Monday, October 14, 2013

a story of mourning and gladness

Joey had just walked out of the back door and into the woods to go hunting with my brother and cousin.  With my Uncle Ed's death hanging heavy over us everyone needed a little distraction...a chance for something besides grief to sprout up.  
In a matter of weeks we went from being told my uncle had prostate cancer to making funeral arrangements.  
Sometimes it feels like straight line winds have wiped out the world around you and left you standing out in the rubble wondering what just happened.  


I can tell you one thing...my Aunt Jeannie was knocked clear down on the ground.  How could you ever prepare for losing the man who was best friend, protector, father...husband?  

Within a five mile radius of the log cabin my Uncle Ed built for his family, everybody is either kin to us or as close as kin.  My Aunt Jeannie was never alone.  Never physically alone, I mean.  Her heart felt lonely for sure but there was always someone to hold her up when she thought she might just get swallowed right up in the shaky ground of grief.

I never know exactly what to do when someone I love is full of loss and sadness.  
I just go.  
I just show up.  
I just smile and hug and pray and hope that my presence brings with it some kind of strength...some kind of solace.  
I want to save the day but I have to leave the hard work of heart healing up to a real Savior.  
The boys disappeared into the woods, crunching through the carpet of leaves winter had left behind, and I had a moment to sit down on my kitchen stool and drink a mug of cider.  It may have been the first quiet moment I'd had in days to actually process anything that was going on outside of my uncle's death.  

I was suddenly aware of the tenderness in my chest and I began counting days.  Since we had adopted Lucy I had no idea if my suspicions meant anything or not.  I opened up my laptop and typed in 'pregnancy symptoms'.  If it hadn't been for the magnitude of the events leading up to that day I probably would have put it all together sooner.  Instead it was like the realization that I might be 'with child' came flying up and smacked me right in the face. 

I picked up the baby and my purse and walked out of the door.  I knew I would pass a drugstore on the two mile stretch between my house and my aunt's.  I decided I would visit her first and then stop by on the way home to pick up a pregnancy test.  
Instead, my body went into auto-pilot.  
I pulled into the drugstore, ran in to get the test, stuffed it in my purse and drove the rest of the way down the gravel road until I arrived at her front door.

I carried Lucy in to the embrace of family.  I made small talk while mentally arguing with myself about why it would be inappropriate to take a pregnancy test right here, right now. Feeling as if even my own legs were out of my control I walked towards the bathroom and excused myself.  Even as I pulled the box out of my purse I couldn't make sense of what I was doing.

Shouldn't I just wait until I got home?
Shouldn't I talk to Joey first?
Shouldn't this type of thing require a little more thought and intentionality?

I read the instructions, followed them, and watched as a little line changed the world.

Now what?  I should put it back in the box, go straight home and call Joey.  That would be the appropriate thing to do.  Right?

Instead, I crept over to the door, cracked it open and made eye contact with my aunt hoping the other few people in the room wouldn't notice.  She saw me and came right over.  I have no idea what she was thinking when I opened the door for her to come inside.  When I pulled out the little plastic wand her eyes went wide.  It took a minute for her to understand and then I said...
I know you are going to think I'm crazy, but...am I reading this thing right?

She looked and confirmed and smiled big and hugged tight and I will never forget that moment.  
That moment which happened despite all my attempts to be sensible.  
That moment which was meant to happen just that way.

We had all been knocked sideways by death and suddenly God offered new life like a hand extended to pull us back up on our feet.

He wanted my Aunt Jeannie to share that moment with me.  
My aunt who had been like a big sister to me growing up, who loved me through my own grief.  
My aunt who sent me cards on my birthday reminding me that I was 'her girl', always giving me a sense of belonging even when I felt like the outsider.

That moment we shared didn't take away the pain sitting down deep.
But it did shine light in darkness and lift our eyes up.
It didn't dry up all the tears born of sorrow.
But it did create a stream born of joy to intersect the sadness right there on our cheeks.


Nine months later Oliver William was born.
Ed's middle name was William, too.  I'm told he never really liked that name...but it suited him well.  William means 'protector' and he was.  Anyone who ever settled into the big embrace of my Uncle Ed knew he had a heart for protecting and caring for those around him.

Two days ago I sat with Oliver on my lap as we witnessed Ed's son, my cousin Daniel, getting married.  
It was Ed's birthday.
And today marks 30 years since the day my Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Ed said, I do.  
{uncle ed and aunt jeannie}
So this may seem like just another week to you, but for my family...it's not.
It's a week of finding comfort and joy in the weaving together of lives that makes us family...forever.

One life doesn't replace another, but for me, Ed and Oliver's lives will always be connected.
They would never meet face-to-face. 
One left this world just as the other was entering it.  
So I guess you could say...they met at the intersection...
of mourning and gladness...
of this world and the next.