- It started off like most any other day. I was awakened by the baby monitor rather than an alarm clock. I fed others before I fed myself. I silently begged to finish my coffee prior to wiping not just one, but two bottoms. A pallet of blankets littered the living room rug, left over from the night before, remnants from a sleepover with daddy, which is a nightly ritual. They hadn’t gone unnoticed from my probing eye, and I filed it away on my to-do list of morning housekeeping rounds. As I scrambled eggs for breakfast, gulping the last sip of my lukewarm coffee, the three year old called from the other room, “Can I make a clubhouse?” I answered back quickly, “Can’t you go play in your room, and for once stop messing up my living room?!” I turned back to my eggs as the baby beat her hands against her high chair tray eagerly awaiting a bite. I paused in my flipping, spatula poised in anticipation, but my thoughts had gone to her.
- It was a very large house, bigger than any I had ever seen in person for sure. It had four white columns on the porch and a grand set of concrete steps leading to its vastly shaded porch. It certainly seemed out of place across the street from the tiny rental house we were occupying. I was afraid, no doubt, but I was also curious. I had seen the white-haired woman through the kitchen window, and watched while she placed pies on the sill. I didn’t realize it as I crept up those steps, knees knocking, but I was crossing paths with a woman I would never forget.
Her name was Mrs. Lorraine. Mr. Lorraine had passed away years previously, and I was surprised to learn she lived there all alone. We were drawn to each other, her with her big house and only the company of cats, and myself with the desire innate of an eight year old to share company with a grandmother type figure. My own maternal grandmother lived far away, and my paternal grandmother had always been too engrossed in her beer and game shows to teach the likes of me the fine art of baking. I had never heard of a teacake, but loved asking, “May I have another?”, to which she always obliged. I remember the grand rooms, ceilings tall, and furniture so dainty. Above the mantle was a school picture, much like my own, of a little blond girl. I mentioned wishing to play with her once, to which Mrs. Loraine replied, “I’m sure she’s much too old for hide-and-seek now. She’s in her twenties.” “Don’t you have a newer picture?” I asked. It seems she did not. “Her mother and I don’t speak. I haven’t seen my daughter or my grandchild in twenty years.” She kept mixing the batter, but I could see tears in her eyes. My child self asked why, as only children can do. “She told me once that I had never had time for her when she was young. I suppose now she don’t have time for me.” That was all she said, and even my eight year old self knew better than to press her.
That summer we filled each other’s days with baking, laughter, and love. My mom got married at the end of summer. I gained a new dad, and we moved away. I cried when I told her goodbye, but she never let a tear fall. I wonder if maybe she had cried all the tears she had many years before, over a relationship lost, and another never had. I waved as we drove away, clutching my bag of fresh baked cookies, and watched her turn and make her way back up the large steps into her empty house.
- As I spooned out eggs onto plates this morning, I thought of her. I thought of her loss, wondering why, if she could have done things differently. I didn’t know her whole story, but I knew enough. I walked into the living room and found my three year old removing all the couch cushions, intent on building her playhouse despite my previous grinchy comments. She looked up at me beaming proudly. I went over a helped drape blankets across the top. We turned over the toy box out into the floor because it’s really the best way to find the toys you want to play with most.
When I was twelve, I convinced my mom to stop on a trip we were making, to detour to our old neighborhood. I recognized Mrs. Lorraine’s house immediately as we pulled into her drive. Another car sat there already, and I glimpsed a man in a suit hammering a sign into her front yard. He came over gleefully and spoke with my mom. I didn’t understand everything they said, but I remembered the words, “no one came.” The house and all its contents had been auctioned and donated to a charity of her choosing. Her small funeral was attended by some ladies in the community, but “no family” he had said. I wondered about the pretty blond girl, and if she would have ever imagined how good those teacakes were, or more importantly, how her grandma’s eyes crinkled at the side and seemed to shine when she knew how much someone enjoyed them.
Today as I sat in the floor playing with a small rubber ball, rolling it back and forth with my child, I knew that was an important moment. I want her first memories to be of making breakfast together, building forts out of cushions and blankets, and playing together in the floor, not of watching me pick up messes, or the top of my head buried in my phone, or of spending time with a babysitter more than me. Watching my baby learn to walk, that’s what is important to me, not working extra hours so I can buy her the best name-brand dresses in town. I want them to know I love them, and never have a doubt where they rank in importance in my life and my daily tasks. Tasks will continue after they move away, but these days will not. I don’t want to look back in regret wishing I had just decided to play and giggle, instead of something superficial I thought was important at the time. I want to bake with them. I want my eyes to crinkle at the corners and shine as I delight in their joy.
That is all 🙂
- The smell was horrendous, like nothing I had encountered before. Almost a decade later I would smell it again while working in the operating room at the Naval Hospital, but at this time I had never smelled burnt flesh. I was speechless, stunned really, as I looked around the room. There were tiny pieces of flesh and bone scattered and stuck in a spray pattern across the wall. I offered to help clean it up, but he wouldn’t let me, and would bear that burden on his own. She was at the hospital then, recovering from her injuries. As I smelled the smell of spent gunpowder, I could still remember the sound it had made that night before. A loud bang, too loud for something to be heard inside. It had sounded like a gun, but at the time I couldn’t imagine why I would be hearing a gunshot. As I stood, frightened but preparing to investigate, she had come up the hall, with a bloody towel over her wrist. She managed to whisper, “It accidentally went off. The gun.” I sat her down, looking behind me to see if the little ones had been awakened. Thankfully they had not. I was unsure of what to do, so I tried to remain calm while fashioning a tourniquet from the little boy’s belt laying in the floor. Later, in the emergency room, she would swear to the questioning physician that it was an accident, that she had heard an intruder. We had to believe her. Only many years later would she admit the truth to me.
- The next generation. The sadness has been there, lurking in the shadows for as long as I can remember, threatening to overcome me. I tried taking my own life as early as eight years old. Thinking of it now, I’m not sure what kind of pressures I could have possibly been under, but at the time the sadness was so intense that I didn’t want to go on with it all. I never told my parents of my botched attempt, and somehow managed to keep the rope burn hidden from them until it faded away. I can recall feeling the melancholy take over me countless times over those developmental years. I remember simply wanting to sleep my time away, and having little interest in things around me, even food. I would periodically emerge and fight to get past the sadness that stole me, fight to be happy and get involved in life. I would for a time, but the dark times would always return. I started an antidepressant for the first time as a teenager, and tried out several different ones. I was once given the tentative diagnosis of bipolar disorder by a community health psychiatrist. He gave me a paper with orders for blood work to be taken at a local hospital, and orders to return after they resulted. I drove away with no intention of being told I was crazy. That was what I felt like, unstable, and didn’t want to know if it was true. I threw the order away and never returned. I went through cycles over the next decade, feeling sad, feeling good. When everything around me was good, then I was good. If things around me were bad, then I was really bad. The sadness never overtook me to the point of being unable to function at work or around others. It waited until I was alone, and then would fall on me like a building, crushing me into a sobbing wreck of a young woman.
- About four years ago I made a decision to taper myself off of my antidepressant. I had been on and off one for years and knew how to do it safely (in my opinion anyway). I didn’t like the fuzzy side effects, and the way it sometimes seemed to not only take away my sadness, but rob me of any emotion whatsoever. This isn’t a decision that is good for everyone. I have no prejudice against medication for illness, it’s just something I personally decided to do without. I’ve spent a lot of time in thought over the spirit of depression that tries to hover over my life. Is it a genetic predisposition? Likely so. Is it a generation curse, with there being an unseen war in the spiritual realm? I believe so. Can those generational curses be broken? I definitely think so. Is depression often situational? I believe so. Can I control all of these factors to ward it off? Not at all. I have made decisions over the past four years or so that I think help. I avoid depressant substances, even though I use to depend on them to chase the sadness away. (That never really worked as well as I thought it did). I began to cast my burdens on The Lord rather than bury them inside my head. When my situation in life changed, and I became a mother, leaving behind so many things that brought me down, I wasn’t suddenly cured, or free from that heavy spirit of defeating depression. On any given day, even now, out of no where, it can threaten me, falling on me like a heavy weight around my neck. I am able to recognize it immediately, and immediately launch into prayer, asking Jesus to take it from me. I do believe this helps me, but I can still sense the sadness there at the edges, waiting for a weak moment to slip back in. I persevere, but also with the knowledge that this is not something I have to bear alone. My God is with me, always, and that lessens the heaviness of the load. I’ve watched the cycles of sadness change, and become less and less. I believe in healing, and believe it in my life. I know trials will come, some I may not be ready to even think about, but I know He is with me, to comfort me, to guide me, to rescue me from any darkness that threatens to consume me. Some people may not be healed of depression completely until they enter the perfect peace of Heaven, even me in a way, but I have found it an easier burden to bear here on earth by placing it at His feet.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
That is all 🙂
- Today is my Momma’s birthday. There is not a day in the 5 years she has been gone from this earth that I wouldn’t want to just have a moment to talk with her, to hold her, to tell her how much I love her, and to say goodbye. Maybe that was one of the harder parts, not being able to say farewell, or too many regrets not spoken. On this, her day, I decided to put my thoughts down and lift them up to her.
Today is your birthday, and I’m thinking of you. I’ve been thinking of you everyday since you left this earth, but not quite as much as I did when you first went away. When you first left me, I wanted to talk to you every day. I would forget you were gone, and I would try to call you. Even when I was able to stop picking up the phone to dial your number, I would still think it in my head. I just have to tell Momma that! I would think, and then I would remember, and my grief would be new. Even now, I still want to share my daily excitements, fears, and dreams with you, but I cannot. It hurts my heart so bad. I imagine this must be what my patients at the hospital feel when they are having a massive heart attack, because when I allow myself now to think of you and the hot tears come, I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. The pressure of the hurt is so big, and it makes me wonder if that elephant sits there to keep the fullness of my grief from escaping and taking me over. I usually push the tears away, and make myself think of something else in those moments.
But if this letter could reach you (And that’s really what I want isn’t it?), what would I say? I think first I would apologize because I took you for granted. I couldn’t imagine life without you, so I somehow thought you’d never leave. I think of all the wasted time. I think of the decade I spent mad at you, so indignant in my childish anger, thinking my teenage and twenty-something self knew everything. Why is it that the people we love more than anything in this world, are also the people that can hurt us the most, or that we can become so angry with that we almost sever a relationship entirely. I was so mad at you Momma. I was mad at you for being sick. I knew it wasn’t your fault, but I was mad anyway. I wanted a mom who could do everything I needed from her, not one who forgot entire conversations we had. I didn’t want you falling down, literally, and needing help. I wanted you to help me! I wanted you to be strong, and when you couldn’t, it made me mad. I couldn’t understand why you were so sad, or why your past haunted you, or you woke up crying from the nightmares. I wanted you to hold me when I was scared, not vice versa. The thing is, you did hold me. When I was scared, you calmed my fears. When I was tired, you lifted me up. When I needed you, you came alive. But I couldn’t see it then. I was blinded by my own selfishness. I remember when I grew up and decided to stop wanting you to be someone else. I remember flying home to see you and being so excited. I’m glad I reconciled you in my heart, but hate it took so long. Even when you died, I was angry. Oh, I was devastated overall, sinking in the mire of my own sorrow, but I was also angry. I was angry that you left. You didn’t leave me purposely, but I almost felt like you did. I knew you lived most days feeling like you weren’t good enough for us, and sometimes believing we would be better without you. Instead of convincing you otherwise, I would roll my eyes. When you left, I was mad because I thought maybe you just gave up the fight, maybe you were tired, and just quit. I’m sorry Momma. I’m sorry for all the time I wasted being angry instead of just loving you for you. I wish I could take all that time I spent being angry and somehow fashion it into a capsule of minutes, hours, or even days that I could spend with you now.
When I had my first child it somehow was a salve that seemed to lessen the pain I felt over your loss. At first it was, but then I looked at my girl, and if I thought of you, I was more sad than before. I knew your desire to be a grandmother. You had wanted a grandchild, but never hounded me for one, even as I went past thirty without showing you that dream baby. When I held my girl, I wished that you could hold her too. I know you would want to watch her, and have her spend the night. You always thought you could do more than you really could in your sickness, and I am honestly thankful that I didn’t have to tell you she couldn’t stay. I show her your picture, and I take solace in knowing you’ll meet my children one day. I can already tell they are brilliant just like you. As the three year old develops a sense of humor, I will admit my concern. If she ends up with our warped sense of humor, I’m sure it will get her in trouble. I’ll probably be forced to homeschool for the sake of teachers everywhere.
After you left I dealt with my anger at you. I realized it wasn’t your fault. Then I had to deal with my anger at myself. That was a little harder. I was so frustrated at how I underappreciated every moment we had instead of treasuring them for the gems they were. Interestingly enough, the one I was never angry with was God. I knew He had taken you for your own good. I knew so many who missed you here, but realized our Heavenly Father did right by you. He finally gave you rest. He took away your physical pain and your emotional pain. He healed you of your sadness and showed you the beauty that you are, but that you could never fully realize while on this earth. He took away your tears, the ones that I could never wipe away completely. I find my comfort knowing you are finally at peace, full of joy, without the sadness or shame that shackled you down while you were among us.
I miss you though Mommy. I would give so much to just have one more hug, one more minute to tell you how wonderful I think you did. Sometimes I dream of you, and perhaps that’s God giving me my wish for the moment, until we can be reunited once again. Until we do meet again, I pray this letter finds you. I pray you’ll now know just how much you were loved, and how much you are missed.
I will end this with a thank you. Thank you that I never wondered if I was loved by you. I always knew. Thank you for showing me how to love my own daughters with every fiber of my being. You did good. I promise. See you soon.
Your Oldest Daughter, Brie
- Happy Birthday in Heaven to my beautiful Momma! Never take for granted the relationships you have, for they do pass in time. Make every moment count, embracing love and rejecting anger. I have forgiven myself, but I honestly do have regret. I know you’re not supposed to regret, but I do…
That is all
- Well great! I thought sarcastically, as I dabbed at the tears pooling in my lower lids, threatening to spill out down my cheeks. And this would happen to occur on only the second time this year I had worn eyeliner. I was watching a gum commercial. That’s right, a gum commercial. In my defense, it was a very dramatic, and “tug at the heart” emotional gum commercial. I remember as a child laughing at my mother when I would see her cry after seeing an animal hit on the side of the road, or bawl like a baby over make-believe movies. I got older, had kids, and one day, as I cried over the cheerleaders in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (they were so precious), I realized I had become my mom. I had become an emotionally fragile crybaby. Some might consider this a curse, others a weakness. I consider it a testament to the beautiful design that is called woman.
- Earlier a patient and I were discussing our time in Naval service. This led to the topic of having children while active duty, and the stresses of deployment with a family. I explained to him that this was a main reason for my separation from active duty, my decision to not have a family while serving. I actually commend a woman who can be apart from her children for a deployment, as I could not. My patient commented that while he served, if a woman became pregnant, she would be discharged. Even my mother was given the option during the 70s. She chose to be honorably discharged while pregnant with me. When I served active duty in 2001, I held more of a feminine view point than I do now, but I still understood a woman’s weaknesses and her strengths. I have never been a champion for women serving on the front lines. Not only are men typically stronger (it’s simple physiological muscle mass in relation to fat reserves), they also have different mental make-up. Women are emotionally more vulnerable, and even if men try not to, they will usually take the dominant role, protecting their female counterpart. In a combat situation this could cause a male to take different actions to protect a woman standing beside him versus a man. Even as my patient and I spoke of his current medical condition, we were aware of the physical differences of male vs. female. His petite female nurse the day before had required help from a larger male to hold continuous pressure with great force to cease bleeding from an artery. I told my patient I was fully aware of my limitations, and I knew I would have asked for help as well.
- My other patient happened to be a female. As we walked down the hall together, I was proud of her strength, stamina, and ability to recover so well and so quickly considering her recent major surgery. I commented as much to her. Then I added a small known fact, that women tend to heal faster than men post-operatively. And this is true. Interestingly enough, our female patients experience less pain, comment on their pain less, get up and moving faster, and overall have a more optimistic attitude when compared with men. This would lead one to question, “Why would a physically weaker woman heal faster than the dominant male?” I could be wrong, but I personally think that this example is a window into how a woman’s gentle, emotional frailty can be a strength when drawn upon. Women are emotional creatures, quick to weep, and just as quick to love fiercely and completely. The emotional vulnerability that causes a woman to cry also causes her to love others more than herself. It is almost as if any strength she has is poured out to those around her. When faced with pain, a woman has an amazing reserve within her in which she is able to tap and move gracefully through trial and hardship. Her vast ability to overcome struggle is only matched by her capacity to comfort others. It seems, when she is weak, she is strong. Although I’ve always recognized the physiological differences, I haven’t always viewed a woman as the submissive counterpart to a man as I do now. Even early in my marriage, I strove to have the upper hand, wishing to control all situations. As I’ve advanced a little bit in my walk with Christ, I’ve changed my thinking to more parallel God’s word.
Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, …
I began to see how God designed man and woman each with their own specific purposes, strengths, and weaknesses.
1 Peter 3:7 ESV
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
I began to understand that it was a team concept, where each had their God given trait to compliment and enhance that of the other.
Genesis 2:18 ESV
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
A man, in all his strength, protects his wife. When he is weary, she comforts him. Her apparent emotional weakness is the tool with which she pours love upon her family. Her weakness is made strength for those who need her, even if that someone is sometimes herself. I believe that a woman’s beautiful weakness and fragility is a deep well where Christ may dwell and pour out unrealized power when it is most needed.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
It’s a perfect, beautiful design where everyone has a place, and each weakness or strength is wonderfully blended to compliment the unit as a whole. So I suppose if I cry over a gum commercial, that’s ok. The design that is me is just what it should be.
That is all 🙂