It’s June. My heart and my mind and my body become restless. I often think it’s because school is ending, summer schedules begin, and every year a week before the anniversary of her death I feel my anxiety shoot through the roof. They say you have events that forever change how to live life.
I have 4.
In 1993, I was 8. I was 3 cars back watching a truck on the bottom of Longshop hill with my very best friend in grade school in it. My parents sent me to counseling for a while because I would wake up screaming that I was in the truck too. I learned a very valuable lesson during that time of my life. Life is so short. I think about this friend more often than not and I’m 34.
In 1999, I was 14. My Grandma Scott passed away after a very long life. She was probably one of my very best friends. I often spent my afternoons after school at her house. Sunday dinners. I worked in her garden with her. We would take walks to the train tracks. I think about Ollie nearly every day when I say my prayers. She taught me to pray in the morning and at night and when you are hoeing the beans in the garden. During this time in my life I learned, life is too short.
In 2002, I was 18. I loved my Mawmaw Sugars. She lived with me until I was about 6 or 7. She had the best hugs. She is the only person to this day that I know carried certs in her purse. I spent summers and afternoons and Sundays with her. I learned a very valuable lesson during that time of my life. I can rarely think of day that Mawmaw does not come to mind as my daughter has so many physical traits of her. Mawmaw Sugars taught me many things, but one thing in particular, never forget where you come from. The lesson I learned at 18 again, life is too short.
In 2006, I was 20. 13 years ago to this day and at exactly at around 1:21 p.m. I saw my Mom take her last breath on this earth. With the help of my aunt, we gave her a bath and promptly put her makeup on and fixed her hair the best I could before Mr. Kendall reassured me he would not leave her body in a dark room. I walked out of her bedroom and my house was full of family to feed and entertain. The previous two years of my college years had been long and stressful and not what you imagine to be college at all. In less than 6 weeks, I would walk down the aisle without my Mom and marry the love of my life. After I was married, my true grieving settled in and it was tough. The year of 2006 is the year that I say, was that before ’06 or after ’06? Was that before Mom was sick the first or the second time? Or after? I already knew life was too short by 2006, but the lesson I’ve been learning the past 13 years is that grief never stops.
You have moments that define you, that change you, that make you who you are. Who make you look at the world in a whole new light. We all have them. I have four defining moments that define how I live life and deal with grief. On the flip, I have three others that have taught me how to love and laugh- they are called my husband, my daughter, and my son.
But there is no mistake- death in my life has defined how I see things. How I live. How I love.
I thought I had passed that ton of bricks moment for a whole year. I had days when my friend passed that the grief was taking over again, but I had avoided and handled those triggers well. I even survived Mother’s Day like a champ.
This past weekend, we had been invited to a cookout/birthday party for friends who dubbed a family. I was flying solo to the party with the kiddos. The party was great. The slip n slide with the added bonus of a baby pool and water table for my youngest was even better. Music was playing and folks were chatting and laughing. A friend of my mom’s and also aunt to the birthday girl was there as always. We chatted and before I knew it, it was getting dark and bed and bath time was looming. My mom’s lifelong friend picked up my youngest and walked him over to the field to see the goats.
I glanced over to see my beautiful friend holding my youngest child. My youngest who recently has been through so many health issues. Who I wasn’t suppose to have. Who was here. Who was so sweet and loving. It was so sweet and kind of her to offer that gesture so I could get my things in the car, gather my oldest and get situated. She is a beautiful loving soul. She was helping me and I couldn’t be any more grateful.
My eyes were wet. In that glimpse I wanted my Mom to be there. Why was she missing this? WHY??? WHY can’t she see her grandkids grow up?? WHY GOD? WHY? Why is her lifelong friend helping with my kids after a birthday party and not my own Mother? Why did all of this feel so lonely and terribly tragic again?
That big load of bricks was dumping right there at that moment. Why couldn’t Sue and Ann stand at the gate and watch the goats with my youngest TOGETHER?
I sucked back the tears. Gave appropriate hugs. We drove the five minutes home. Bath and bed time were here and gone in a flash, but my feelings of angry guilt were still looming.
So I prayed. I prayed really hard that the feeling of anger would go away. That I would understand that having these beautiful people still part of my life was the true blessing and I was merely focusing on what I didn’t have versus what I do have. I had found that peace years prior, but with my youngest being born I have missed my own Mom more than I ever thought possible. Again, I have overcome that time- or so I had imagined.
So let me explain this to folks who haven’t suffered traumatic loss that when the grief truck comes barreling through, it comes without warning, without notice, without any prior knowledge that it may come, and just as you can imagine- there it is in all it’s glory, LOUD, UGLY, and has a full load of “crap” to dump right there on your heart to deal with all over again—
It hits you in the grocery store when you pass by their favorite candy. It hits you in their favorite department store. It hits you at work when a former coworker hands you a paper that they had touched and signed and worked on. Randomly, I forever cherish that criminal warrant that my Mom processed as a Court Clerk. It hits you with a room full of family or at lunch with girlfriends. You can be alone. You can be driving. Or when you go to order ice-cream with your family and you realize they aren’t there to eat their soft cone of half chocolate half vanilla at the Dairy Queen after riding around on a Sunday afternoon. Or on Christmas morning when you go to look for their reaction to a gift and they aren’t there. It is on Sunday mornings in a church pew when they play their favorite hymn. It’s at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night when you have a fever and you aren’t sure who to call because you are the adult now. It’s when you go to make pasta salad for the first time and you aren’t sure you put the right amount of mayo in. So you stare at the bowl and think what the heck Mom? It’s when you find out you are pregnant and you tell your husband and you hope that your Mother- in- law is just as excited as your Mom would be, but it just isn’t the same. It’s when you have your first baby and the only person you want is your Mom. It’s the time you pick up the phone to call her and it just rings and rings and rings. It’s the 13 birthdays later that she has not sang Happy Birthday to you at exactly the minute you were born. and you begin to wonder, do I even matter anymore? It the mid week lunches. It’s the no longer Saturday shopping dates. It’s when you have your second baby and you sink into post baby depression and you need her to pull you out of the funk, because this funk is nothing like you’ve ever felt before- not like the grief funk from death. It’s the time you find the perfect dress to wear to that event and nobody to call to tell. It’s the day your run into someone that knew her and they mention you look nothing like her.
for me this year, it was her lifelong friend loving my youngest just exactly the way my Mom would have at a gate looking at goats while I loaded up wet towels and grass filled shoes in the trunk. It was seeing the way he smiled when the goat made a noise and the way she gently held him.
But as I have learned during my 13 years on this long journey, God provides tender mercies to soften my heart and bring peace to my soul. It never lasts, but when it hits- it hurts like hell.
Yesterday, I was driving home from taking my kiddos to the pool and my oldest jumps up and says…
“Momma, what is this CD? It looks broken?”
I had cleaned out the car a few weeks back and I threw some old CD’s in the console.
I looked at it and it was a CD my Mom had given me through my aunt upon her death. It was a good 15 years old. She wanted my brother and I to have this song to carry us through the hard times. Honest, this song had not crossed my mind in many years.
So I popped the CD in the player and I said…
“Hey baby… let’s see if it works…… (CD player spins and spins…..)
It continues to spin the entire 10 minutes home. We never got it to play.
this morning we got in the car to go to daycare. TODAY, ON JUNE 24th- the day of her birthday in heaven….
It starts to play….
So I say really quickly….
“Listen boogaboos… this is my song to you both….
In everything you do
May the angels watch over you
May laughter be a song
That will carry you along
May any path that leads away
Bring you safely back someday
But anywhere that life takes you
My heart beats there too
May each mountain that you climb
Make you stronger every time
May wings of hope carry you
To where no eagle ever flew
May your spirit always be
Young and strong – kind and free
And every time a dream comes true
My heart beats there too
Cause you take my love with you
Forever and a day
Whether near or far away
And if you fall and hurt your pride
I’ll be proud because you tried
But no matter what you do
My heart beats there too
And no matter what you do
My heart beats there…..too
James Rogers http://www.friendsofjamesrogers.com/MyHeart.htm
My M&M may never know what that song means to me, but it played today of all days. I do not believe in coincidences, because so often things similar to this happen to me. I believe people, places, things and events happen at the exact time we need them. Like a CD playing in the car.
Grief hits you like a ton of bricks, but God always has ways to lift our spirits. He hears us. He knows what we need when we need it. My life has been a repeat of this lesson over and over and over. I cannot deny his love for me. I feel that love over and over and I know that Sue’s heart really was beating at the goat fence on a random Saturday in June, 13 years after she walked and talked and loved us here on earth.
I feel certain that she probably found that CD and threw it in my daughter’s seat so I could be reminded that though this journey without her has been long….
her heart is still beating here with me. That she is still here in her own way and God– God sees me. He knows me. He hasn’t left my side for a single second.