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And Then…I Ate Meatloaf

Somehow the current of life carries us faster than we want to move. September 4, 2013 is a day that changed my life forever. September 4, 2014 I wrote a tribute to the events of that day. September 4, 2015 came, and I thought about it so much and just couldn’t find the words.

How many tears does one have to shed before they stop? How many why, why, why’s does one have to ask? How many times does one have to shake her fists at God and scream in frustration at the injustice?

I’m off in a place far from home – by myself this week – and I find myself in the stillness as I watch the lazy flames in the fireplace. I wonder…do the flames feel any remorse for the pain they cause as they consume the helpless wood placed there?   The wood that had no say in the matter – if the logs had their druthers, I’m guessing they would still be in the woods growing leaves and blowing in the breeze.

And I feel the pain of the logs – helpless.

Blue hydrangea brokenhearted

It’s as though I find myself standing at the side of mom’s hospital bed again. Her broken because of someone else’s carelessness. For 16 days we stood unceasingly at her side. Through the meetings of the doctors –  the ones who told us she would be fine when we knew she wouldn’t be.

She’s our mom! Mom of five. Grandmother of fifteen. Great Grandmother of fifteen as of today – September 2015 – four of those she never met.

And the current picks up speed. It has now been two years since those days.

I could write endless stories of the conversations we had with her. With the sweetness of the moments she made us laugh. How the air in the room changed that morning when she woke up, smiled at me and said, “Janet, I saw Daddy.” With the sweetest ever smile on her face.

It seems as though, looking back, that was the moment I knew she didn’t want to fight to stay. As much as she loved all of us, she was tired. We told her to go.

Sitting at her side as I stayed with her the last two nights in the hospital before we brought her home, I talked to her about heaven. She has six great grands in heaven. Our babies we never got to hold. She smiled through the meds and the pain as I told her it would be her job to love them until we all get to heaven to be with them. There is great comfort to knowing all is well there.

Even after two years, my tears mix with tender smiles. They share space on my face – quite a normal event in my life anymore. One of my daughter-in-laws asked the other day if there is ever a day I don’t cry. The funny thing about that is my tears come with laughter, sadness, anger, and frustration. They come as my heart fills with love for my family and friends – doing real life with them through all the muck and challenges. Seldom do I make it through a devotional or church service without tears as my heart fills with love for our God and Savior. They have become constant companions, and I treasure them:  They are the instrument I use to gauge the condition of my heart and soul. As the tears fall, I know I am still alive and well.

Mom always had dinner on the table. Never once did 5:00 approach and she start to decide what to feed us. Ever. Meatloaf was often found sitting next to the mashed potatoes and gravy and those darn English peas I despised – they are still gross.

Sometimes normal brings a smile to my face – even if it is mixed with a few of those tears so easily found sliding down my cheek.

So, tonight, Mom – I ate meatloaf. At a restaurant. No,  it wasn’t as good as yours. Not even close. I needed to do something to remind me that once upon a time you weren’t broken. We were just kids you loved and cared for to the best of your ability.

Thanks for everything Mom. I love you.

Yet, even though what has happened to mom makes us all feel horribly helpless, when I look back I can see so many good stories and lessons she taught us even as she was dying. She never ceased to smile. She would respond in some way every time we came to her side. Her perseverance lives on in her four daughters, nine granddaughters, and five great granddaughters. What a group of women – nineteen of us counting her. One son, six grandsons, and ten great grandsons. A legacy any woman on earth would be proud of! These women and men are changing the world they live in. Even though mom seldom left the farm where she was born,  her legacy reaches far beyond its borders.

Grieving for her is a gift in a way. It allows us to mourn our loss. Some days it exists as a prisoner deep inside us. Others, we can’t stop it from pouring out of us like an angry dam that has burst -raging down the valley ahead – there is no stopping it. It goes where it wants to go and destroys at will anything and everything in its path – a total demolition.

It changes. Sometimes it is our friend as we are able to share precious memories with anyone who would listen. Other times, it is our enemy as it threatens to keep us prisoner in our grief.  One thing i know to be true:  it will always be a part of us. Always.

I think about the logs burning and them not having a choice, yet they produced heat to warm someone or to cook food. Desperately grasping for any positive outcome from mom’s story, I think I have decided that it provided us all with a gift we can now share with others. We can speak compassion to others who are suffering from loss and unbearable grief in ways we never could have before. It’s all that does make sense to me – about any of it. May God continue to give us all the ability to do that to His glory, sharing His love and His presence in all things.  

So today – thank you for listening to me.

And I am here to listen to you too.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

“Lord, please let us remember You know about suffering the loss of loved ones. You pursue us everyday in our lives because You want us in eternity forever – not lost – permanently separated from You. God, give me the strength I need to focus on the rest of this journey on this fragile earth. Don’t let this grief render me helpless, giving up and no longer a light in this dark world. Fill me with conversations of encouragement.  Fill me with Your hope of the future, remembering this is temporary – the sense of loss – the frustration and anger. Take those away and fill me with Your hope of a future together with You – all of us healed and made whole again. All the suffering of this life gone. We praise You, Lord, for a hope unlike anything this life can offer. Looking forward to the day this heart doesn’t hurt any more. Forgive us for our humanness where doubt and fear and pain and anger try so hard to distract us from Your love for us, Lord. Amen.”

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