a little girl in these precious few minutes and she snuggled up to me. She didn’t cry, but she simply was – and we just both settled in to a hug and lay deep in thought. Death is hard. Pure and simple.
As I lay in bed now today, in my quiet house, I felt the large holes that the absence of my three kids and my husband left behind. I realized, maybe for the first time, just how much their presence in my life completes me. I get easily frustrated by the noise level in this tiny house, the constant parenting, the fights, the work, the stress… and I never stop to think what it would mean if it truly went away. I have no idea why on a quiet, frozen, weekend morning I would get so serious… but for whatever reason it hit me.
Maybe it was because I am still processing the hole that Papa Howard left behind, like Lindsey was trying to do. But it is a good reminder to not let the day-to-day rat race make me forget what’s really in front of me, and to hold on tight and treasure every minute I am given. Maybe death will bring me closer to really focusing on living life. I am not sure why it is that death makes a person truly think about living life on purpose, but it does. So that’s what I am doing.
Derek has a buddy who was just a mere 50 years old when he passed away just a month or so ago. 50. Do you know how close to our age that is? He left behind 2 teenagers who’s mother is also dying as we speak. It put a knot in my throat. Nothing is a given, and every minute is a gift. What If I only have 13 more years left to do all I can do in this world and to instill the things of value into my kids and to do all the loving on them in advance for a lifetime I’ll miss? Rick had no idea when he was my age that he only had 13 years left. We all have a limited number of days and the clock is always ticking. It may be that I have 40 or even 50 more years, or it could honestly just be 40 or 50 days…
So on my glorious day off from being a mother, wife, worker, or ANYTHING, serious thoughts played across my mind. My guess is that God decided I needed a life lesson, and chose a quiet day to do it. Thanks for the reminders, God! I’ll not be forgetting these lessons any time soon. Trust me…