The Dark

Seven months after Daddy died, so did Mom.

Dad’s sickness then death was sudden but Mom had been ready for a while. Mom was tired of fighting for breath and she wanted to die. She wasn’t scared of dying, only of suffocating.

We surrounded her as she lay on her bed at home when she ran out of breath. And that’s what it was like. No gasping. No struggling. No fear. Her breathing slowed…..a gradual peaceful stilling of her chest……….then her breath was no more.

Mom was gone. Mom and Dad were gone.

We sat in the same room at the same funeral home with the same young funeral director as we had 7 months earlier and I thought about how nothing was how I thought it would be.

Nothing.

But I thought about it as if I was looking on, separated from all of it somehow. Everything was muted……..kind of dulled………what I heard, what I said, what I saw, what I felt.

In between the deaths of my parents my marriage took another hit. We had been struggling for a while. It was already so fragile and I was really scared this time. A real kind of scared.

Maybe that was the last time I’d felt anything full-strength. Maybe a part of my heart shut down. Maybe the Zoloft was doing what it was supposed to do.

As I sat there with my sisters around that table choosing the hymns to be played at Mom’s funeral service I remembered comments Mom and Dad made. Some of them to me. Some to others about me.image

Mom and Dad had noticed my fading. My distance. I wasn’t myself and they were worried. I told them over and over that I was fine. I think I thought I was fine. I think I thought everything would be fine. But they saw what I couldn’t see.

The thing about fading is that it happens slowly. So slowly you don’t feel it or see it. It goes unnoticed at first. Then the heaviness gets heavier. The darkness gets a little darker. And you get used to walking around in the dark.

And I kept doing what I knew to do. What I had to do. Because the world doesn’t stop when your marriage is crumbling or when your Dad gets sick and when you just need time to think about things and feel things and mourn things. The world doesn’t stop.

Then it was heavier and darker and I was tired. The kind of tired that goes into my bones. I woke up ready for each day to be over.

As we reviewed the order of the funeral service, the words of one of the hymns came to mind:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great thou art, How great thou art
Then sings my soul, My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

 

And I wanted my soul to sing again. I wanted to wonder again at all that God has made.

I’d not lost all hope. There was still some in there.

Because I knew……I know that abundant life is truly possible even in the darkest of places.

How great you are God, my Savior God to Thee, How great you are!

 

In response to the Daily Post’s Faded.

 

 

 

 

 

Gone 

I was exhausted after the funeral. We all were. But family and friends were bringing dinner to the homeplace for all of us. And far away friends were in town. I wanted to go home, sit alone in the dark, and cry. But I couldn’t. There were more people to visit with. Talk with. And the house needed to be cleaned after everyone left.

And Mom. We had to make sure Mom was alright. We had to take care of her now.

The months prior to Dad’s death were some of the most exhausting days of my life. My husband and I were going through what seemed to be a never ending rough season in our marriage. I’d just started a new job, while consulting at my previous one. Finding time for much needed one on one discussions was nearly impossible with our jobs, three kids, my sick parents, and other normal life happenings. So we didn’t.

Most of my days consisted of work, a long ride to the hospital after work to be with Dad, a longer ride home after the hospital, sometimes a quick stop to check on Mom, a call to one of my sisters to check what they knew from the doctors, and then it all gets blurry. At home in the evenings, I’m sure I did laundry, cooked sometimes, helped with homework, and all the other things I’m supposed to do. I don’t remember. I was barely getting through the days. I’d fall into bed but only sleep sporadically then do it all over again the next day.

I remember trying really hard to stay strong during that time. Zoloft helped me put on the good face some days. I was coping the best I could but on the verge of tears constantly. My heart was breaking over and over every day.

Because of the growing distance between me and my husband. Because my kids needed me a lot and I couldn’t be there. Because my parents, who were strong and capable and always there, needed me to be strong and capable and always there. Because all Dad wanted was to get well so he could keep caring for Mom but he was getting weaker and weaker. Because the new job I thought I always wanted wasn’t what I wanted.

Nothing was like it should be.

Then Dad was gone. And then you do the things you’re supposed to after someone dies. The phone calls and funeral arrangements. The telling of what happened over and over again because he was fine a few months ago. And then we had to figure out what to do next. Because Mom shouldn’t be by herself.

And Mom had good days and bad ones but the bad ones were coming more often. When she couldn’t breathe she wanted us there. All of us. By her side. Just there.

Everything hurt my heart.

I felt raw.

It hurt to be around people and the better I knew them….the more difficult it was.

I wanted to take pain pills. But I didn’t have any.

I wanted to get drunk every night. But I’m too responsible for thatimage. I stuck to one glass of wine a few days a week. Sometimes two glasses. Sometimes more than a few days a week.

And I kept trying to be strong but there was nothing left.

Dad was gone. But I was too.

Piles

Four weekends ago my sisters and I sorted through, looked at, and wondered at the amount of stuff in my parent’s home.

The kitchen cabinets held more than we could have imagined. And so did the hutch in the dining room. Mom collected pretty tea cups, candle holders, various colors of taper candles, vases, figurines and other unique glass items. My dad’s office held the pencils, pens and highlighters that sat on his drafting table. An assortment of matchbooks, business cards, rubber bands, old stamps, pocket knives, his ledgers, old to-do lists and all kinds of items filled the drawers of his desks.

The closets were full, too. Mom’s clothes were sorted by color. Dad’s for convenience. Her favorite blouse hung in hers, his old work shirt in his. Dad’s old puffy Alabama jacket that Mom hated hung in the foyer closet. The card tables and chairs we used on holidays leaned against the wall and the bucket of toys that all the grandkids played with were there.

There were stacks and stacks of books, old records, and photographs. Collections of CDs, and piles of tables cloths, blankets, and bed sheets. Dishes, cups, pots & pans. Silverware and cast iron skillets.IMG_2777

Old metal Folgers coffee cans filled with nuts and bolts and screws. Some with hinges, or wire, or batteries.

Piles and piles and stacks and boxes of stuff filled the house.

Our hearts are full of cherished memories, some painful ones too. But more than anything our hearts are piled high with love. Lots of love.

Because our parents loved us and did a good job. They weren’t perfect and didn’t parent perfectly……who does?  But they prayed for us and we always knew they were there for us. Always.

Now everything is boxed up……the house is almost empty.IMG_2846

But our hearts are forever full.

 

In response to the Daily Post’s Taper.

The Barn

This is a follow up to a photo I posted previously called Barn Door. I grew up there. Going in and out of that barn, up the stairs and into the loft with my sisters. We posed for Mom’s camera the same way my kids did for mine. But Daddy didn’t like us playing in the loft. He thought it was too dangerous.

This was not a typical barn. It wasn’t filled with horses or cows or any other animals except for the occasional stray cat that made its home there.

The barn housed all of Daddy’s tools. The chainsaw, drills, handsaws, the sling blade, hoes and rakes. His dad’s tools were there, too. In an old wooden tool box. Ladders and paint and his saw horses and old coffee cans filled to the brim with nuts and bolts and nails. Everything and anything he didn’t want in the house.

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Dad with my two oldest in the loft of the barn.

I followed him as he worked around the yard one Saturday afternoon but he stopped me before he opened the barn door.

“Do not come in the barn. There are wasps’ nests and I may stir them up. Stay outside.” Daddy said.

I waited a minute but I went in anyway. He didn’t realize I was right behind him when he moved an old fold-up bed out of his way. Within seconds, I had yellow jackets swarming around me. He picked me up and rushed me outside. He swiped several yellow jackets off my back and arms and carried me inside the house. I was stung seven times. I’m sure Daddy was angry with me but I don’t remember it. All I remember is him taking tobacco out of his cigarettes, balling it up, pressing it onto each sting, and covering my stings with bandages. It was supposed to take the pain of the sting away.

But nothing could take the sting of my embarrassment away. I was ashamed I hadn’t listened and sad I’d disappointed him.

From that day forward, I listened to Daddy because I knew he meant good for me. I listened. But I didn’t always obey. I wanted more than anything to please my parents but missed the mark a lot of times. I lied and sneaked out of the house. I smoked and drank and had guys over when I wasn’t supposed to. I went places I shouldn’t have gone and did things I shouldn’t have done. When I was caught my parents would sit us down and talk with us because there was usually an “us” when I got into trouble. Mostly the “us” was me and my little sister. Sometimes they talked angrily at us. Daddy raised his voice wondering why we would put ourselves in these foolish and sometimes dangerous predicaments. But even so, it was always done in love.

I never doubted that. Ever.

I realized pretty early into my troubled days that the fun of it wasn’t worth the hurt and disappointment I caused my parents. Because I loved them and I wanted to make them proud.

How did they do that?  How did they make me care about honoring them and making them proud?  I’m not sure.

But I remember the day I was stung by seven yellow jackets.

And I remember I could have avoided it if only I had listened to Daddy.

1-2 Listen, friends, to some fatherly advice;
    sit up and take notice so you’ll know how to live.
I’m giving you good counsel;
    don’t let it go in one ear and out the other.    Proverbs 4:1-2 (MSG)

Saturdays

Saturdays have a smell.  Two different ones.  Both can cause me to go back to when I was a little girl living with my parents and three sisters. 

On the best Saturdays, Mama would cook a hearty breakfast.  We had to wait for it though. Daddy was always awake first. The rest of us would join him one by one, sleepyheads stumbling to the living room to watch cartoons. And to wait on Mama. She was usually the last one out of bed because she loved to sleep in on Saturdays.

She always started the meat first. If anyone in the house was still asleep the smell of the bacon cooking would get them up. As the sausage and bacon slowly cooked on the stove she mixed the biscuit dough. Her homemade biscuits were everyone’s favorite. She scooped the White Lily self rising flour into her favorite glass bowl then cut the Crisco shortening in with her fingers. She poured some buttermilk and sweet milk into the bowl and barely mixed it. Mom laid a paper towel on the counter, sprinkled it with flour and kneaded the dough. But only five times. She told us that if you did it more than that the biscuits would be tough.  

Once the meat was done and the biscuits were almost ready to be pulled from the oven she cooked the eggs. She let us choose how we wanted our eggs – scrambled or fried. We set the plates, glasses and silverware out. Got the juice and butter and jelly out of the refrigerator. My favorite part of the entire meal was my last biscuit.  As soon as the biscuits came out of the oven, Mom had one of us butter some. I saved my buttered biscuit until the very end. On one half I dribbled honey and the other smeared with pear preserves.

The other part of the best Saturdays was good hard work. All day in the yard and around the house the six of us would work until it was finished. Mom stayed inside to clean the house mostly. My sisters and I helped with any kind of yard work. Laying sod, planting and weeding the garden, moving rocks, picking up sticks and pine cones. But it was the weekly yard work, the mowing and weed eating that we helped with the most.  It was a big yard and it took a lot of the Saturday to finish it. 

And when it was done……the feeling of looking out onto the freshly mowed yard was gratifying. Even for a little girl. The green smell of the cut grass. The soft feel of it on my bare feet. Knowing our work caused that beauty. 

On the best Saturdays I sighed with satisfaction and ran as fast as I could through the yard. 

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.   

Colossians 3:23 NLT

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”