This was originally written 9 years ago, much has happened since then, but I still want to share. Tony’s birthday is coming up again, and Jenniffer has been gone for 39 years now. It’s a blessing to know that God is good, all the time. Even when we are grieving our empty nest, God is good, and He is a good Father, and He has a plan for a future and a hope for His children! Please enjoy:
After church this morning, Gary and I headed to Sears. Tony’s birthday is the 22nd, and we were shopping for his gift. We decided on a Craftsman 26 gallon Air Compressor and the air tools that go with it. We were happily shopping and comparing prices in the tool section, Gary was joyously grunting and scratching with the excitement of being around so many tools. Then it happened. I saw the photography studio.
Years and years of memories hit me like a tsunami! They flooded my heart and I drowned in them! I honestly could not stay afloat in all those memories! Just yesterday, the childhood lifetime of my kids was photographed in that studio! Just yesterday, I was telling my boys to “smile” for the camera, and to not crawl on the dirty floor. Just yesterday! I had a complete, unabashed meltdown! I was crying and blindly trying to find my way back to the Craftsman Tool section when Gary spotted me. His first thought was that I’d been attacked and stabbed, and he was scanning my body for wounds. I could not find the words to explain the attack on my heart in the photography studio. Poor Gary just held me in the Craftsman Tool section of Sears. And I sobbed. I didn’t even care what other customers thought. I lost it.
How can it be that yesterday I sat with my babies in those very chairs waiting to have them photographed for birthdays, Easter and Christmas and the next day I find myself shopping for an Air Compressor for my man-son? It’s just too horrible. I am not recovering from this mornings episode very quickly.
As I write this, I’m still crying, my eyes are swollen, and I’m a disaster. The really pathetic thing is, I don’t even want to feel better. I want to wallow in my misery. Clearly, I’m a weird, sick person. Am I supposed to get used to the fact that the beautiful childhood of my children is history? Why yes, yes I am! And I have to thank God for those days, and move on, thanking God and praying for more days with my sons. More days with my sons . . . . my goodness gracious, I have so much to look forward to!
Two days ago was the anniversary of the death of my cousin. She was shot in the head by a stranger 30 years ago. She was only 8. My Aunt and Uncle will never “get used” to living without Jenniffer. They would love to have been able to buy their adult daughter a birthday gift. Oh how they would have loved to mourn an empty nest. I thank God that I am not in their situation, but today, it feels like I am, and I am sad.
I was with Mary when Joe died, holding her hand as she held his. They’d been married for most of their lives. She was 15 and he was 16 when they got married. They lived through hard times, and they struggled to get by, but they did get by. They were both very hard-working Mexican born Americans. Joe was a Veteran of War, Mary was his beloved.
When Joe died, Mary’s life changed dramatically. Joe had taken care of everything. He paid the bills, he took care of the yard, Mary was beside herself and overwhelmed with the thought of her life without her beloved. But she did it.
The next 15 years brought changes to Mary’s life. She was a widow. She was alone. She had to work her hands to the bone to take care of the third of an acre property she and Joe called “home” for so many years. But she did it.
Looking back, I see that Mary began to die when Joe did. Don’t get me wrong, she fought valiantly to maintain the life Joe had set up for her. It was just too much. Mary’s health began to fail, her body became frail. Her bones were wrought with the effects of arthritis. Her mind was overtaken with the ugly disease called dementia. Sweet Mary lived a life of fear, suspicion, and loneliness. Even her fingers betrayed her with pain and uselessness.
One day, as Mary sat rubbing her painful hands, she told me how embarrassed she was that her hands were so ugly. I took her hands in mine, and reminded her of the good things her hands had accomplished, the beautiful things her hands had done. I reminded her of the day her beloved Joe took her hands into his and made her his own. I reminded her of the day her firstborn wrapped his little fist around her finger for the first time. I reminded her of all the love her hands had bestowed upon those lucky enough to call her “Mom”, “Aunt”, “Sister”, “Daughter”, “Wife” or “friend”. I reminded her of the tears of others that she had lovingly brushed away with her hands. I reminded her of whose hand Joe held as he breathed his last breath on earth, and inhaled heaven. I told her that when I grow up, I want my hands to look like hers. She wept. So did I, and she held my hands.
As Mary’s world disintegrated into a world of paranoia and fear, dementia slowly stealing our Mary away from us, I knew she was getting home-sick for heaven. As sad as that realization was, it was also beautiful. It was beautiful to know that Mary had the hope of heaven! She knew that her pain was temporary, and that she would soon be in heaven with her beloved Joe, Patsy and so many others, and she would have a new body with beautiful graceful hands!
Mary was not afraid of reaching the end of life on earth, in fact, I believe she was longing for heaven. That gives me great joy! Like a child longs for, and looks forward to a trip to Disneyland, Mary had nights when she was too excited to sleep because of the joy she knew was set before her – heaven!
Recently, Mary told me that Joe and Patsy had visited her and told her to come with them. She was ecstatic with joy and anticipation . . . I told her that if they come again, she should go with them. She looked at me and smiled, and said “Yeah? Should I?” “Without a doubt, Mary,” I said, “without a doubt!”
Mary exhaled earth and inhaled heaven last night. My heart is shattered and rejoicing. Mary’s hands are busy hugging and loving on her family in heaven. She has a new body and beautiful hands in heaven! I find it hard to fathom, though, that Mary’s hands could be any more beautiful than when she was here with us, holding ours.
I find hope in this. Mary is home. She exhaled earth and breathed the breath of heaven. She has been reunited with the love of her life, and her daughter, sister, brother, parents and her God.
Are you kidding me? She’s in heaven . . . . literally!
I rejoice in this, as my heart selfishly breaks.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton