Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten up this morning. Then again, the assault started before my feet even hit the floor. I was checking my FaceBook and I noticed that a girl who had been on summer mission with Arlynne had posted about a younger camper she had met. The camper died. It is a long story and it isn’t mine to tell. What it spoke to me, though, is that there is another family grieving the loss of a daughter. Another mourning mom. Someone I could relate to.
In the past, hearing a story like that would reduce me to tears. Not this morning. Not yet. I got into the shower and I prayed. I prayed for the family. For supernatural peace in a terrible situation. For the mom. I know the girl loved Jesus. She is with her Saviour. With my daughter. But I prayed all the same.
It is funny what the shower has become for me. It started a long time ago. When Josiah was little. We were having a hard time. Josiah was non-verbal. He was difficult. He didn’t sleep. He couldn’t focus. Life was not pretty. The shower was the only place where I could cry without interruption. The only safe place where I could pour my heart out. After losing Arlynne, something else started happening. My mind began to wander. Often unbidden. I have more flashbacks in the shower than anywhere else. Suddenly I can be so overcome with a memory that I can barely hold it together. And other times I can’t.
I got the twins to school after the other kids had caught their buses. Then I headed off for my morning. I decided a few weeks ago that I needed to branch out a little. My world had gotten a bit too small in the fall so I had decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone. There is a church very close to my house where they offer a ladies group on Tuesday mornings. I was hoping to connect to a mom and her mom from the school. They were also offering a class on crocheting and I decided I could use some real-life instruction after learning to crochet from YouTube. So 2 weeks ago I went over and registered.
I have to say that I didn’t feel really good about my decision when I first walked in to register. I was surrounded by an overabundance of white hair. Yes, I am sporting a lot more grey these days than I have in the past but I’m not talking about women my age. I am talking about women who are probably old enough to be my mother. I went home thinking that I was really stupid for signing up. I had felt that God wanted me to go. To extend myself a little. To grow. But how could I grow there?
Then I sensed that sometimes I have to do things that might not make sense to me at first. But they will in hindsight. I shared my experience with my friend and she told me how her mom had been nurtured by a group of older women when she first came to the church. Cocooned by them. They made a huge impact on her life. My friend suggested that these older women might be able to give me far more than I can imagine right now. Women my age are stuck on image. They are often less open. They want everyone but their closest friends to believe that they have it all together. I don’t think I’m like that. But maybe I am. Older women might have figured out a few more things than me. They might be less inhibited. More open. They have less to lose. Maybe I have something to learn from these women with far more life experience than me.
I arrived yesterday to see the beautiful face of a dear, dear woman I met this past summer. With a quick hug and the promise of a visit later, my morning started off really well. Then there was a friend from quite a few decades ago. Then I connected with someone I have seen almost every week for over year–the lovely barista at the coffee shop where my friend and I meet every week.
I have a friend who grew up in Germany. She has lived in our region for over 10 years but she is always amazed at the “small-ness” of this area. We all seem to know everyone. Having grown up here and attending a few different churches, it is pretty easy to know a lot of people. My mom friend from school said “and you were afraid you wouldn’t know anyone”. I should have known. I just didn’t think about it.
I sat at the table, crocheting and chatting about head lice (I am a mom of 6 whose children go to public school–it happens!) and yarn and connection. It was really good. We had a snack and a chat and then headed over to the sanctuary for a devotional. I didn’t know what it entailed but I wasn’t worried. Sitting between my school mom friend and her mom I was stuck but it was okay. Until the hostess got up and introduced the speaker for the morning. As soon as I heard her name, I knew I was in trouble. It was another grieving mom. And she was speaking on the faithfulness of God.
As a grieving mom, there is comfort in hearing how another mom walked the same path. It is natural. We are drawn to people who can empathize with us. Sympathy will only go so far. We want someone who has walked in our shoes. I knew that this beautiful woman of God was placed in the right place at the right time just as much as I knew I was. I needed to hear the story again. And she showed God’s faithfulness. Her trust in a surreal situation. Her faith that her daughter is with her Saviour. She had prayed that if her daughter was going to have a short life that at least she would have found a relationship with her Heavenly Father. That is all we can pray for. And she had. Praise God. But the reality of losing someone, even when you know she is safer and better than she has ever been, is that there is a huge void. A vacuum. A large gapping hole where she belongs that now stands empty. Her reality. My reality.
My Kleenexes were in my coat pocket in the hall. I didn’t need them too much. After her presentation, I re-introduced myself to the speaker. We had met before. And we spoke of Arlynne and “anniversaries” (her daughter will have died 10 years ago in the next few weeks). We talked about the shower phenomenon. I thanked her for being so brave. For sharing her heart. We hugged. And I left to walk home.
Since New Years I have really been trying to eat “clean”. Watch what I put in my mouth. And hopefully lose some pounds along the way. I left the church wanting to eat something as unhealthy as it comes. It was emotional. Through and through. I resisted. Then Arlynne’s best friend came in. Carrying Arlynne’s grade 8 grad dress. The dress she had picked out and paid for all by herself. Her best friend wore it for her high school grad. It seemed appropriate. It still had the ribbon pinned on it that a lot of the grads wore that night. In memory of Arlynne. Eden was going to wear her sister’s dress for her grade 8 grad this spring. I was undone. I didn’t cry. But I felt knocked down, once again, onto my face. Again.
I believe that God was trying to show me something through this terrible day. I had thought I was doing well. My kids are looked after and seem pretty well adjusted. I have groceries in the fridge. The level of filth in my home is alright. Not as good as it could be. But alright. I even had said it recently. Twice, in fact. Then today happened and I realized what I had done. I had put Arlynne and grief in a box and placed it on the highest shelf of my closet. I could see it there but I didn’t need it around me. Today, the shelf broke and the box tumbled down on top of me. Bringing this melancholy along with it. And that is harder to shake than the grief. It doesn’t bring tears for me. It brings an overwhelming need to feed my body anything that will dull this pain. It isn’t pretty. And I’m sorry to say it. But it is real. And it is here. At least for a time.
As you may know, if you have read my blog before, I love my Bible and I love being in Bible study. Right now, my good friend and I are doing a study called “Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed”. It is a study on David by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Kay Arthur. Pete also bought me a devotion book for Christmas by Beth Moore and I have been placed right into the middle of the story of David. I have been learning that David was a man after God’s own heart but he was also anointed by God. Chosen. Selected. And so have I. God has chosen me just as surely as He has chosen everyone else who can say “Jesus is Lord”. And He is equipping me. Just like He equipped David.
The path I have been chosen to walk is not easy. But few people have an easy road. Everything God has called me to do, though, He will help me with. The only danger is the time when I arrogantly think that I have it. Like today. Then God gently reminds me that I am weak. That I am just dust. But He loves me all the same. And He is there. And anything He asks me to do He will help me with. Even walking this path when my daughter walks the streets of gold, close to her Jesus.
I will join her one day. The stresses of this life will hardly be a thought when faced with the magnitude and wonder and love that will fill Heaven. Beth Moore said in a study I watched that there are no tears in Heaven but she hopes that Jesus will remember that she is a woman and will allow her one last good cry. I believe it is a cry of gratitude. A cry of relief. When my faith will become sight. When I will finally be able to see all that this world did to bring me closer to my Jesus. And, like the old hymn of my childhood says, “that will be glory, be glory for me” (Charles H. Gabriel, pub. 1900).