Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
“Haaaappy Birrrrrthday toooo you! No more wishes, Archie, they’ve all come true! We are so glad you’re home!” Archie is smiling his wonderful toothy smile, those beautiful blue eyes squinting so tightly from the joy, that they disappear into tiny slits while overlooking the banquet table filled with all of his favorite foods. In front of him is his favorite cake,”death my chocolate,” which brings snickers because everyone knows his sense of humor, so of course he just HAD to pick that one! Smoked bbq is the main dish and macaroni salad, almost as good as Sandi’s, is within arms reach for all. Beside him are our two children that went before him, one would now be turning 28, the other 24, both in May.
The long table with the fine linen table cloth and golden silverware is surrounded by familiar faces, family and friends, who went before or after, all beaming with the joy of the celebration. The glow from the candles is reflected off of every goblet, serving bowl, platter, and vase filled with carnations (one of his favorite flowers).
Heavenly Dad thunders,”Let’s eat!”
Here on earth, the atmosphere is slightly different.
My morning starts early and is very dark and cold. I get up early and, with only two days until Valentines Day, try to design a special card for my special girl. My mind is fighting me and creativity eludes. I know what I want to do, sort of, but things don’t fit, flow, or match. I finally leave the card only half done on the kitchen counter, flower stamens strewn hither and yon. “What a mess. Maybe it will ‘fall into place’ later when I’m thinking clearly.”
Off to work I go. Busy, I must keep busy.
I begin my work day in production, loving the challenge of “beating the clock” but with more emphasis on making sure all the pieces are accurate. The clock fast forwards and almost as soon as I get there 2.5 hours have passed, it’s time to change departments and head into the office for customer service.
I make my way to the time clock and the clock flashes 8:30. As I place my finger on the scanner by mind zaps me back exactly two years ago… .
After a night of nausea, we were at the hospital in a private room in the oncology unit and the doctor and nurses were trying to decide if they should proceed with the chemo treatment scheduled in 10 minutes. Two days before was 8 hours of chemo, yesterday was four and a half and today was a two hour bag, ending this round of chemo. Could they? Should they? Would they? We waited. Arch felt so miserable he didn’t care either way. They did. He went home less than five hours later.
That was all in one moment. I removed my finger from the scanner, tears burning my eyes and walked through the door to take my seat, making sure not to make eye contact with my office buddy. “It’s going to be a day… .” I realize, and take a deep breath.
Thankfully I had somewhat prepared and requested half a day off. Every hour I work is precious to me, financially, so I am grateful for some overtime to allow me to step away for a bit and allow myself to grieve. Heartfelt never questioned me when the reason for my personal time off stated,”Archie’s second birthday in heaven.”
I thought I was doing pretty well, catching up on emails, entering orders, and taking phone calls. “Run, Tracy, run!” Is what my mind says while I’m at work. I must, “gooooo, doooooo, ruuuuuuun!” I don’t have to think about what is missing if I continue to cram as much stuff into the void as I possibly can. Then I walked out and Martha looks at me, with a cocked head, takes a deep breath, and says,”How are you doing, Tracy?” I froze. I had stopped running and didn’t realize…no words…just tears as I shook my head. Martha stood up and hugged me. I patted her on the shoulder and walked silently back to the office thinking to myself,”Run, Tracy, run!”
The time drew near and I went out to start my car. The air was brisk and I could see my breath as I carefully watched my step on the partially snow covered sidewalk. “Mom!” I looked up and around. I didn’t see anyone, so I continued on. “Moooom!” One more parking lot scan and there stood my beautiful girl! “Taylor!” Though her face was smiling, her eyes were puffy. “Rough morning?” I asked. “Yep,” she replied. “Crying a lot?” says me. “Yep,” as she welled. “Me to, and I joined her as the parking lot gave witness to two very broken individuals trying to hold each other up.
She asked me to leave my truck and we were off. We went a little here, and a little there, spending a large portion of the morning to afternoon sipping coffee, laughing and crying at my favorite coffee shop, Cabin Coffee. We sat in our “usual spot” which is actually quite hilarious. We are extremely budget conscious and only visit one or two times a month, sometimes skipping months between. The table with the two saddles is almost always open and invites us to, “come sit awhile,” which we do, grateful for the familiarity.
By evening the tearing had taken it’s toll. Taylor was kind enough to take me to pick up my Scion, as it had been in the shop for nearly a week, and then my plans were to visit my “new journey,” but I couldn’t. Physically, it was as if drain plugs on the bottom of each foot had been pulled loose and all of my energy and strength swirled like water down a drain…and were gone. In addition, eye stinging tears refused to retreat and my eyes were swollen and tired.
After dropping off the Scion, retrieving the truck and picking up some of Archie’s favorite food: pulled pork pizza, cheesy breadsticks, and ice cream (dairy free) we made our way home. Feeding the fury kids, then ourselves, all five of us jumped on my pull out sofa, settled in and…fell a sleep, relieved we had made it through birthday number two.
After a bit, I woke up, let the fury kids out and tucked them into bed. Taylor trudged off to my room, as I haven’t slept in there in a very long time, and I returned to my “room o’mom” where I eat, sleep, craft, and live. One room, the rest of the house is filled with memories of games, laughter, pizza nights, band parties, and earthly birthdays that bring smiles and tears, and I’ve had enough of those for one day.
I pull the covers over my shoulders, pinch my eyes tight, and sigh with relief as the darkness is silent. With the stillness, the IMAX movie again begins to play in my head. In the theater ala Tracy, the screen room projects a larger than life Archie laughing and joking with Taylor annnnd. “ENOUGH!” The edges of the picture turn brown and crinkle, the film stops, the screen turns white and I hear the loose transparency slapping the reel to reel.
“Father, what do I do? This hurts and I cannot keep replaying images of what was and never will be again.”
I pop my eyes open and a tiny light is shinning against the ceiling along with blinking blue like the neon signs of old. I stare, watching the lights as more salt tears escape and trickle down my face.
“What do I do?” I whisper.
“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I wipe my eyes and I think about how I don’t remember last year on this day. I remember one year and three days ago:
Two days before Archie went home a kind lady, who was also having chemo, gave us (through a nurse) cafeteria tickets, (Archie could eat for free but I didn’t want to spend the money on me, because it wasn’t in the budget) saying, “To the cute couple: You should eat together! Keep fighting the good fight,” or something to that effect.
Archie died before we had a chance to use any of them.
They were valid for 365 days. I gave a couple to a friend who’s hubby had a heart attack so she could eat with him, and she gave back what she didn’t use. One day before they expired I tearfully took them back to the oncology unit and asked them to give them to someone who could use them. I remember that day.
-I remember the kind and encouraging words of that fellow cancer fighter.
-I remember the feeling that maybe the tickets I turned in could be a hope and encouragement for someone else who was battle worn.
-I remember my wonderful daughter that feels my pain and is ok with moving forward, even though neither of us knows exactly where Heavenly Dad is leading.
-I remember Martha’s hug
-I remember Taylor and I were allowed to be off to grieve, without points or judgment.
-I remember and read a text I received the day before about “boxes of hope” from a new friend, Grace.
I “think on these things,” and the melted picture doesn’t hurt so much anymore.
“Write this down.” Heavenly Dad nudges.
“I’m tired, and I won’t make sense.” I argue.
“People ask how they can know I am speaking to them. I will give you the words. Write it down.”
“…I really am tired.” I lower my mental voice.
“Will you be able to sleep?” He asks, almost with a glisten in His eye, knowing the answer.
I squish my eyes together. “Think black…think nothing…void.” I peek out and again begin watching the blinking blue light: on…off…on…off…on…”Seriously? Do you HAVE to be right ALL the time?”
“If you don’t tell them, how will they know?” He whispers.
“From someone else, Dad…I’m just me. I’m broken. Can’t you use someone else? Someone with more answers. Someone with a degree. Someone taller, shorter, younger, older, better looking, maybe a guy? Someone…other than me.”
“But I am not asking them, I am asking you. Do you trust me?”
“With everything I am and have, Dad.” I sink into the mattress.
My last ditch effort,”Ummm, Daaaad…I tried to get online earlier and the internet has been down for hours annnnd….”
I knew what was coming, I opened the laptop and botta bing botta bam. Internet service 100%.
Another lesson: Don’t argue with God. I never win :o)
Ok, someone or ones reading this: Heavenly Dad has been asking you to do something, I have no idea what it is, but when you read this it popped into your head. You knew EXACTLY what He has been trying to talk to you about, but you keep brushing it away. If it is you: I don’t know much but when I finally do obey, my burden is so much lighter I wonder why I waited so long. When I obey I become more of…who I was created to be. Just for the record: I fell asleep almost immediately after I wrote “Another Lesson :o)”.
Until next time: Blessings!