I Miss Loving You, December.

There seems to be a force field around me, like I’ve been visited by Violet in The Incredibles. Nothing can penetrate me. Nothing can get close enough for me to feel it. It’s good and bad.

“Christmas is in two weeks. I feel nothing.”

“Well, I’d say that’s an improvement.”

Three Christmases later, I am not on the floor, crying. I don’t feel sad. Because I feel nothing. I can function. I’m not paralyzed into a catatonic state because of Christmas carols playing throughout Target.  But I can’t feel joy, either. All the music, lights, happiness – I lean into it, and I feel nothing.

Christmas seems to be happening around me.

But I’m not running from it. So I’d say this is an improvement.

December, I miss loving you.

* * *

“December, the diamond-frosted clasp

linking twelve jeweled months to yet another year.”

~ Phyllis Nicholson

The Fact Is: I am Okay.

There are times when I find my heart in someone else’s words.  When that’s the case, I don’t try to say it myself, because I just couldn’t say it better.

Meet: Brad.

Brad’s story and mine are nearly direct parallels: he lost his beautiful wife in October 2010, just weeks before I would encounter the same unbelievable heartache.  He is a single dad of two, chasing the same truths I am, fighting the same defeating lies I am.

He wrote to me shortly after Robb died, just to say, “You don’t know me, but our stories match.  And you won’t believe me, but you will survive this.  I’m two months ahead of you, and I’m still breathing.”

As I’m approaching three years on my own, Brad just passed this milestone as well. He wrote this piece, and his words are my own.  So I’m borrowing his.

(Thanks, B.)

***

I never wanted this feeling to come. I knew it would happen, but I wanted to believe it wouldn’t. Even though it doesn’t feel wrong, it sure sounds wrong. And even though I know it’s good, I want everyone to tell me it’s bad.

The fact is… I’m okay.  I’m okay that it’s been 3 years since Stephanie died.
I’m okay that I have hated so many moments since then.
I’m okay on this day — an anniversary of the most awful kind.
As I think about the future, I’m okay.
When I think about the past, I’m okay.
I’ve been through the fire, but God didn’t let me burn, and the scars are just a reminder that He heals all wounds.

But there’s a part of me that still wants it to hurt. There’s a part of me that wants to live with an open wound that gets poked and scraped in unbearable ways. It helps me to know that I haven’t forgotten her. It also makes me depend on God constantly. And frankly, it gives me something to complain about. In fact, it makes for a pretty good trump card when others are complaining about their own lives. (I can’t deny the fact that I’ve done it.)

People warned me this day would come. (Or, as they saw it, they were encouraging me that this day would come.) As I said back then, I had a love-hate relationship with time. I loved that it brought me closer to healing, but hated that it took me further from Stephanie. And even then, I could feel the healing brought by every moment that came and went.

I don’t want to be okay. But I’m glad that I am. And I doubt the day will ever come when that makes sense, let alone that I’ll be able to explain it to anyone.
So please forgive me if I’m not sure how to answer when you ask me how I’m doing. I still want to say, “This sucks! I hate it!” and burst into uncontrollable sobs. And there’s a part of my heart that will always feel that way and do exactly that. But don’t be too surprised that I can genuinely say, “I’m doing quite well, actually.”

It’s not a lie. It’s just an answer that seems brand new to me.

Pillow Talk

I love a cold house. Like, ridiculously so. My bedroom at night is downright cold. (You can blame a certain Robb Williford for this. I had no choice but to adapt my body temperature to his arctic preferences.)

But the furnace stopped working yesterday, and the temp in the house was dropping dangerously close to my age. I’m a tough girl, but this I can’t handle. So we loaded up and came to my parents’ house, which meant three things: 1) Tuck could watch Broncos with his favorite comrade, Grandma, 2) Favorite cereals for everyone, 3) Waking up to my dad’s coffee.

It also meant that Tuck and I would be bunkmates. I came to bed after he had fallen asleep, because I’m an adult like that. I nudged him to move over and make room for me. He looked at me with narrow, sleepy eyes and pillow creases across his cheek. “Um, no, Mommy. I’m going to sleep on this side. Sorry about that.”

I forgive you. And I’ll sleep on the far side.

“Mommy, can I have that fuzzy blanket you brought up?”

“No, because you get to sleep on that side.”

He rolled over to face me, now fully awake. He looked at the book in my hands, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen. (Love. Her.)

“Mommy, what does that say across the top? Number One… New… York… Tim’s… Boat Stealer.”

“Close.  Actually, it says #1 New York Times Bestseller. The New York Times is a newspaper, and they keep track of the books people love most. That means this is a book that America loves.”

He traced the letters. I said, “That’s one of my dreams, Tuck. I would love for one of my books to say that on the cover.”

He held the book out to me, “Well, look! You already have a book that says that!”

“No, I mean I book that I write. I hope someday one of the books I have written will be a New York Times Bestseller.”

“Ohhhhh…” A look of recognition. Aha. So it’s not just about collecting NYTBS, although there is great merit in that.

He opened my book, naturally filled with doodles and notes, circles and scalloped underlines. He said, almost out of the side of his mouth like he was speaking a secret we keep together, “Mommy, I told my teacher about this. I told her that you write in books.”

“Oh, did you?”

“Yes. I told her I think you underline the very best sentences, and probably also any words you don’t know.” The second grade version of ‘interacting with the text.’

I smiled. “Yep. That’s pretty much how it goes, buddy. Do you ever write in books?”

My rule-follower looked at me wide-eyed. “No. I definitely do not.”

I situated my pillow under my head as he found my bookmark, a 3×5 card with one of my favorite quotes scripted in my handwriting. He asked me to read it to him.

“It says, ‘Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearls. It takes so much time and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies,’ and it’s written by Shauna Niequist, one of my favorite authors.”

He rolled onto his back and said, “A million moments.”

I think this is one of them.

Mourning and Rejoicing

Sorrow never entirely leaves the soul
of those who have suffered a severe loss. . . .
but this depth of sorrow is the sign of a healthy soul,
not a sick soul.
It does not have to be morbid or fatalistic.
It is not something to escape but something to embrace.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Sorrow indicates that people who have suffered loss are living authentically
in a world of misery, and it expresses the emotional anguish
of people who feel pain for themselves or for others.
Sorrow is noble and gracious.
It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of
mourning and rejoicing simultaneously,
of feeling the world’s pain and hoping for the world’s healing at the same time.
However painful, sorrow is good for the soul.

 

Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised