Saturday, November 20, 2010

Things to Suck On (Thanks, Robbie)

I woke up a little more tired than I had been when I went to sleep. I think it was
resistance, a hesitation to face the day's terrible absoluteness. The spare bedroom seemed stark, colorless, lifeless in the cold November sunlight. My air mattress had deflated a little, but I stayed in bed until the ache in my shoulder forced me to get up. The morning moved slowly; every action seemed a pointless ritual I could not help but perform. And then we were at the church setting up displays, pinning flowers to lapels, arranging tables and chairs, straightening skirts, brushing tears from faces, praying so fervently for survival and understanding.

The last thing I expected my father to say, with his family gathered around him in our too-small house, was "Your mother passed away this morning." It couldn't have happened. I hadn't said goodbye. She was supposed to have died at home surrounded by loved ones, sprawled dramatically on her fainting couch. Last words. Shouldn't there have been last words? Shouldn't I have said goodbye? It couldn't be true.

Yet there I was in my brightest orange outfit (the one she had told me to wear to her funeral), my long hair cascading down my back, tears spilling down my face, staring at her body in a great white casket.

The stillness- the unbelievable stillness.

I expected her any minute to sit up suddenly, throw her single yellow rose in the air, and to laugh. To laugh and to make some snarky comment about the carnations. But she never stirred.

She didn't look peaceful. She didn't look serene or happy or any of the things they tell you dead people are. She looked like a waxwork sculpted by someone who had never known her, never seen the tenderness or the intelligence behind her eyes.

The casket closed.

The procession marched on.

We sat and listened to stories. We cried. We listened to music- songs she had picked herself- and we cried. They all watched us file out. We cried.

A lone piper on the horizon gave voice to the sadness I didn't know how to express.

The carnations on the unyielding metal box. Even Brandon cried.

Two years faded uneasily into obscurity. I stood with a single yellow rose at the granite marker with my name scrawled on the back. I cleared away the dead leaves. I placed the rose carefully in the built-in vase. And I felt the weight of it all. It tore a chasm in me, wrenched open a space between my collar bone and my hips, an abyss vast enough to accommodate every awful second of the last two years.

I don't know how I have lived without her. Worse still, I don't know how I have gone several days at a time without thinking about her.

I could no longer predict her answer to a question of paraphrase potential advice. I can't remember how she smelled. I have forgotten the precise warmth of her hugs. I feel like I have lost so much of her reality, like she was my mother in some distant, marvelous dream and I've awoken to the horror of my lonely life.

And now every day is another dreary funeral. I trudge along, weary, listless, saturated in grief, able to see but unable to enjoy the best parts of life.

Ann is my new therapist, and she hopes to change all that. She has already proven more effective than Jack. We meet on Thursdays. I believe that our meeting was an act of divine intervention. I have faith that Ann can turn things around. I can't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can sense it- that slight change in atmosphere which promises better things.

This is a letter she had me write to myself:

Dear Aubrey,

These last two years have presented challenges you never imagined you would face, and trials you could only hope to survive. The days seem long; the world isn't quite what it used to be. Sorrow and disappointment have become staples. Most days you can't find the strength to confront simple tasks, much less the emptiness of your broken heart. When that is the case, I hope you will read this and find a small piece of comfort.

Remember the love of your Savior. Look to Him. Think of those times He has granted you a glimpse of paradise, and know that the full realization is not far off. A Sunday evening at the end of Spring, Asher in your arms, singing silly songs with Kelsey. A glorious sunset of burnished orange and fiery red. A family together in the warm embrace of a winter evening by the fire. The serenity of a deep sleep after a long day of work. All of these moments are treasures from heaven.

Your life is tedious and painful now, but it will not always be. Heavenly father is waiting to bless you with a loving husband, beautiful children, and endless, endless time in which to enjoy them. Remember this and rejoice.

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