Two Years and a Tribe
"A worthy life involves loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first. It means restoring people, in ordinary conversations and regular encounters. A worthy life means showing up when showing up is the only thing to do."
~Jen Hatmaker, "For the Love"
~Jen Hatmaker, "For the Love"
I have typed several paragraphs, deleted them, and re-typed them. This is probably my fourth or fifth attempt at this blog post. I just can't seem to find the right words to describe what I'm feeling. My brain is a jumbled mess of thoughts and emotions, fueled by caffeine and leftover pizza. Okay, maybe sugar and a little booze, too. (Don't panic, health friends - I still exercise and eat nutritious foods. Life is about balance, right?)
It is still and quiet in my house right now. The clock says 1:38 a.m. Everyone is sleeping but me. I wish I could sleep, but every now and then, I still get those random bouts of insomnia, usually when my mind is full and I can't seem to empty it.
This week is a roller coaster of goings-on. There is today's anniversary. On Thursday, I will have a small outpatient surgery on my eye. Not really any big deal, except I absolutely HATE anything anywhere near my eyes, so anxiety is higher than normal. Then, Friday is my wedding anniversary. I'm just all sorts of sad, anxious, and happy, all at the same time.
So I write. And I pray. And I write some more.
About today's anniversary: two years ago, in the wee, small hours of the morning, my mom took Jesus' hand and went home. And in the 730 days since then, I have struggled immensely with my new normal. I miss her so very much, and I think about her every day. I was so spoiled by her love, her advice, her daily presence in my life. How do you fill a void that can only be described as a black hole, an infinite abyss?
Some days, I think I will be okay. I wake up, peek out the window, whisper a hello to mom. I feel warmth and peace, just how I imagine she feels. I think about what she would whisper back to me (though it hurts knowing I'll never hear it). Sometimes, we have coffee together. She still sends me cardinals every now and then. These are the good days.
Other days, I want to stay in bed all day, hiding from the world. It can be so difficult and exhausting putting on a brave face for everyone. Heck, just facing my own family sometimes is challenging. I don't know why, but it is still so hard for me to talk to the girls and answer their questions about mom. I get choked up and teary-eyed every time. And I still can't write anything without crying. These are the not-so-good days.
But God wasn't kidding when He said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). He just didn't specify how He would be there for us. It took me awhile to fully understand that. I struggled at first believing that God was still with me when I was in so much pain. I kept asking for signs and praying for God to reveal Himself to me. So often, I would get nothing.
But I finally realized that I was focusing on the wrong things.
There are these people, my cliché "tribe," who won't let me have very many of those not-so-good days. They love on me and show me mercy and restore me. They show up for me, even when I can't always return the favor. They fill my black hole. They have never shied away from my grief battle. Some people have, because I guess grief makes them just as uncomfortable as it does me sometimes. Some people have exited my circles, whether by choice or subconsciously.
But not my tribe. They were sent to me by God with specific purposes.
I have lovingly characterized this small group of people by the greatest strengths they bring to our relationships. I have unconditional love. I have shoulders to cry on (though I don't utilize them often enough). I have time-givers (these people always make sure I get "me time"). I have a listener who is always there when I'm ready to talk and who never complains, even when she probably wants to. I have a pseudo-therapist who, in addition to listening, gives sound advice in return. I have a mood-lifter, whose wit and sarcasm have made for some extremely entertaining Facebook messages. I have unlimited hugs whenever I need them. I have humor (the tears-streaming-down-my-face kind of humor). I have inspiration, motivation and encouragement on the other end of a walkie-talkie. I have spiritual renewal 24 hours a day, just a text message away.
The pain of losing my mom is still ever-present, but some days it is significantly lessened because this certain group of people has chosen to show up for me, through thick and thin. If any of them are reading this, I hope they know how much they mean to me, and that I appreciate them more than I can say.
I woke up this morning, still in a fog from last night's insomnia. I almost decided to cancel all my plans for the day and stay in bed. For a brief time, I laid there, reading messages and posts (some from this morning, some from 2 years ago) from friends and others. I cried. Then I ended my brief pity party and got up.
Because that's what my mom would tell me to do if she were here.
I took my youngest two to swimming lessons and my oldest to gymnastics. Afterward, I stopped by mom's tombstone and had a chat (a small one, because two little girls were "starving"). I came home to a couple of messages on my phone and Facebook. I went out back and watered the garden, and mom showed up.
Then, I received a delivery.
Today sucks. There really is no other word for it. It just plain sucks. A day like any other for many, a day like no other for me. Even though it's been two years, the pain is still very new. I am processing things a little easier these days, and I find myself hurting a little less, but let's be honest: I will never truly "get over" losing my mom. I don't think anyone ever does, especially when you lose yours way too soon. You just have to keep trudging along, day by day, and surround yourself with people who will see you through the storms.
Sometimes, it wasn't easy. Sometimes, I didn't feel like socializing or laughing or having a good time. Sometimes, I just wanted to cry... and drink wine. But my people said, "You're doing this anyway."
These people have helped me find life again. For awhile, I was so lost I didn't know if I'd ever find my way back. This tribe of mine shone a light on the path. Every now and then, I still stumble and fall, but their light is always there, guiding me back up. They have done this for me, so that I, in turn, can do it for others.
I recently went to the funeral for the father of a classmate of mine. The night before, I took a meal over to the family and had a nice talk with the man's widow and daughter. The entire time I was there, I felt like God was saying to me, "You are doing it. You are comforting others just as I have comforted you." I can't really remember everything I said to them, but I do remember relating to what they were going through and offering my perspective and empathy. I think just listening to them was of some comfort.
At least I hope it was.
Before I left, the daughter thanked me for my kindness and told me that she has greatly admired the way I've carried myself since my mom's death. She said she hopes to emulate my actions in relation to her dad's death. I remember hearing, "...full of grace..." and I was so honored by that.
But it really made me think.
Full of grace? On the days where I'm short and snippy with my children because I'm too emotionally exhausted to pretend I'm fine? On the days where I just sit at my mom's tombstone and weep? On the days where I have nothing left to give, but still manage to give anyway? I sure don't notice any grace on these days, but it is in those times I lean most on the Lord and ask for comfort and peace.
And He sends me my tribe.
One day, I hope God calls me to be a part of someone else's grief tribe. I know that when that person needs my grace (or kindness, empathy, love - maybe wit or sarcasm), I will be armed and ready to comfort as I have been comforted. I really feel like this is what I'm meant to be doing. I went through the unimaginable so that I, in turn, could help others through the unimaginable. Through the storms these past two years, I have discovered my gift.
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." ~Romans 12:6-8
Thanks again to the people in my tribe who have shared their gifts with me. I truly hope you know that God has been using you to carry out His love and grace in the midst of my heartache.
The Lord restores my soul. He gives me a tribe...
Always for my mom,