A year ago I sat a my desk after my kids went to bed and rain dripped outside my bedroom window. I sat there on the eve of my mother’s birthday at the close of another gloomy day in Washington thinking about how I’ll never get to call her again and sing her the birthday song. And I sat wondering if it would ever get “better”.
Tonight I sit at the same desk, kids just settled in bed, in a different house, in a different state, rain still dripping outside,thinking about the same thing. But this year I don’t think I’ll waste my energy on wondering if it will ever feel better. Different, sure. Better, probably not.
Grief alludes time. It saunters in and out of anniversaries, and birthdays, and months, and moments gone by as if time didn’t exist at all. And the ticking time clocks on every “If she were still here…” seem to grow louder and softer in different spaces.
Last year and this year look totally different but feel the same in so many ways. We moved from the rainy Pacific North West to sunny Texas, or, as I like to call it, the face of the sun. My toddler is now a little boy with perpetually bruised shins who likes to talk about dragons, and pirates, and Jesus through mouthfuls of grilled cheese. My baby is now a toddler who cries when she has to wear pants because they are “too heavy” and likes to sing Whitney Houston and won’t sleep without her stuffed puppy.
Our life here feels slower but also busier. Slower because David is home more, busier because I want to use every fleeting moment of slowness intentionally. It’s easy to leave the house and make plans when you know you won’t be the only one putting the kids to bed for a month at a time.
But in this slower space grief is still here. Ticking away as the time without my mom stretches on. Her absence feels bigger here. It has more room to grow. Maybe it’s the wide open spaces of Texas. Maybe it’s because each day my kids grow older is another day they won’t know her. Or maybe it’s because this excess of time has allowed us to deal with the grief in a more head-on manner. I went through Grief Share in the fall. Let me tell you, it was hard, but it was great. I loved meeting with a group who knew my heart so well because it matched their own. We all were missing someone so deeply and we all needed a space to not have to be “OK.” It was so healing and encouraging, and so God-centered that it shifted grief into a place where I can finally say “My mom died” without having a breakdown. This was no small feat for me.
I took a break from writing here 1 year ago. I don’t have an answer why. I’ve still been writing, of course. I’ve been scribbling down thoughts and rabbit holes that I didn’t want to share because they felt tangled and confusing and too personal. I have a jumbled notebook that holds tiny tidbits of different moments, and my grocery lists, and scripture, and the number to my doctor. A floral notebook filled with lists, and thoughts, and titles to books I’ve never written. I am certain that no one could decipher it even if they tried, but I’ve loved it all the same.
Who knows what the next year will hold. But I know I’ll keep writing. I think more seriously. And I know tomorrow we will eat lasagna for dinner- my mom’s favorite birthday meal. And Eli will ask about her, then innocently tell us so matter-of-factly, “She died.” (This is probably our least favorite new development within the last year). And then he will ask us about Heaven (Probably our favorite new development). And we will tell him the Gospel. And when he asks us if the reason we want to go to Heaven is to see Nan (like he always does), we will tell him “No” (like we always do). We will tell him that we can’t wait to go to Heaven because God is there and we will never be apart from Him again. We will tell him that in Heaven there are no goodbye’s and no tears, and we will be so happy to see Nan, but Heaven is about God. And I’ll think about how, in every space, no matter where my desk is or the weather, I don’t have to grieve without hope (1 Thess 4:13). In a life of who-knows, and what-if’s, and uncertainty, I am glad to know to whom I belong and who holds all of my days, and that in the end everything will be “better.”