There are days that plod, one after the other, days of sameness and stasis.
Summer days are often like that. Sometimes it is a hard thing, and sometimes it is a gift. Our recent vacation days in the Adirondacks were a gift, but remembering them now is like remembering one long day, so slow and similar were they.
Then there are days when you can feel the planet tilting and swirling beneath you. These are days when change rushes toward you like the wind, and you are flung toward new horizons as if shot from a circus cannon.
All four of my children went to school on Monday.
It was only four years ago that we came to Maplehurst. Only four years ago that my firstborn walked all the way down our long driveway toward third grade, her first-grade brother trailing behind. My little boy stayed home for games of Candy Land, and our baby girl would be born in only a week.
Four years sounds like nothing at all, but it is nearly an eternity in the life of a child. This week, my firstborn walked all the way down our long driveway toward seventh grade, her fifth and second-grade brothers trailing behind.
And Elsa Spring started preschool.
Our little sorrows seem as nothing, especially when they are sorrows of abundance. How silly is it to cry for our lost babies when our arms are filled with growing children?
I too would laugh, I too would call this folly, except that I have seen how easy it is for me to discount every form of grief. Like so many, I privilege “closure” and “recovery.” Like a foolish accountant, I weigh the world’s sorrows on a scale. The loss of a child weighs the most. The loss of a spouse a little less, the loss of a sibling or a favorite aunt still less. The ordinary grief a mother feels watching her children grow and leave her behind counts not at all.
Why is it so hard to acknowledge that we all walk through life with grief for which there is, today, no compensation?
We grieve the baby we wanted but could never have, the baby who died too soon, the baby who lived but grew up to leave us.
We grieve, we grieve, we grieve.
In Housekeeping, her perfect poem of a novel, Marilynne Robinson writes: “The force behind the movement of time is a mourning that will not be comforted. That is why the first event is known to have been an expulsion, and the last is hoped to be a reconciliation and return.”
If we pretend that this life gives enough comfort and consolation to erase our griefs is it because we fear we can hope for nothing better?
If we assume that what is lost is lost forever, then why not take what little comfort we can, wherever we can?
But if we persist in the wild belief that the world will be made new and whole, that everything lost will be found again, then we must go on grieving.
To turn our back on sorrow is to turn our back on hope.
These are the things I tell myself, seven months after Shawn’s death. Twenty years after Michelle’s death. Twenty-four years after Sissie’s death. And four years after I birthed a baby girl who would not long remain a baby.
Time is cruel because it carries us so far from the people and places and things we have loved and lost.
Time is sweet grace because it propels us, ready or not, like it or not, toward a hoped-for day. A day when all the fragments of our lives, all the broken bits and pieces, will be gathered up.
On that day, the promise inherent in our precious memories will be fulfilled. The half-forgotten and the dimly-recalled will take on flesh, and greet us by name, and together we will go home.
I grew up in and got saved in the Adirondack Mountains, and there are times when I would do almost anything to live back up there even with the cold winters. Thank you for sharing your story and your pictures Christie. God bless you!
It’s an incredible place. We feel so privileged to live within driving distance and try to go back every August. I hope my kids will carry sweet memories as you do. Thank you for reading along and taking the time to comment. I am grateful!
Christie, this was heartwarming to bring all kinds of grief together. It is a cleansing of the soul, it is good. I live a bit closer to those mountains than you, glorious aren’t they?
Thanks for these honest thoughts. I was grieving this morning for my mom, who died 21 years ago. I was grieving today because I couldn’t remember if her birthday was Aug 30 or Aug 29. I don’t want to forget any detail of my mom, but somehow I have forgotten which day was her birthday and that really bothered me.
Oh, Carla. Thank you for sharing. It is so hard to accept how much we forget, but it is inevitable. I am confident that even these small, forgotten things will be returned to us one day. Along with so much more. Bless you.
I needed to read this today, Christie. Your words are always inspirational and meaningful. Love you sweet niece.
I love you, too, Aunt Katherine. I am glad you found encouragement in these words. xxoo
Thank you for your beautiful words. Words that so often bring me to tears! I love how your words touch hearts and bring hope! PS. I am a northern NY’er and LOVED seeing these pics!
Thank you, Sandy! Northern New York is a magical place.
I am mourning the loss of a family friend who died last Friday, and I so needed to read this. Thank you, Christie.
Oh, Katie, I am so sorry. May God give you the strength and courage to grieve.
Beautiful Christie … I will read it again and again. I (we) had so many friends who met Jesus face to face. Shawn was the first. I’ll be forwarding it to some of the others.
I am going to be in eastern PA in mid September. I haven’t looked to see how close to you … but I want to!
I would love to see you!
Your post was beautiful. It reminded me that it is okay to grieve, even when no one died. I just kept thinking about how I grieved when Julia married, but there was reconciliation and restoration in a new, God-prescribed way.
Thank you, Sharon. There is so much grief in motherhood, but the grief is part of the gift, isn’t it?
Thank you for this little bit of comfort on Wednesday morning. Grief is a new thing that I’m learning to process. I also just finished Roots and Sky a few weeks ago, and words can not describe how much it spoke to the depths my very soul. Thank you for writing. As someone who hopes to write lovely things myself, it’s so encouraging to hear your voice.
And it encourages me to hear of your response! Thank you, Emily!
Thank you Christie, your words are a sweet gift today…bringing cleansing tears.
I am glad, Caroline. Bless you.
I loved this, Christie. Sometimes I worry that I’ve healed up too much to be promoting a grief book (Dad’s been gone 14 years, this week; my grief’s a teenager! Why now??) But for me it’s not about being nostalgic, or mopey, or scuffling around too much in the past, but rather, it’s just like you said: it’s about learning to love the ache and the hunger as down payments on the promise that they WILL one day be satisfied. Grief and hope are just different seasons of the same stuff, right? They’re both yearnings for something we can’t see right now but keep reaching for anyway…
Yes!! I think you said it better than I did. 🙂