A Matter of Life and Death

It has been quite a few weeks for our family. I could take the time to write more about these challenges, and I am tempted to do so — just one big, long, tired whine. There were things that each member of our family dealt with that have been very heavy. There has been much anxiousness.

But today, we sit on the other side, having each and together walked through some fires.  Today we find ourselves on the other side drenched in thankfulness. Just in time to eat some turkey and say so out loud.

Hearts are heavy as God just called my sweet man’s beloved grandpa home. The patriarch of our family was loved beyond words. He and his wife have demonstrated love to each member of their family in ways that made us each (even those of us who married in) feel like the favorite. In fact, they loved to tell each grandchild that they were, indeed, the favorite. How precious are our memories. How beautiful the example of a life lived to its fullest and love overflowing.

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This feels to us as some sort of heavenly exchange as we simultaneously welcome a brand new and beautiful soul into our midst with the presence of our second granddaughter, Aveline Joy.

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As a beautiful and wise friend of mine often says, we need these contrasts. We need the pain. We need the sorrow. These things highlight the joy!! They remind of us our need for One Who is greater than what this life has to offer!

Recently, my son, who reads psychology books for fun, was telling me about this book a doctor wrote about life and its cycles, and though my summary will be very dumbed down as it must be for me to relay it, what struck me were these things.

We don’t deal with death in today’s day.  We have entered a time and place as a country where we pretend it doesn’t exist as much as humanly possible.  Once upon a time, children saw animals die from hunting and understood well the process of life to death to provision for a table.  Folks passed away and were prepared at home for burial on the dining room table.  Death was normal and accepted.  Now, we have this bizarre fascination with pretending it’s not real.  As if the fountain of youth is attainable and desirable.

Just watch a TV show and look at the women who refuse to let their hair go gray, who inject plastic into their face and have parts cut and reshaped in order to pretend they aren’t aging.  The funny part is, you never see a plastic-faced, brown-haired seventy year old and think they look twenty-four, yet that is their hope, isn’t it? It makes me sad.

Won’t I be allowed to look like a granny someday? Will I be the only woman I know with gray hair and wrinkles and maybe even a bun because I decide to accept that I’ve aged? I want that!   It’s a rite of passage!  The women I admire the very most in this world carry time and laughter and even pain etched into their very skin. We just can’t be young forever no matter how much we fake it!

We cannot force life to go on as usual when there’s a cycle that needs to play out.

I read a quote the other day that said something to the effect of how we want to walk all of our days with the ones we love.  We plan things to do together.  We want to share all of our moments with everyone we love around us.  It’s so true.  I want to always have this moment where everyone I know is in their right place and all is well.  It is so beyond my control, though.  That’s where trust in a greater purpose comes in

As I watched my daughter labor for this newest child, I was watching this beautiful, gut-wrenching process in awe.  The primal strength exhibited by one woman to reach her child was phenomenal.  Her determination to push through pain she never though possible for the sake of her baby sat me back in my seat.  After a traumatic first birth experience, we all went into this one with apprehension.  Part of me wanted someone to call me when it was over and everyone was okay.  The bigger part of me needed to be there and see with my own eyes that same thing.  Watching your children hurt is something I don’t have words to describe.  Setting them in the hands of God for bigger purposes than our own feels next to impossible.

I wept as Avie Joy arrived and all was well.  I wept tears of joy and thankfulness in my corner of the room.  I knew the agony my daughter had just experienced.  I heard the first little cry of a child who shared my very blood.  I took it all in from the background where I belonged.  I held Avie Joy quite a while after the commotion was over.  I looked into her little eyes and whispered my love.

And I wept as I consider His faithfulness.  It seems there should be a word better than *great*.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Her little hands…

It’s her little hands. They just amaze me. To be honest, I love her little neck the most; there’s nothing quite like a little baby neck, is there? The way it smells, and the tiny-ness of it.
My first granddaughter, Josie has changed my whole life.

Once upon a time, I was the kind of momma that couldn’t share my babies well because I couldn’t stand to miss a moment. They were my whole world, one at a time and collectively. The way they smelled, the way they chattered and hugged me and held my hand. I just simply couldn’t get enough. And I honestly thought that I’d never feel that again.

But, I do love that much again, and it’s amplified because while I get to love her so so much — this time it’s absent of my responsibility. I don’t stare at her and hope we will be able to afford all she needs or wonder if I’m doing it all the right way. I just simply get to love her and make her laugh. And remain in awe of the amazing parenting I see in my daughter and realize I had a part in that.
Okay, before this sounds like this is all about me, I’ll get back to my point.

Her little hands.
When I was the momma, I somehow missed what I’m about to share. Perhaps it was the constant need of me that caused a zombie-like state, but back then I just didn’t have the perspective to notice their little hands.

Josie’s little hands began by being her own worst enemy. When she was born we had to protect her from them as they operated as if by some strange masochistic remote control and scratched her own face and eyeballs to the point of tears. Tiny, beautiful, delicate, claw-like hands whose only capability was to hold the finger of someone she loved.
As she grew, we became amazed when her eyes would connect with something and her little brain told her hands to reach toward it! You could practically see the wheels spinning in that little mind as she so vaguely realized that she could control the tiniest bit of her world.
It wasn’t long until she realized those little hands could effectively be a vehicle for bites of yum to get to her face. How handy!

Today, at 16 precious months, she can do a myriad of things with those beauties. She can rip apart Easter window clings in no time flat! She can almost open a child-proof baby gate! She can color on a wall quite brilliantly! She can oh-so-gently stroke her Momma’s face to show so much love that just waited all this time to come out. She can reach for my hand when a step is coming, knowing she needs a little help. She can finally pet Lily the dog (her partner in crime) quite lovingly and then drop her all of the good food that was supposed to be her dinner.

How she’s grown and changed! From hands that hurt to hands that share and love and create.

Makes me wonder about the power my hands have. I have had these same hands within my control for decades and though they are looking a bit tired these days, they serve me quite well.
They have loved and served and swatted and written words and made music and held and soothed and nourished and wiped many a tear, both my own and others’.

I think back to my parents’ hands. I know exactly what they look like even after all these years absent. I remember wanting so badly to hold my daddy’s hand, but it wasn’t very available. Though I knew both of their hands well and though they were hands that worked hard to provide me with food and a place in which to live, they weren’t hands of love.

I have certainly experienced hands of love, however. My father-in-law once grabbed my hand safely in his when we arrived at his home far from ours. He held it all the way from our vehicle to his door and called me “Sweetheart.” Still makes me cry.

I sat in a hospital room with a very ill husband and my mother-in-law wiped my tears and held me close.
Those are hands of love.

A beautiful woman I know hugged me once when I was dealing with one of the heaviest issues of my heart and her hands were like the very hands of Jesus — healing my heart-wounds.

A friend of my heart held my hand in the back row at the funeral of one I recently loved dearly. And another friend provided both my children and me food in a desperate time of need. You just cannot put a value to that kind of love.

My sweet man and his hands have literally ministered to my heart and rubbed away stress-pain and held mine through moments of trauma and sheer joy. His hands were the first love-hands I ever knew.

The hands of my babies, though stretched out some, have never changed. Except now, they serve me and reach for me and see me and validate me.

It’s a circle too beautiful for words.

We hold so much power within these tools at the end of our arms. It’s an awareness, isn’t it?

How to use them to love.
How to leave an imprint that matters.

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