Tears & Loss & Peace

I've cried a lot the last nine days. First, I learned that the sweet girl that was my niece by marriage for a few years had passed away. Her mom, my once sister-in-law and still friend, had lost her oldest daughter. She was only thirty-six but had been suffering from the results of a terrible injury for more than a decade. My sweet nephews had lost their half-sister and the world had lost a lovely young woman who we will miss.  Today was her funeral and my heart ached for her family, her fiance, and all of us who will miss her.

Four years ago, Savannah took her guitar to the Charleston, an assisted living facility not far from our home. She asked for the names of a few residents who might enjoy a couple of songs and a visit. That day she met William "Bud" Shelton, and a sweet friendship was formed. She visited him dozens of times over the last four years and some of those I was able to tag along. He requested songs (shelearned a Johnny Cash song for him), they talked about their lives (mostly his past and her future), they shared their world travels (his in the military and with his wife, hers last year with her siblings) they laughed together and cried together. When he said he'd really had a hankering for mincemeat pie, we made one for him. When Savannah told him she was going on a mission, he hobbled over to his wallet and pulled out a 50 dollar bill to help her out. A visit never passed without him talking about his sweet wife, Bessie, and what a good team they had been. He missed her so much. Every visit ended with us singing "How Great Thou Art" at his request while he mouthed the words and wiped away tears. This picture was taken the day Savannah left on her mission. He asked me to stop in every so often and let him know how Savannah was doing. Bruce and I saw him in March and he again expressed his love and appreciation for Savannah. He said, "that girl sure has brightened up this last four years. Be sure to tell her I love and miss her." Today when I went to visit Bud, I discovered he was reunited with his sweetheart on March 28, and although I'm thrilled that he's with his wife, my heart hurts for the sorrow Savannah will feel. Im so glad I was blessed to watch their sweet friendship. We will miss him.

This month also marks the anniversary of my brother's death. Even after thirty-two years, I still think of him with an ache in my heart. He was only sixteen years old and there were so many things he didn't get to do, so many people he didn't get to meet. When I was young I thought I wouldn't be able to survive if something happened to one of my brothers or sisters. I wouldn't be able to go on. Somehow the ache and the gaping hole that Bruce's death left in our lives healed over, even though it left a tender spot that sometimes still hurts.

This life is so hard. Bud missed his wife for years and now we begin the missing him. We've missed Bruce for years. Meagan will be missed for years. How do we move on when pieces of us are cut away and laughter and hugs and conversations are gone? I honestly don't know how people cope with these kinds of losses without the hope of an eventual reunion. 

This is what gives me hope. This is the reason that even though there are tears and loss and heart-crushing pain at the loss of those we love, I look forward to seeing them again. I look forward to hugging Meagan again. I look forward to introducing Bruce to my husband and children. And I look forward to singing with Bud again and meeting his wife. I could not be more grateful for my Savior and all He made possible for me and those I love. He really is the source of peace.

I Need to Write! A Convoluted Missionary Mom Post

I guess there's no better way to burst back on my blog scene than with a random post. My heart is so full this morning and I feel a need to write. I could write on my work in progress--a romance--but I feel too distracted and my thoughts and emotions are all over the place.

Savannah left last night. It doesn't get easier, no matter how many you've sent out. My mom, who sent out nine, can attest to that. Savannah flew out last night at 11:59. Right now she's in the air somewhere between New York and the Dominican Republic. When I got home late last night, I found the sweetest letter and two printed pictures of us together. I'd thought I was about cried out, but not quite. Yesterday, her last day home, she took her guitar and went to sing for her 98-year-old friend, Bud. He cried during every song and thanked her for making this last four years a little happier. I asked her if she wanted a treat or something before she left and she requested roasted potatoes, so we made a big pan of roasted potatoes and sausages for her last meal at home. In the family room is the shoe box for the shoes that arrived in the mail just hours before she left. On the table is the Ticket to Ride game we played yesterday afternoon. She won. This morning I walked past her room--she left it clean--and saw her made bed and her plants and her crafting table. It'll be a long time before I hear her in there drilling glass or walk by and shake my head at her messiness. I miss her so much and I have to remind myself what I learned when we sent Bruce and Veronica on their missions--this time between them leaving and the day the letters start coming is torture. But when the letters start coming, it gets better. I can make it. I've done it before. I think I can. I think I can...

Of course her dad and brothers miss her, but man, the last couple of days my girls have been killing me. After she was set apart on Monday (a special blessing that officially means she's a missionary) I walked into the girls' bedroom and found them sitting on the bed holding hands and sobbing. Last night Veronica cried all the way home. I remember when Veronica left. Savannah was lost without her sister. I'm so sad for the heartache and homesickness for each other they feel, but so, so grateful they're such good friends and love each other so much that they feel this way. I absolutely hated dropping Veronica off at her college house last night. I just wanted to take her home with me.

Bruce is waiting to hear from the grad schools he's applied to. I'm excited to know where he'll go, but none of them are close and holy cow! Another goodbye. At least we'll have phone calls and texts so I can know his news in almost real time. But sometimes it all feels like too much. To much emptiness. Too much homesickness. To many goodbyes.

This whole kids growing up thing is for the birds. I know it's a cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true. It all goes by so fast. I remember thinking that being a mom of babies and toddlers is hard, but I'm here to tell you that at least for me, being a mom of kids that are growing up and leaving and dealing with dating and disappointments and traveling far from home--that's harder. Maybe I'm a control freak or allergic to goodbyes or just plain bad at change, but I want hit the brakes, put the car in reverse and go back about ten years. Or a few years. Or to last week when we were all together.

Grandpa and Grandma came for Savannah's setting apart and it was wonderful having them here. Then they left and were well on their way home when we realized we had stupidly forgotten to take any pictures. We didn't know it but they felt the same way and almost turned around and came back. Savannah was sick about it yesterday morning, so she had me call them to see if they'd come to the airport for pictures. They had been feeling the same way but hadn't wanted to interrupt our family goodbye. So glad we called. They met us at the post office by the airport and we got pictures and Savannah was able to give them a few more hugs. It was perfect, really--the post office was closed but the lobby was open and well-lit (even if the lighting was ugly florescent bulbs) and we had it to ourselves.

Before we went to the airport, we went to Joe's basketball games. He had a good JV game and then got in his first varsity game. It may be silly, but I was so glad Savannah (and the whole family) got to be there for his first varsity minutes.

I don't want to spend the day wallowing. I need to remind myself that this is exactly what I want--children that grow up confident enough to leave home, children that love us enough to feel sad when they go, children who love Jesus Christ and their Heavenly Father enough to sacrifice a big piece of their lives to serve him, children who choose to serve and love and teach strangers who become friends. I'm sad and I'm missing my girl, but I'm so grateful to be the mother to such wonderful people.

And now I need to go clean a closet or something.