The words almost slipped out, but I managed to bite them back just in time. Dad and I were ambling up the driveway to the street where my brother's car sat idling. Son #2 had his hand on Dad's back just in case. We joked about his getting his aerobics for the day as he climbed the hill to the street.
When he left the hospital without her 16 months ago, his steps faltered and have never been the same. Now we have to be prepared for him to topple over one way or the other. I learned my lesson after he took a tumble out of our back door and did what the hip young kids call 'a face plant'. If I hadn't already had PTSD before that, I'd have it now for sure. His bones were unscathed; my heart was broken.
The December air was soft and sweet without a hint of the frigid stuff rumored to be headed this way. It was a perfect winter day. If only this was as bad as it will get. “Now that the leaves are all mostly off the trees, it's time for me to rake. I should be raking today to get ahead of the cold air coming.” And then, I almost said, “I'm so glad it's not 2 years ago....”
My life didn't flash before my eyes. Her's did, and in that instant between thought and word, I was saved. 2 years ago, I couldn't rake leaves. So, I was on the cusp of sighing a deep sigh of relief that this year I could again indulge in my favorite hobby. Raking leaves. If you know me, you can testify. There's not one thing I like about fall and winter except for raking leaves. It's a sickness, but I try to pretend it's not.
I groaned inwardly knowing how close I had come to rubbing salt in his wounds. 2 years ago, I was dependent on the kindness of friends and family, but she was still here. That's how life is now. I'm often caught in that kind of conundrum. Life moves on and has taken us along without her. My relief and joy over a simple thing like raking leaves is tempered by the recurring, sudden realization that one is not as sweet without the other. She's gone. She's not coming back.
|Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative|
Before the end came, the efforts to save her took her voice away. I know the last spoken words between us were about food because I was feeding her the last meal she would eat. She ate it 2 months before she died. You never really know how precious words are until they're gone. You never know when the words will stop. None the less, not one of us goes a day without taking them for granted. We do so with abandon and are brazen enough to spurn them if we think the situation calls for it. Ignorance is bliss until silence deafens.
I had known the end was coming and had measured time by holidays. She was like her mom. Stubborn. She lasted one more year and gave me time to cook on my own 2 feet again. I'm not one for saving stuff. You learn to live lean and mean when you grow up in the preacher's house when it belongs to the church and not the resident pastor. I knew, however, that the Christmas card of 2009 was a keepsake.
|Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative|
I found it this week. In truth, I thought I had gathered it up and swept it away with the other flotsam and jetsam of life. I wouldn't let myself think about it too much to keep self-reproach at bay. And grief. I opened it wondering who it was from. My knees deposited me unceremoniously into the chair behind me as the grief sucked the wind out of my lungs.
Her handwriting had once been the stuff of a caligrapher's pen. The childish scrawl it had become revealed the coming storm. Her body was making its way to her appointed end. She was on her way to meet the good God in whom her trust had never wavered. Her painstaking effort included all the words of Philippians 4:6-7 and ended with:
“May the breaking season be over – breaking of bones, spirits, dreams...the whole 9 yards.”
She is gone. Her prayers remain. Her older grandson combs thru her notebooks full of journals and treasures the scraps of paper with jotted notes he found pressed between the pages of her Bible. She is gone. Her legacy remains.
When the winds of time have carried you away like winter leaves in a storm, what legacy will live on?
Psalm 56:8 (New Living Translation)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
Malachi 3:16 (NIV)
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.