Updated: Oct 2
The drooping leaves on my potted impatiens caught my eye this morning.
“That’s exactly how I feel, ” I thought.
Like the fuschia buds enduring the summer heat, I, too, have been in a long, hard season. I’m dried out and wilted.
Within 15 months, I lost my father, mother, two uncles, an aunt, and two friends. During the same time period, several in my community of friends also endured tremendous loss. I have gone from grief to grief to grief.
Those whom I loved most and longest, and those who loved me most and longest, are now gone: I am an orphan. Family members who were the pillars and foundation of my childhood, the keepers of the family stories, are gone. I feel like part of who I am is fading. Things will never be the same.
I’m dried out from the appearance of grief’s presence in unexpected ways at unexpected times in unexpected places.
For the past eight months, my sister and I have been tackling the seemingly-insurmountable challenge of sorting, dividing, and reducing 63-years worth of our parents' belongings. The sweat-filled job has been a stroll down memory lane as we discover long-forgotten things. Often the discovery will bring laughter; some times the weight of the task brings tears.
My inheritance, what I desired most, were belongings that were attached to childhood memories. I’ve brought home boxes of old photos, quilts, linens, china, knick knacks, Tupperware and ceramics. While the items stir treasured memories, in recent days, the fact that I am now their keeper has brought profound sadness.
Sorrow surprised me when I opened my kitchen drawer and saw my mother’s prized Cutco knives. Memories flooded my mind and a flood of tears followed. I was six when my Dad gifted Mom the full set of Cutco knives. I quickly learned the knives were special, extremely sharp, and not to touch them. I remember watching my mother skillfully use the paring knife to peel potatoes. It was a monumental day in my life when she handed me her knife and taught me how to peel.
I’ve been caught off-guard when anger has bubbled up and oozed out, triggered by the smallest and oddest things. I feel angry that my loss seems to have been forgotten. Even more, I feel that on the significance-scale, when compared to someone else’s loss and grief, mine is deemed less than and insignificant.
Organizing and purging things comes easy to me, yet when going through my mother’s sewing notions, I’ve been unable to part with old, faded packages of bias tape. My sewing cabinet is stuffed full of 1980s calico fabrics I’ll probably never use, but if I let go of it, I’m afraid I’ll let go of the memory of how much Mom loved the material.
I know grieving is a process. I know it’s vital that I continue to water my hurting-heart with God’s truths. Soak myself in His Word. Rest in the Son.
When I pondered the wilting impatiens, I had a thought: I planted the colorful buds in the terracotta pot for my enjoyment. While I planted it in good soil and water it often, sometimes the water alone just isn’t enough. Its growth is contained and its ability to flourish is limited. If I had planted it in the ground, its roots would have grown deep and it would have multiplied in size.
And at that moment, I realized, perhaps, that is what is missing in my grief process: I need to tend to my roots.
My family roots. While I have always lived far away from extended family, I anticipated visits back to Virginia. The life-long connections brought a comfortable familiar in my ever-changing world; I always, always felt loved. And some of my most favorite memories were made with cousins.
Now, as my cousins and I evolve into the next season — being the older generation, perhaps it’s time to take care of my roots and travel back for an extended family visit. I know spending time with my cousins will be good for my heart and there are new memories to be made as we navigate this new season together. I have the chance to invest and pour into my cousin’s children, just as my aunts and uncles did for me.
And, of course, I’ve got stories to tell.
And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places,
and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. ~ Isaiah 58:11