I found myself in the middle of the woods despite the threat of rain. They are beginning to fill in with new life, above my head and below my feet. Green bursting forth, changing the bleak grey of winter into the brilliance of spring. And there I saw them, white and lacy, as though someone hand-painted them into the scene.
And suddenly I am back at the kitchen table. It's the wee hours of a Sunday morning, but one unlike any I've experienced before. My whole family is there, but it is awkwardly quiet. She is there, still, but not the way we wanted her to be. She was in another room with two strangers, with each passing moment her earthly body losing its natural heat. I sit with a pamphlet in front of me. My father had passed it to me and asked me to fill as much of it out for him as possible. I filled in the blank spots. Date of birth. Names of parents and siblings. Name of spouse, children, grandchildren. I looked over options for head stones, some more plain, some a little feminine, one perfect.
Dogwood. A simple design in bronze. A few delicate dogwood flowers at each corner. She always loved dogwoods.
I remember the one in our front yard on Croydon Road in Montgomery. At the time, her sons were younger, more rambunctious, still enjoying an intense game of wiffle ball or football in the front yard with friends. And she was so protective of that dogwood tree she had planted. I remember when I moved into my home I live in now and she first noticed the budding tree line behind my house. She pointed out the dogwoods. I think she even joked about digging one up for herself.
So there they were, white and lacy. The dogwoods littered the woods in the same magnificent way my memories of her permeate each day. And suddenly the weird blend of sadness and peace rushed over me. Only those that have grieved deeply can understand this specific blend, one occurring only upon seeing or hearing something that reminds you so much of someone who is no longer alive that it brings about an equal amount of connection and sadness. The bitter reminder of love and loss. It's the most bizarre experience.
And it's in the simplest things. Dogwoods and Cadbury Eggs and Christmas ornaments and recipes. It's not limited to the traditional holidays and the birthdays and the anniversary days. And now that I have lived it and felt it and grief has breathed its ugly hot breath in my face for so long that I want to scream every single day of my life, I will love differently because of it. It's all different from that one point forward in a way I wasn't prepared for, in a way I could never be prepared for.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the mother I mourn, as I know she was a gift You gave to me, one in which some are not blessed to have in their lives. I pray for those around me every day who are hurting in this quiet lonely way I have come to understand, for those that see the dogwoods and fight back the tears, for those who carry on with the bandages over their open wounds so no one can see. I pray for them though I know not who they are. I pray Your peace and comfort and patience rain down on them, sustain them. In Your Son's Holy and Precious Name, may it BE Lord.