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I had a lot on my heart today and simply started out by writing a Facebook status, but quickly realized that it was going to go well beyond a simple update.
You see, this was one of those weeks that everything just seems to be swirling around you, and the only power you have over any of it is to just do your best, keep praying, and keep moving forward. You have no other options.
One week ago, as I sat down for a cup of strong morning coffee, the first news I read on my Facebook feed was that my mom’s goddaughter and a dear childhood friend had died. This wasn’t one of those flippant, “aww, how sad” kind of things to read on my feed, this was one of those “punch to the gut” kind of things. Though I hadn’t seen her in many years, I knew the demons she had faced. I know her family. I know her story, and I was rooting so hard for her because she was trying SO. HARD. TO MAKE IT. I loved reading her updates, her little shoutouts to God for the littlest of blessings in her day. Sometimes I’d see her sharing such gratitude for the chance to do the mundane things that everyone else always seems to hate, and it made my heart so happy. I’d see how much her closest friends meant to her. I’d see how much her dear sweet daughter meant to her.
And then all of that was taken from her in one night because of addiction.
The next day, my mom went over to help. There’s a Mr. Rogers quote that says:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
My mom? She’s one of the helpers.
She is tireless and unceasing in her love for others and I am still astounded at the amount of love and energy she put into helping last weekend.
Over the next few days as they worked on planning the funeral arrangements, I volunteered to provide music for the service. As a musician, it’s one of those things that I feel blessed to be able to do for people. I may not have the right words for you in the moment of your deepest grief, but I can play a song for you. I can sing for you. I can at least give you that.
So they tried to think of what her favorite songs had been, and “Temporary Home” by Carrie Underwood and “You Are My Sunshine” immediately popped up. I thought, ‘sure, I can do those no problem!’…knowing of course that performing through your own personal grief is a totally different ballgame.
Fast forward through this week and we have had 3 out of the 5 of us in this house come down with some kind of stomach bug and my mom’s poor little dog had to go to the vet today for pancreatitis. Mark had a stress-filled week between work and the house, and I had one of those weeks of teaching that makes me question whether I should have even gone into education. If you’re a teacher, you totally know the kind.
But after a long day, after all of my students were gone, I sat down at the piano and tried to make it though “Temporary Home” a few times. I didn’t fall apart, but that lump in my throat grew larger and larger.
I looked up at the clock and realized I needed to go pick up my son from daycare, so I locked up my room and headed out. I kept singing through the song in the car and getting choked up every time I’d get to the third verse when she sings, “He looks up and says, ‘I can see God’s face,’…
That lump in my throat grew even larger. I needed the biggest hug ever from my little boy.
I walked through the door at daycare and I saw his little sunshine face. MOMMY! He ran and grabbed me by the legs. Oh how much I needed that.
We got into the car and he regaled me with tales of playing with trains and trucks and how the daycare babies are soooooo cute! The heart of a 3-year-old is a most precious gift. As we continued up the road, he stopped chattering and I found myself humming the funeral songs again.
“Mommy, what is that song you’re singing?”
I’d found my way back to “You Are My Sunshine”.
“Well, this is one I’ve sung to you since you were a tiny baby.”
“I was a baby once! I was so small!”
“Yes you were…it goes like this…
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy when skies are gray,
You’ll never know dear how much I love you,
Please don’t take my sunshine awa–
AND I JUST LOST IT.
I thought of my friend and everything that her loss means.
I thought of her mom and how much this loss has been for her.
I thought of my son, and how I would just die if anything happened to him.
And in that moment I realized that I was just a street away from the cemetery where my dad is buried. And I knew I had to go see him right then. Through all of my tears and wailing I steered our way to the cemetery.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
I didn’t even have words.
“Mommy, don’t worry. Calm down. I keep you safe. Where are we going?”
We pulled up to the place where my dad is buried, towards the front of the cemetery’s big entry gate. A large oak tree used to tower overhead and I always knew to park by it, but after a storm several years ago they had to cut it down. The sky always seems so large and the sun so unforgiving now when I visit.
As we made our way to his headstone, I explained to him about Grandpa in Heaven as best I could. He knows about my dad, but it’s hard to explain the concept of death to a 3-year-old, even a really smart one. My dad had melanoma and died when I was just 17. I told him that he had gotten so sick that his body would never get better, and that while his spirit is in Heaven, we still have this place here on Earth where we can come to remember him and pray.
Now honestly, my faith is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time. Since my husband is Catholic, my dad’s side is Catholic, and I now teach in a Catholic school I always joke that I’m “Catholic by association”, but the evolution of my faith is a journey that I take daily and isn’t something I usually wear on my sleeve like this. We are actually really bad about making it to Mass on a regular basis, but pray with our son every night before bed and work on giving thanks and praying for others.
So in spite of our spotty church attendance, the words that flowed out of my son’s mouth next absolutely floored me. When I said that we could come to the cemetery to visit and pray, he said:
“Okay mommy. In da name of da Father, Son, Holy Spiwit, AMEN. Dear God, ‘hank you for Grandpa in Heaven. Keep mommy safe and happy. AAAAAAAAAMEN.”
In that moment, he had the exact words my heart needed. I scooped him up and kept thanking him for his beautiful prayer, for that little moment of confirmation that even though I don’t always feel like a competent mom, he is watching and listening and learning just the same. That I am clearly doing something okay.
We got back in the car, feeling sad but refreshed, and headed home.
The funeral service isn’t for a few days yet, but I’m working to be as ready as I can be. Perhaps if I pray with the same spirit as my 3-year-old, I can find it in me to ask God to lead me in serving through music.
This has nothing to do with building a cordwood house. This has nothing to do with homesteading or off-grid living or any of that. This is about how life is far too short. It’s too short to take people for granted. It’s too short not to love the life you have. It’s too short to let it just go by.
If you haven’t heard it today, you are loved. You matter. You are awesome. And I’m glad you’re here.
If it’s on your heart to share the love, feel free to share this post.
Thank you for being here and thank you for reading. Go hug someone you love.