Did I not mention I was pregnant when he left? Six weeks pregnant with Baby H. Sometimes, when I remember those moments, I am so desperate to stop time, or to slow it down so much that it moves in little, sparkly, wavy drips. Recorded in flashes of colors. Music notes. Quiet times. I think I feel like maybe if I had dug my heels in, put my back to it, my arms out, I could have kept this wave of time passing, of life happening, from crashing over me so fast that I missed those moments. Or failed to note them.
I missed the storm gathering around me in the deluge of the ordinary. In the desperate drama of family life. In the sad but expected passing of my grandmother. I drove between North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida at least a dozen times in five weeks. It started three days after I left. Three days and phone calls come from Mom: there’s a family crisis. And oh by the way your Grandma is dying. No phone contact with Husband in the first weeks. No center of gravity to ground you, no partner to navigate the rhythms of your daily life. I drove to work; I drove to engage with the family crisis; I drove to say goodbye to my Grandma.
Funeral parlor air is thin. A thin space between here and there. Between now and then, what was and is now. My grandmother was pale. Frozen, unvarnished. She was wisping away even before she died, her skin powdery and soft like liquid talc. She seemed a sleeping paper doll, waiting for our goodbyes in the breath stealing air.
My grandfather just looked. He looked and looked. In that moment all the burden, the responsibility, the fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of poverty, escaped in the breaths he took just looking. Sixty years of loving someone, of partnering, of the ordinary. They weathered a world war, the loss of two babes, the raising of two more. While he looked, I cried . . . much more for myself than for the loss of her. Tears for the thought of losing a life together . . . I wanted Husband there, I wanted to cling to his hand, his arm, to tuck my head under his chin and know we had sixty years more. I know now from the first moment we said “I do,” each minute, each breath together is a treasure, but then, in the looking, I wanted more. Needed to know the story, wanted to skip to the ending.
But, really, isn’t the turning of the pages the best part of the story? The un-knowing? Each moment unfolding, terrifying, but already written by a Heavenly Father who holds earths in His hands . . . “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? . . . Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales.” (Isaiah 40:12, 15, NKJV) . . . and babes in his Arms . . . “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young,” (Isaiah 40:11, NKJV) and loves me. Me. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5a, NKJV).
That moment, that thin breath, the tear tracks in the quiet, that was the first crack. Returning to North Carolina, when I finally had a moment to breathe, grief, loss was happening all around me. Our pastor’s wife miscarried twins. I was sitting on the cracked concrete steps of a friend’s porch thinking, “Oh I could never imagine.” Watching wee ones play all around in fresh cut grass, hand cupped on my belly, believing that all was well.
And that’s true. Even now, I can’t imagine how hard what’s coming next will be. I try. I still obsess over worry. And still He answers prayers, sends grace, writes the lines of my life on cross-cleaned parchment . . .