letters to my sister, one of many

i miss you. i knew i would, but it’s acute, knowing you aren’t near enough for a phone call. a google chat.

i was looking all sorts of things up, trying to make sure writing letters to lost loved ones isn’t a sign of cracking up. according to the internet, i’m not losing it. though if i go on WebMD and check, i’ll probably have cancer, according to their diagnosis.

a mutual friend posted a video on facebook that i wanted to share with you, and in that moment, i was overwhelmed. you’re gone. and it’s starting to sink in. veterans day was missing your usual gratitude and kindness – your acknowledgement of all our families have laid down for their nation. a wealth of history contained in a few sentences. i miss that.

christmas is feeling more and more precious, knowing that it was the beginning of our hope of glory. i know i’ll see you again, but there are long years until then. years filled with life and joy and hope and sorrow and all the things i know await. but i wanted to be old ladies together, not longing for you through years of distance. the guilt comes and goes – it arrives when i find a get well card i never sent. i constantly reassure myself that you knew how much i wanted you to be well. how much i cared. because that’s a fear. that it wasn’t enough.

it’s what keeps me awake at night, restless and not wanting to sleep. before, when i was up late for whatever reason, i knew where you were. you were attached to me by a long thread that led onto distant highways, and if i was awake, you might have been too. it was comforting, and i didn’t know how much it was until now. the surety that i could call and hear your voice. call and say i love you.

so here’s my i love you. i wish you could read this. wish you could see my attempts to find a suitable crematory urn, something that you would like – pink and sparkley. it’s not going well, but i’m trying to find it… i miss you sister. you would know exactly where to look, exactly what to say.

i’ve been listening to a song, over and over. it’s one you lived by. and i’m trying to as well. i miss you.

 

spotify:track:2rgIBgCtsCIjlkt0KAtHZB

what i’m holding on to

we said goodbye for the last time on wednesday afternoon. she went to sleep, wednesday morning, and never again opened her eyes on this side of eternity.

i don’t have the ability to say how much she was loved. so very very much. she was a connector, bringing people together across miles, across lines of religion and race and all the things that keep us apart.

i’ve got one voicemail saved of her voice. she was just calling to talk. to encourage, to lift up. to do all the things she did so well. so now, we’re without her, and i want to remember her as much as i can. but life continues, and i can’t sit in my room, holding pictures of her, and crying.

Marlene, i miss you. your hands, moving like birds when you put on hand sanitizer. the elegance of your movements, slowed by pain. your beautiful feet. they took the gospel everywhere you went. how beautiful your smile was. your adventurous heart, that found ways to shine the light in dark places. i miss chatting with you. talking about the football teams we cheered for. talking about old movies. just talking. i miss you. and i don’t think i’ll ever stop. i can’t wait to see you again, and i’m going to live my moments as fully as you did. or at least i’ll try.

i’m holding onto a song by sherri youngward. it’s nothing but words i need to hear. words i need to remember.

just one more…

one more day, one more breath, one more football season. and with every scare, every coughing jag, my fear crops up. i’m trying to hard to be present, to connect as much as possible while she’s here.

i’ve never been good at being grounded – flighty, future leaning, always looking forward to the what ifs and the possibilities. fear doesn’t exist for me in the future – i can be optimistic about what comes, but what is here is what scares me. afraid that the video conversation we had on saturday was the last time i’ll see her face. afraid that when i hugged her last, it was the last.

i read about the vagus nerve on the internet today… why your heart aches when you feel emotional pain, why your chest feels heavy with grief. it’s odd, because one nerve, running from stomach to brain can get overstimulated, and bam. you can’t breathe, your stomach feels cold, and you’re aching somewhere inside. knowing that there is a real reason it physically hurts is reassuring. because this body is temporary, and the pain will pass, one day or at the end.

i’ve been so afraid of grief for so long – so afraid of hurt. so afraid that i all but cut off contact with all the things that have the power to hurt me, usually the things that i love. the people i love. and my sweet sister has always reached right back in. she’s figured out the the moments she has are the ones she is in. that tomorrow isn’t promised, only the time she is in, right now. she’s rooted. grounded.

i’m trying to lean in. not lean into the pain, because it’s coming whether i embrace it or not. but lean in to the one whose arms are strong. and when i rest in Him, throwing my pain and fear and longing at His feet, i can breathe again. if this is our last football season, then i want to be here for it. even if it hurts. because the pain makes these moments precious, and instead of begging for one more, i want to be present for the one i have. the one i’m in.

things my mother taught me, or a reflection on mother’s day

tomorrow is mother’s day. i have mixed feelings about mother’s day, because while i want to celebrate my mother as much as i can, i have such a hard time finding ways to celebrate her. flowers are out, she’s fastidious about what she eats so chocolate is mostly out, and most of the cards i find in the store are just too cheesy or flowery to really convey what i’m thinking about.

i’ve been reading dorothy sayers still, slowly digesting each chapter, rereading as i need to truly understand. that’s something my mother taught me, but that’s beside the point. i’ve been rereading a chapter titled “creed or chaos,” a reflection on the creeds of the church, and what it means to embrace christian doctrine. as i read sayers’ words, i see my mother’s actions, her movements spread throughout my life.

if you read my mother’s and sister’s blog – mimisjourneyofhope.wordpress.com, you will see doctrine in action. it is one thing to tell your children that they can have it all. that if they want to go to college, they can; if they want to be successful business owners, they can; if they want to stay home with their children, they can; anything they want, they can have. it is another to show your children that they can truly have nothing but Christ. that the glittering accomplishments the world holds up as trophies to womanhood, to personhood are nothing but dust and ash. that all the things we cling to as proof of our worth are nothing in light of the gospel.

and scripture is clear on what it means to embrace Christ – Romans 8:15 begins by making it very plain:

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spiritthat we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

by embracing Christianity, and all the creeds and doctrines and beliefs, we embrace both suffering and glory. and there is no guarantee of earthly glory. at all. in fact, over and over, we are told – what comes is more valuable than what we possess here. what we have here is ash, and when we receive the reward for our lives at the other side of this existence, then we will receive our true reward. that which glitters here is not gold there.

and this is something my mother taught me. lived it out, load of laundry after load of laundry. dinners on the table, prayers prayed for my broken heart, nights spent in solitude. that often, the sacrifices we are called to make are the little ones. the little moments of laying herself down, her wants, her desires, even her needs. and it doesn’t stop. she’s been laying down her life for us my entire life, and she is now, even still, laying her life down in a hospital room at my sister’s side.

she taught me that this life is worth nothing, only worth living if we can take every moment we are given and shine the light of Heaven on it. that the only things that are worth keeping and embracing are the things with eternal value. and that not only is it hard, it is a struggle, pushing aside the flesh, setting aside our desires. she embodies what i read this week in “creed and chaos”:

[christianity] is fiercely and even harshly realistic… that there are certain eternal achievements that make even happiness look like trash.

her joy in life has been pointing us towards the cross. both pointing us to Christ’s suffering, and pointing to the glory to come if we can embrace it. she’s not been suffering in silence, putting on an aggrieved face, and doing what needs to be done begrudgingly. she’s been embracing the suffering of this world, the hard, the painful, the unwanted, and doing it with joy.

and just so you don’t think i have a completely unrealistic view of my mother, i know there have been many many times she has not wanted to do what she has been asked. disobeyed, turned away, begged not to do what lay before her. she’s overreacted, missed God’s leading, spoken from hurt, made the wrong decisions. she’s been angry and sinned, and yet. and yet.

in spite of all of those things, what filtered through was this. in order to embrace Heaven, we must embrace Jesus. not just the victorious, triumphing over all the world resurrected Messiah, but the one who begged His father in the garden, as recorded in Mark 14:

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

i can think of little else of more value than this, than what she taught me, and teaches me still: everything is possible, but what we are promised is suffering. and after these pains fall away, we are promised Heaven.

when it’s all darkness outside

so i had planned on posting sometime earlier this week… 2 days of internet being out at the house was probably a good thing. there have been so many tragic things going on in our country and around the world, i was overwhelmed by news being on everywhere i went. i talked to my sister a bit about that, the sense of shame for not being able to watch or listen to everything. but i can only do what i can do. and i can’t get overwhelmed by sorrow for all these things i can’t change.

i made barbecue, had picnic lunches with zoë, read a LOT, and tried to distance myself from the round the clock coverage of nothing but tragedies. from kermit gosnell, to west, tx, to the boston marathon and all that followed, this was a hard week.

i’ve been reading, albeit slowly, ann voskamp’s book one thousand gifts, and i’ve been finding a lot of comfort in her blog a holy experience. because for me, when it’s all darkness outside, i need a reminder of who the Light is. i don’t live as connected to that source as i ought to. it’s easy to get distracted by soccer games and making lunches, and working on tens and ones places, and all the things that make up my life now, that i completely forget the point of my life:

i am the vine, you are the branches. if you remain in me, and i in you, you will bear much fruit… as the father has loved me, so i have loved you. now remain in my love.

yeah. about that. so today, while we go for a hike on a small part of the appalachian trail, i’m going to pay closer attention to the wisteria, the poison ivy, the honeysuckle. because these vines and branches bear fruit – good and ill alike. i want my vine to be one that has me bearing good fruit – sweet flowers of joy, and not the poison of fear and shame. that my source will have me glowing, and not cowering in the darkness.

i’ll post pictures soon… we’ve been doing all sorts of fun things, and i’ve been trying to document them as we go.