Like most of us I am enjoying the change from cold and wet to warm and sunny.
Spring breezes and spring sunshine usher in fresh beauty and speak hope to a heart. It reminds me that the earth will not always be locked in darkness nor be a frozen wasteland.
But spring isn’t all sunshine and flowers for me.
It’s death and dying and tears and heart wrenching reminders that no matter how hard we try to hold onto life in THIS life, we can’t.
Right now I’m holding my dying cat. He’s been a faithful companion for thirteen years.
I’ve had many, many wonderful animals in my life but none have come close to being the constant shadow and empathetic friend that Roosevelt is. His warm body snuggled into my arms like an infant every morning has been a touchstone that kept me from floating away in grief’s inviting fog.
I will miss him.
Death is awful.
I do not equate Roosevelt’s death with Dominic’s. There isn’t a scale conceivable that would measure the distance between the two.
But one of the things I’m learning in this Valley is that every death taps the same wound. Every death hurts my heart.Every deathreminds me that this life is not as it ought to be, not as God intended it to be when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden.
And every death reminds me that Christ came, Christ suffered,Christ conquered precisely BECAUSE death. is. awful.
Resurrection is coming.
But it is not yet.
So I wait.
Clinging to the promises.
**My faithful companion died in my arms- peacefully and without pain. ***
I have no idea how it happened but my “get up and go” has gotten up and left.
For the first time since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I’m utterly incapable of talking myself out of the doldrums.
I’m not especially sad or anxious, just worn out and uninterested in making progress down my “to do” list.
There are so, so many chores that are best done during these too-brief perfect spring days and I’ve barely managed two. I’m usually rushing from daylight to dark taking advantage of cooler temperatures and comfortable breezes. By now (in a typical year) the porches would be clean, the yard tidied up, some fences mended and windows washed.
Not this year.
Each morning I begin afresh, promising to do better, to make more progress, to finish up the random bits of long-overdue projects and by noon I’m done. Back in the same funk that’s pursued me for over a month.
I understood it better when we were covered up by clouds, drenched in rain and shivering in the cold.
But I can’t figure out why sunshine and flowers, birdsong and breeze hasn’t made a difference and given me an infusion of enthusiasm.
I’ve tried all the usual remedies-eating right, exercise, checking my meds and supplements-but they aren’t effective.
Maybe the struggle against a natural downward trend is what keeps me from truly resting and bouncing back.
I might just give in for a few days and see if that works.
Not at all like the winter in 2014 which was punctuated by several deep freeze days and one giant “Snowmeggedon” that resulted in hundreds of people trapped in cars, at work or in schools.
But there are other things that strike a chord in my heart and make me feel like I’m reliving that January through April.
Lots of rain-both here and at my parents’ place in Florida. A few days before Dominic left us, I sent him a photo of his younger brother nearly knee deep in creek water that had spilled from the banks into a nearby field. He couldn’t believe it! I still have the texts.
As for my parents’ home-well the rain has already filled the ponds which have risen across some spots in the dirt road that connects them to everywhere. In 2014, the water got so high they were forced to evacuate for months as travel became nearly impossible except for lifted trucks or tractors. It probably won’t reach that state again since dirt has been added to the road bed but it’s coming awful close and that taps memories and feelings in ways it’s hard to explain.
The year Dominic left us was going to be a year full of celebrations, culminations and hearty parties. Julian was graduating with a Business Management degree, James Michael was wrapping up Veterinary School, Dominic would have survived the first two years of Law School with relatively easy classes left, Fiona was advancing in her Masters of Public Health Degree and James Michael and Lillie were getting married.
We thought all we’d need to “survive” that year was a cold winter and wet spring.
We were wrong.
This year is another year of celebration: Fiona is marrying Brandon. James Michael is coming home from deployment and will welcome, along with Lillie, his first child. My husband will retire.
And all the preparation, along with the rain, is making me anxious.
I wish it didn’t.
Something about the timing, the temperature, the smell of green grass growing and leaves unfurling just overwhelms my heart.
I’m so much better at planning now than I was just a year ago. I can think more clearly, work more consistently, stay on track and make progress much better than those first years after Dominic ran ahead.
I have notebooks stacked on my table, decorations stacked in the room that used to be Dom’s. Plastic bins full of tidbits we’ll use for the wedding and bridal showers. My dress is sleeved in plastic and hung on the door for safe keeping.
I’m as ready as I can be.
But once you’ve made big plans and had them shattered in an instant, once you’ve looked far forward to exciting times and had dancing turned to mourning, once you’ve done all the right things to make everything right and it’s gone all wrong-well, you just can’t shake the feeling that it might happen again.
I’m working hard to throw off the mantle of hesitation and anxiety that threatens to weigh me down.
I’m doing everythingI can to remind my heart that this is an entirely different year, these are completely different celebrations.
Some days I am really good at it.
Others, not so much.
But I AM looking forward to all the beautiful things on my calendar.
Trigger warning: I discuss my loss in terms of falling. If you have lost a loved one to that kind of accident, you might want to skip this post. ❤
I really don’t know how to explain it to anyone who has not had to repeatedly face their greatest fear.
It takes exactly as much courage.
Every. Single. Time.
I have had a dozen major surgeries in my life. I am always just as anxious when they start the countdown to anesthesia. Doesn’t matter what they push in my IV line-that moment when I realize I am relinquishing all control to the hands of others frightens me.
I feel like I am falling over the edge of a cliff-nothing to hold onto, no way to stop what’s coming, no way to clamber back up and change my mind or change what’s about to happen.
It’s the same every spring since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.
From the middle of March to the middle of April my body responds to cues my mind barely registers. Sights, smells, change in the length of the day, the direction of the prevailing wind-a hundred tiny stimuli make my nerves fire in chorus declaring, “It’s almost THAT day!”
There is another underlying dissonance that begs the question, “Why didn’t you see it coming?” Or, at least, “Why didn’t you spend a little more time with him on those last two visits home?”
Dominic was busy that spring-an internship with a local judge, papers and responsibilities as a journal editor along with the demanding reading load of second year Law School meant he didn’t make the 30 miles home all that often.
But there were a couple days he came our way in the month before he died.
One was to bring a friend’s car and do a bunch of work on it. That day was chilly and I popped out a few times to chit chat as they labored under the shed in the yard. I made lunch and visited with them then.
Still, I kind of felt like I shouldn’t hover over my grown son even though I really missed him and wanted badly to talk to him about something other than car parts.
The jacket he wore and dirtied that day with oil and grease and dirt and gravel grit is still hanging in what we use as a mud room.
Because they were coming back to do more repairs in a few weeks.
It is only now finally free of the last scent of him.
The next visit was on a day when I was busy, he was busy and we were all frustrated over equipment that wasn’t working properly. He brought me some medicine from the vet in town for a sick horse and spoke briefly about whether or not we’d cut some fallen limbs in a bit. Then he went to help his brother try to get the backhoe cranked. I was suffering from a severe flare in my ankle so was only able to hobble out to the spot the stupid thing had stopped for just a minute before needing to hobble back inside to put my foot up and allow it to rest.
He left early because I wasn’t up to cutting logs and neither he nor his brother could crank the infernal machine.
I remember that before he left, I made a point of turning him to face me and hugging him tight while telling him how very proud I was of him and everything he was doing and becoming. A little unusual because Dominic was the least huggable of all my children. He was no cuddler.
It was not a premonition-I was prompted by the knowledge he was going into finals and had been stressed lately.
But I am so glad I did it.
And then-poof!-time flies like time does and he and his brother were off on a Spring Break trip. They texted me faithfully to let me know they made it safely to their destination, safely to my parents’ home in Florida for a few days after that and then safely back home.
I never saw him alive again.
Spring is not my favorite season anymore.
While my heart can appreciate the promise of new life declared in every budding flower, every unfurling leaf, every newborn bird and calf and lamb, it is also aware that every living thing dies.
I’m on the edge and falling off.
I can’t stop it.
And it’s just as frightening this time as last time.
I spend a lot of time outdoors and love to notice the small details that announce the changing seasons.
Just a week ago I began to see tiny purple flowers peeking through the winter brown and heralding Spring’s return. Yesterday I found the first shy violets lifting their heads and today green has spread across the pastures overnight until it fills more space than the drab gray patches left over from last year’s bounty.
It is a good thing that the earth still turns and the seasons still roll. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promise:
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22 NIV
New flowers, new life, longer days, brighter sunshine are gifts.
But they are also a reminder that another season has passed, another calendar page has been torn off, another year has rolled by without the companionship of the child I love.
One of the things I am learning in this grief journey is that pain and joy, gladness and sorrow, hope and regret will forever be mixed in the marrow of my bones. Every smile will carry with it a tinge of sadness. Every new memory made will conjure up an old one undone.
And this is a gift as well.
Contrast sharpens the edges of everything. And death makes life more precious.
Now that I know, by experience, breath is fleeting and that no matter how carefully I plan, the future is not in my hands, I am free to live and love and inhale the fragrance of this one sacred moment because there just might not be another.
And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”
I wrote and first posted this last fall, when we ended Daylight Savings Time. It struck me then, and strikes me now, that we continue to think that time is in our hands. We break days into hours and hours into minutes like they belong to us.
But no one knows the number of our days except God.
“Every spring and every fall we dutifully make the rounds to our clocks and digital devices, putting them first forward an hour and then back in an attempt to make the days “longer”.
As if time was in our hands.
The sun rises and sets according to the Creator’s schedule, we can neither speed the world’s turning, nor slow it down.
We can only choose whether to be present in the moments He grants us.”