Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is
In the boredom and pain of it
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.
My soul has been demanding that I write. Oh, I’ve been ignoring it for a good while, choosing instead to regain what I felt I lost as I was finishing my Master’s degree: time in my garden, time to exercise, time to read, time to clean, time with my family, time experiencing the present. I did that this summer, truly attempting to rest in the present moments. And although my closet still needs cleaned out – oh my gosh, the clothing pile has morphed into a mountain. (I’m not kidding, I’m pretty sure I saw a snowcap on it the last time I dared go in there.); and although my main garden is still a jungle (I’m pretty sure I lost my youngest child in there for a few days in August.); and although I didn’t clean every window in my house, I am proud to say that I did a decent job of staying present and finding joy in the simple moments.
Yet still my soul demanded…
…because in my attempt to stay present and connect with what had been put “on hold,” I was also avoiding a fear – what if I can no longer write? What if I am just repeating the same story? The same words? The same old me? People read my blog; people like my blog. I want to inspire, feel, create, gift, speak truth…not disappoint. I don’t know exactly where this fear came from, but I do know that I will not let it steal my voice anymore.
My friend Gina introduced me to a song yesterday called, “The Verge,” by Owl City and through some gentle nudging by the Spirit, I recognized that this is how I’m feeling these days – on the verge: of crying, of creating, of singing, of laughing, of fear, of joy. It’s rare that we are on the mountaintop or in the valley; we are most often on the verge of either.
And so…on the verge of something, and with a humble spirit, I write.
The other day I was driving Syd to work. I’ve been taking a different route over to Kings Island, where my beautiful girl is a singing, dancing cartoon character with a giant head, who delights many a young towhead like she once was. On this day, I had my two youngest – Colt and Ian – along for the ride, and on the way home, I decided to stop by the cemetery where Kate is buried. I’d driven this way a few times, and Ian had even asked me recently if we could “visit Kate,” but I had put it off.
A moment after I had decided to go to the cemetery, I stopped at a traffic light and waited to turn right. Glancing over to my left, I noticed a young, blonde child strapped into a carseat in the back of the car next to me. As I made eye contact, the child – pacifier in mouth – smiled at me. My breath caught in my throat and a sharp pain lanced my chest. I had seen this smile before from my Kate, and it was often behind the beloved paci. As the light turned green, and the cars shifted forward, the child smiled even bigger at me, and then waved.
Tears came to my eyes as I felt myself longing to follow that car and that smile. And I remembered another time when maybe a few weeks or months after Kate died (time was painfully irrelevant after the death of my child) and I was in the local Walmart. I had been behind a mother carrying a child in a black and white coat very similar to one I’d had Kate in that previous fall. I willed myself to look away and continue my shopping. But as I turned down the cosmetics aisle (an aisle I very rarely frequent), I had an irrational urge to follow that child and see its face. I turned back around and sought out the duo, walking around with my cart in an almost panicked state of mind, but I never found them.
I remember berating myself for such stupid behavior, but looking back I was just so desperate for a piece of her, for the smell of her hair, for the dimples on her hands…for the smile behind the paci. Those are the sacred pieces of the puzzle for me. It’s not the soccer trophy my 8 year old holds, it’s the oh-my-gosh-when-will-this-kid’s-teeth-grow-in grin right above it. It’s not the diploma still in its well-protected cardboard envelope on a dusty desk in my bedroom; it’s the conversations with classmates and professors that expanded and renewed a mind ready to be challenged once again. It’s not a perfect, inspirational blog; it’s the writing about simple, hallowed moments of ordinary life, which I have recorded before, and which I will continue to share.
Life is about being on the verge. It’s two little boys’ attempt to understand who this sister was and why she died and why they want to come visit her in this odd place none of their other friends understand. It’s about my 6 year old asking me if I was ok, and my 8 year old saying, “I’m sorry that happened to you, Mommy.” They are always on the verge of redefining Kate’s life and death as they mature. And I am always on the verge of the same damn thing.
I’m teaching the story of Joseph to my freshmen. At the end of the story, Joseph tells his brothers who plotted to kill him and who sold him into slavery that they had planned all of it for evil, but God had used it for good, for in a crazy series of events, Joseph had become second in command of Egypt and had been able, then, to feed his family during the famine. Talk about forgiveness and grace and humility and REDEMPTION; this has become one of my favorite passages in the bible.
I know God has Kate. And I know God is still redeeming her death in ways that I don’t even understand yet. When I can’t hold her hand, THAT is the hope that I cling to. But, oh my goodness, am I thankful for that smile behind the paci. Because, you see, I’m always on the verge of seeing my girl once again.