Not Sweet, Just Bitter

Ugh. Life handed us another sour, sour bite of life. Not the kind of sour where you screw up your face and laugh in delight, like when you bite into really sour, juicy lemon. The bitter kind of sour; the kind of sour that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

It was almost too much to bear, but we are bearing it. Just a couple of months after my mother’s death, we have also lost my grandmother. She was unable to understand why her daughter had gone to heaven before her. In January, she fell and broke her arm, and was just unable to recover. And so another trip to Iowa, another funeral.

I’m keeping this brief. I’m tired of writing about grief. I’m tired of crying.

Even though this has been a blow to my family, good things are happening. Good things that help us keep going. One of my cousins is worried, I think, that Grandma was the tie that bound us together, and now we’ll lose touch. But we won’t let that happen. I promise.


Thanksgiving used to be a huge gathering of family members on my dad’s side. Our Thanksgiving Day, however, was never on Thanksgiving Day. We would meet for Thanksgiving on Friday instead. My dad and three of my uncles were pastors, and so they would have church services at their respective churches, and then we would spend the rest of the day traveling to whichever aunt and uncle were hosting that year.

We loved spending time with all our cousins. Here is a memory from my sister about one Thanksgiving: “…some of the older cousins were in the basement playing Planet of the Apes, and they kept turning the lights off, which I didn’t like – too scary! – so I must have been pretty young.”

This Thanksgiving, as you can imagine, wasn’t the happiest for our family. The visitation for my mom was Friday, the same day we used to meet for a huge turkey dinner. Several of my cousins came to Iowa from far away, and I was so happy to see them. We gathered together to thank God for my mom, their aunt. And I know that those cousins who couldn’t make it were wishing they could come. I’m so grateful for my aunt, my uncles and my cousins, from both sides of my family. I’ll tell you more about them another day.

A Source of Comfort

My Uncle Rolland was a tall, thin man. While I was growing up, I only saw him when our families were on vacation together. He was the type of man who wore his black dress socks and shoes with shorts. He occasionally stepped outside to smoke a cigarette with my Uncle Art. When my dad and his brothers were playing catch with a watermelon, one of them threw the watermelon at Uncle Rolland. He looked at it and didn’t flinch. It smashed on the ground at his feet. He looked at it, drink in hand, and said, “I wasn’t going to catch that!” My cousins and I thought he was hilarious. We had so much fun on those family vacations of ours.

It was during one of those vacations that I found out my uncle was sick. I was sitting by him and he waved his hand at his legs, showing me bruises. He probably said something along the lines of “These are a result of this affliction of mine.” He had been diagnosed with leukemia. That summer he and I talked about having cancer; I was going through chemotherapy and my hair was beginning to fall out. I would run my fingers through my hair and release it onto the beach. Uncle Rolland said the doctors told him he wouldn’t lose his hair to chemo, which he was about to begin.

I gained comfort on that vacation, talking with my uncle about an affliction we both had in common. We had different diseases, different treatments, but we both had cancer. Uncle Rolland endured a lot more chemotherapy than I did. I was fortunate enough to see him several more times before he was taken to his true home about a year and a half after that summer.

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
All who by faith before the world confessed,
Your name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Text: William W. How, 1823-1897

Mommy Always Comes Home

If you were looking for me on Saturday morning, you would have found me flying on the highway through Indiana, singing “I’m arrivin’ on a sin wagon” along with the Dixie Chicks. I was leaving my babies for the weekend, for the first time ever. (Staying in the hospital to have a second baby doesn’t count!) I had a stack of CD’s next to me and a cooler full of limes and margaritas in the back. I was on my way to Michigan to celebrate my cousin Alicia’s 30th birthday.

Alicia had planned this trip for her friends as a get-away. A get-away from the city; from work, from kids (and husbands!) She rented a house in the country and invited us to stay with her.

When I arrived around noon, it was hot and humid. Everyone was relaxing; sprawled out in chairs reading; paddling the canoe; and napping in the sun. I took a raft out on the pond and paddled around, lying back to look at the sun filtering through the tree tops. I felt like the women in Enchanted April.

The pond behind our rented house in the country

That night, we built a campfire and roasted marshmallows. We told embarrassing stories and laughed with each other while drinking margaritas and sangria and wine. No one jumped up to listen intently to the baby monitor, or ran inside to see if the girls were warm enough, or stopped at just one drink. No one, meaning me!

The next day, after a leisurely morning, my sister Heather and I went to the outlet mall. I found myself wondering, “Will the fitting rooms have enough room for the stroller?”

As I started the two hour drive home, I felt a quick stab of guilt. Had I shopped too long? Should I have started out earlier in the morning instead of the late afternoon? Nah.

I got home around dinnertime. Ed had had a wonderful time with the girls. He had started the weekend with the mindset that he wasn’t going to get anything done; he was just going to have fun with his girls. And boy, did they ever have fun! They went to the park, the pool, and out for pizza!

When deciding on whether or not I was going to accept Alicia’s invitation, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be away from my daughters. In the end, we all had a wonderful, rejuvenating couple of days.

Thanks, Alicia, for the great weekend! Oh, yeah…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Looking at the Sky on Friday: Storm over the Harbor

Every July, my extended family spends the week on Lake Michigan. It’s a tradition that goes back to when I was little. Spending the week on a beach is a great way to build family bonds, and our family is very close due to this yearly vacation. Now our kids have fun getting to know each other at “The Lake.”

Ed and I were able to have a date last year, when a couple of my cousin’s kids offered to babysit. As we were walking by the harbor after dinner, a storm blew in. Boats were pouring into the harbor, escaping the bad weather.

The lighthouse light was twirling.

We started walking, then started running, back to the car.

Just as we reached the parking lot, huge, fat drops of rain began to fall! We drove back to our rented house as sheets of rain fell from the sky. When we got back, Lily (then 3) was acting as though we had never left and was having a blast. Emmy (11 months) hadn’t let her babysitter put her down for a second. But she was happy as long as someone was holding her!

For more images of the sky, go visit Tisha at Crazy Working Mom.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...