Where have you been?

“Where have you been?” A lot of people have been asking me this lately. “Why haven’t you written anything?” And by a lot of people I mean my family and close friends. And honestly…I never have an answer. I’ve been here. Living some days well and drowning in others. I’ve been cycling through short bouts of David being here and longer bouts of him being gone (but block leave is around the corner and it’s so close I can almost reach out and grab it!). I’ve been trying to figure out why my 16 month old cries from 4:30-7:30 every night no matter the circumstance. I’ve been potty training my 3-year old and, quite unfortunately, cleaning poop off the floor (but, Praise the Lord- It’s only ever happened once. So that’s a win, right?).

And I’ve been weary. I like this word: weary. I like to say it slowly into the mirror after my kids go to bed and I’m debating on whether or not taking off my mascara is worth the effort. I think it is a good word for this season. Weary from David’s job that has kept him so busy. Weary from being yelled at by two humans who don’t have the words to communicate what they want. Weary from the darkness that falls on the Pacific North West this time of year; that moves in, over stays, and leaves me unwilling to leave the house some days. Weary.

But truly, my weariness set in around my birthday in September. And why? Because I lost my mom in September 2 years ago. And on the last birthday my mother ever called me we got into an argument. And then shortly after I planned her funeral and she was buried in the first week of October. And I don’t know when I’ll be able to write more about those things- but September-December causes a weariness in my soul and my heart like none other. And I just haven’t felt like writing the words, and naming the cause of my weariness that’s calling out to leave my body and be written into existence. I just haven’t wanted to share them. As if feeling them spilling out every time I’m alone and then stuffing them back in could possibly change what happened.

And then tonight happened. An evening where I let my 3 year old hang candy canes on our Christmas tree. While sneakily trying to space them out appropriately as he placed them all on the same branch, I saw that an ornament with my mother’s photo on it was hanging a little too close to little grabby hands. So I took it off the branch it was on to move it up. And my son. My sweet, unknowing son, asked to see it. And so I showed him. And I asked him if he knew who it was- and he didn’t. And how could he? Of course I have photos of my mom around our home. Photos of me with her. Photos of him with her when he wasn’t even walking. Photos with her hair blowing in the wind where I can almost hear her laugh every time I look at them. But my toddler doesn’t remember the photos he took with her. He doesn’t remember her laugh or the way she said his name. To him this woman is someone he doesn’t recognize because he doesn’t know her. And people say things like “Your children will know her through you.” And that sentiment is so kind and I pray my children develop a fondness and even a love for her as they grow. But that’s all they will ever have.

And so tonight when he wasn’t quite sure who she was my weary heart almost gave out. It almost gave out from the dread of another Christmas season without the one person who made them all so merry and bright. My weariness poured out of me so quickly that I had to sit down. Elijah asked if I didn’t feel good. I told him I felt fine. And then he said “Do you miss your mom?” (something he’s started asking when I am about to cry). I told him yes and he said “Let’s go see Nan, Mom.” And two things happened to me. First: Panic. How on earth do I explain to him why we can’t go see her. Second: Relief. I smiled because he called her “Nan.” The most precious name that she cherished more than anything anyone had ever called her. And I was grateful that my toddler understood that my mom and “Nan” are the same person. It gave me hope that his tender heart will keep asking questions about her.

That’s the thing I’ve found about grief. When you lose someone you so deeply love- you worry that the world will forget about them. That people will stop asking about them. A friend recently told me she didn’t know what was OK to ask and what was not OK to ask because she didn’t want to upset me. And in the beginning of this long road that was true- some things people mentioned or remembered about her upset me. But two years out, I so appreciate the acknowledgment that she’s not forgotten.

On the anniversary of her death God orchestrated the most amazing thing to remind me that she won’t be forgotten. It was a Friday and on Saturday I was travelling to Montana to spend some time with my grandparents. I knew that I wanted to take some flowers with me to place at my mom’s grave but I didn’t know when I would have the time to get some. One of my dearest and truest friends, who didn’t even know me when my mother passed, showed up that morning with a bouquet of flowers to brighten my day. And as I held them I couldn’t breathe. The flowers were wrapped in lady bug cellophane. Lady bugs are kind of a big deal in my family. My sweet cousin Tayler, who we lost in a car accident, loved lady bugs. Her mother called her “bug” and so they were everywhere. After her accident our family, including my mom, became obsessed with lady bugs. My mom put them everywhere, it was like this special bond she felt with Tay. When we lost my mom we then had a lady bug engraved on her stone. We put a lady bug on her service program. My sister got a lady bug tattoo (All of which my my friend knew nothing about). And here I was, two years after her death, holding flowers wrapped in lady bugs from a friend who I didn’t even have before she passed away. She never even met my mom but wanted me to know that she wasn’t forgotten.

She’s not forgotten. This was the reminder my weary heart needed tonight. Eli may not get to know her as he grows, but I think he’ll remember me mourning our loss and my aching from the hole that is still burning so deeply within my heart, and I think he’ll wish he could have known her.

This same weariness that almost broke me tonight left me with the realization that I needed to get some of it out because the pressure keeps building and wanting to burst through like a soda that’s been shaken.

And to my friends who are battling weariness: you are not alone. I have been here in the weariness with you. I pray this gives you the hope it gave to me during my quite time today:

“But I will sing of you strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” Psalm 59:16-17


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