I was weaving through the aisles of Target absent mindedly enjoying the yellows and browns of the fall décor. I love this time of year. As I rounded the corner I passed a grey-headed attractive lady and, as usual, my heart wilted a little because my Mom would never get the chance to grow old. But, in a wonderful mood changing moment, she offered me the sweetest smile. I hadn’t even smiled at her first, I was lost in my thoughts. But, as the corners of her aged mouth turned upward, the wrinkles around her eyes became more pronounced and I couldn’t help but grin right back at her.
It was lovely.
I’ve been thinking about my Mom a lot throughout October. She’s never far from my mind or my heart at any given time. But, this month stands out because it marks five years since she went to heaven.
So much has happened in those years; I couldn’t begin to name everything. Words fall short. What’s most audacious is that life actually went on. I mean, I really didn’t think it would. I thought everything would stop, especially living. But, that’s not what happened, instead a great divide formed…the before and after.
We speak in terms of “before Mom died” or “after Mom passed.”
Life will forevermore have a chasm.
In the years “after Mom passed,” I’ve learned so much about living though grief and hard times. Lessons I never wanted to learn but now wouldn’t trade for the world.
- you can have a shattered heart and still cheer for your high schooler who needs encouragement.
- you can cook supper when your mind is numb from pain.
- you can still see a good movie, even if you do cry through half of it.
- you can hide in a bathroom stall if you can’t control your emotions.
- you can laugh and cry at the same time.
- you can get up out of bed day after day even though you don’t really want to.
- you talk to yourself more than ever in an attempt to keep your sanity.
You keep on surviving.
Then you keep on living.
In that order.
After year one, you’ll have a relapse and fall into deeper grief.
Just when you think you might’ve turned a corner, you’ll sink deeper into the pain. You wonder if joy exists anymore. You also wonder how others can go on with life as though nothing has happened.
Year two comes and you finally begin to wrap your mind around the finality of loss.
You don’t find yourself picking up the phone to call them as often and you don’t wake up every day thinking it was all a bad dream.
By year three, your heart begins to thaw from the frozen state it was shocked into for survival.
And in the thawing comes a lot of remembering. Remembering things you’d forgotten or suppressed so you could function. With remembering comes more pain.
Year four is full of longing and sadness watching life continue knowing how much the one you loved and lost would want to be there.
Weddings, new babies, graduations etc. You set out their picture at each occasion as a reminder wishing there was a window from heaven.
Then there’s year five.
The milestone year.
Half a decade.
In year five I’ve begun to fully accept her absence. I’ve decided as long as I have breath I will miss her and long to talk to her; that will never change.
I walked into church this week with an open slightly broken heart and sat down about half way up the aisle. I seated myself on the end as I always do, and waited for the service to begin.
The music was uplifting and worshipful, then it was time for the message.
I pulled out my pink notebook to take notes. Yes, it’s pink, I’m sure that’s God’s favorite color too. As I began to write I noticed a theme…death to life. He spoke from I Corinthians 15 and I quickly realized the Lord was talking to me.
How tender is our Father to know what I needed right in that moment.
You see in I Corinthians 15 Paul answered the question about our resurrected bodies. He explained to the Corinthians that we MUST die in order to really LIVE.
“These earthly bodies cannot handle all God has prepared for us to experience,” said the speaker. He went on to tell us God has more art, more music, more beauty, more love, more life than our feeble human bodies can absorb.
Death is our passage to the greatest part of our lives. The eternal part. The part where we’ll never shed another tear or lose another soul. The part where blue skies are endless and the temperature is perfect. Well, I made that last part up, BUT blue skies and perfect temps sound like heaven to me. Can I get an amen?!
On this particular Sunday morning, listening to a theme I’d heard before, it resonated with my heart like brand new.
Maybe year five made me ready.
Maybe it took this many years of working diligently to find mental health in my grief.
To come to terms with the depth of my loss.
Whatever the case, for the first time I felt like dancing FOR my Mom. Dancing because she made it, she’s WHOLE and experiencing REAL LIFE like never before. Dancing because even in my sadness I can rejoice that SHE LIVES ON. I can rejoice that she ran the race, finished the course and is literally living her BEST LIFE EVER.
I wept tears of joy.
I’m so proud of her. So proud of the person she was, so proud she lived her days practicing what she believed.
I’m so proud she MADE IT.
She has her NEW heavenly body.
Let me tell you a little secret about my Mom, she loved to dance.
Now, being the Preacher’s Wife, and because she was “old school,” she would never be seen dancing in public. But, sometimes, every now and then, she would play a song from her teenage years and cut a rug in the living room. I remember when we three girls were little we would squeal with delight when she did. Sometimes we would jump up and join her and sometimes she and Daddy would dance and we would watch.
Sweet, innocent times.
So, with this in mind, I’ve declared this fifth year of missing Momma to be a year of dancing. Dancing because of her beautiful life. Dancing away my hurt. Dancing through the sorrow. Dancing to remember. Dancing in celebration. Dancing in my spirit. Dancing around the living room. And, maybe, occasionally, cutting a rug down the aisle in Target. Who cares about the security cameras, maybe it will make someone smile, or laugh, or both.
And, honestly, that would make Momma the happiest.
Because I have NO DOUBT she is dancing around heaven, living her BEST LIFE and glancing occasionally at the Pearly White Gates looking for us.
I’m so ready to see her again.
So ready to hug her tight and squeal with delight and dance our way into glory.