Friday, July 17, 2009

Life After Death

A hot breeze blows in the shade under the maple tree where I sand away the stain and varnish from Stuart's boyhood bed. Bits blow and stick and soon I'm covered with reddish dust. It's a good day for dust. I work and listen for the sound of Stuart's tires in the driveway. Dread hearing tires. Dread where they will take me in an hour.

Charlie chatters while I sand. His words come dimly. "How old is this bed, Mama?"

I push away black cloud. "It's old, Charlie. It was your papa's bed when he was a boy."

"How old is your car?"

"Old as far as cars go. About as old as Lauren." I sand until tires crunch gravel and then I put the bed back in the garage and rinse off dust and switch shorts for dress. The tires carry us away.

And too soon I stand in front of the husk of a girl. Young, not old. Younger than our car. A smidge younger than Lauren. A beautiful, beautiful girl... in spirit and in body. I hold her Mama hard and the tears come, hers and mine. "I'm so sorry. We're praying courage... grace..." Watery, weak words. A poor substitute for a daughter lying cold in a box.

Hair brushed back, full lips, fingers wrapped still around a blue blanket. Still. I look for her chest to rise, her heart to beat. It seems that time should stop, people become statues. Instead we live. In our few minutes with broken-hearted parents we make introductions, shake hands, cry, laugh, breath. Live.

Later we lie restless in the dark. "Are you asleep?" Stuart asks. "It doesn't seem fair, does it for parents to lose a child."

I'm quiet for a bit, thinking how to compress emotion into words. "That's not a safe question because it leads us away from the sovereignty of God. She's whole and safe and well. How can that not be good? I'm so, so sad for the empty place in her family. I'm sad for her parents, her brothers, but I cannot be sad for Abby." We toss a long time before we sleep and tears soak the pillow for a mother with empty arms and empty hours.

I grieve but to look death in the face is instructive. To see death teaches that there is a time to die. To see death teaches one to number the finite minutes and to learn to live those appointed days with wisdom. Like Abby.


Artwork and words from the back of Abby's funeral program. A recent creation from Abby's own hand.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Come. I've moved aside some selfishness to make a bit of room for You, here in my heart.

Come. Join us at the breakfast table. When I remember You, we'll crack open your Word and search for treasure. When I remember.

I remember until a fork clatters to a stop in front of me and then I forget. YOU DO NOT THROW SILVERWARE! SET THIS TABLE LIKE A LADY! I toss the fork back and it hits a water glass, and water and ice cubes spill out.

The silverware tosser bursts into tears and loud cries, and I hear the words of my heart voice, Your voice, "That's not My way." And it's not. I dry tears and mop water and fill the glass again.

Come, heart dweller. Sit with me on the sofa. Feel the press of a warm, wiggly little boy body. Listen to the story sounds and the giggles and the "Read Move Over Rover again, Mama."

Hear the interruption, "I can't find my spelling book."

And my irritation, "I am tired of looking for your school books! When you are done you need to put them away! I am not your maid!" Hear my voice soften. "I'm sorry, we'll look for the book together."

Come. Come into the bedroom in the late afternoon. Feel the thrashing little boy body . Feel the little heels kicking. Hear the screaming. "I'M NOT TIRED! I...DON'T... NEED...UH...NAP!" See me raise my hand to spank and then set it down gently on chubby legs and stroke and hum instead. Until a book hits me in the face, and then see my hand rise and flash down on a chubby bottom. See big fingers hold little ones until the crying subsides and eyelids close.

How can this be, this waffling that makes up my days?

You live in the recesses of my heart and speak softly, in whispers. Impossible whispers. Forgive seventy times seven. Covet not. Be joyful always. Love your neighbor as yourself. Come. You don't really expect me to obey these impossibilities. Do you?

Impossible, you say. This temper keeping, this love giving, this joyful living. That's why I'm here, for I am the author and overcomer of impossibilities.

And this is why "Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing yet had been done."~ C.S. Lewis ~

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