Saturday, October 26, 2013

waiting for morning

She's right there- sitting next to me on my couch. She's laughing, and her smile reaches her eyes. She's so close, I can almost count her freckles. I reach my hand out to touch the soft, worn fabric of her blue and grey flannel shirt...

And she's gone.

I wake with a start. It's dark. She never knew this house.

No, no, no… She was right here. I could hear her. I could see her. I could smell her. She can't be gone all over again.

I jump from my bed. It's freezing- I left my window open. I close it and turn to my living room, hoping to find her on my couch...

...but it's empty.

The fog of the dream slips away and she goes with it, leaving that all too familiar empty, hollow ache within my chest.

I pull her soft, worn flannel from my closet. I clutch it tightly to my chest, breathing in her scent from the fabric. The aching grows.

I would give anything to have her here again, even in another dream. But I'm wide awake now, and I'm powerless against the wave of grief that comes crashing in around me. I thought I was past this.

Sleep isn't going to come easy.

So I pull out her old notes. I listen to her playlist. I look through her old pictures. I wear her flannel and sob into her sleeves.

I try and imagine that she's in Boone. I think of her excitement of the first snow that fell this week. Maybe she went out in it with Jesse. I wonder about her classes and what she'd tell me on the phone if she called me right now. There's so many things I wish I could talk to her about.

I almost check her Facebook, just to see if she's posted any pictures this semester. But I can't bare the reality that there would be none to find.

I take a deep breath. I pack all the memories back into their box. I bite my lip, swallow hard, and force the tears to stop.

Please morning, come quickly. I need the distraction of daybreak. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

long weekend in Sneads Ferry

I went to Sneads Ferry for a long weekend with the Thompsons. It's where Chris grew up. They've invited me maybe a dozen times over the years, but it was the first time I actually took them up on the offer.

It was fun- lots of firsts for me... sand bar, boat rides, clamming and jet skiing. I met tons of Thompsons that I had only heard of, and spent more time with the handful that I had met before. Everywhere we went, Chris gave me an ongoing tour. There was lots of sea food, lots of sun, lots of giggling kiddos calling me Auntie Grace and lots of time to talk, talk, talk.

I had a BLAST.

There's something intriguing about visiting people's hometowns- about seeing where they come from. It's like it makes the stories they've told so often, come to life. I liked the beach trips, boat rides and shared meals. But the stories- I loved the stories. Stories of when Chris and his 2 sisters were in school. Stories of the sibling arguments, family milestones and funny mistakes. And there were stories about their mom. Their mom who died nearly 20 years ago.

I've heard Chris talk about his mom for years. But hearing him talk about her now, nearly a year since I experienced sudden, unexpected death in my own family, is so different. It means more to me- I relate at a much deeper level than I did a year ago. Now, I know that you don't just share those stories with anyone- they kind of have to be earned. It was a privilege to walk through the house he grew up in, look at the pictures on the walls, and see his mom's belongings that still remain untouched- like physical proof that she was there, and she had an impact on the people who remained behind in the home she left so suddenly. I don't think I could've fully appreciated a tour like that until now.

One of Chris' sisters called me Paige a couple times. Surprisingly, it never bothered me. Not like when people at home accidentally call me Paige. It was kind of nice, actually... like they knew about her. Like she mattered to them, too.

One person asked me about my siblings. I said I had an older brother and sister. I never mentioned Paige. They didn't know. I didn't want the follow up, invasive questions. Not with a wiggly, ice cream covered 2 year old in my lap. Not at that moment. But later, I was surrounded my people who got it. Who could empathize. Who could help me figure out how on earth to answer that stupid question that is meant to be so simple.

I don't think they realized it at the time, but the entirety of the Thompson crew gave me hope. Chris could drive around his old hometown, point out landmarks, and talk easily about the things that have remained constant and the things that have changed over the years. Right now, there are still days that it feels like Thomasville suffocates me with the constant memories and reminders of where Paige should be. But one day, I'll be able to speak of this place fondly again.  

Even the youngest of the grandkids can look at pictures and point out Grandma Gail. They know the stories, and even occasionally added little details in when their parents left them out. My future kids can know Paige even if they will never meet her. 

Chris, Apryle and Laurie could talk endlessly about their mom without falling apart. They could talk about how they dealt with the pain of loss without reliving it in the present moment. They could laugh about her! One day, sharing Paige's story- sharing my story- won't hurt so deeply. 

A weekend in Sneads Ferry. Lots of water, sand, and fun. Lots of people who feel like family. And maybe just a little bit of healing, too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It's not alright

people tell me that grieving is a process. that it cycles through, up and down, forward and backward, just a little healing at a time. people tell me that, wherever I am in that process, it's alright. whatever I feel or think at different stages, it's alright. but it's not.

it's not alright that it's been this long and I still don't feel stable enough to get a teaching position for the fall.

it's not alright that I still don't know how to answer people who ask me how I'm doing.

it's not alright that some of my favorite people right now are only my friends because she's dead.

it's not alright that I still have so many days that I'm mad at her for leaving and mad at God for taking her.

it's not alright that my limited creative abilities were only useful for designing her tombstone.

it's not alright that the main reason I'm excited about going to the coast is because it'll be far away from the constant reminders of her.

it's not alright that I have to avoid twitter when I know people are posting about their trip to Africa, because I can't handle the kind of meltdowns it causes when I look at their pictures.

it's not alright that I spent the week helping the Beavers move into a new house... in Thomasville... when I know they're aching to be 8,000 miles from here.

it's not alright that I had to sit in a room with 3 of my favorite kids on Sunday night and try and explain to them that there was no earthly reason for her to die... that she died when her body was perfectly healthy.

it's not alright that Ma cries while writing about her in papers for school, and I can't fix it.

it's not alright that the tattoo on my wrist is as close as she feel most days.

it's not alright that I still don't sleep well, because I'm awake thinking about her.

it's not alright that my heart still aches for her like this every. friggin. day. when nearly a year has passed.

it's not alright. All of this still feels like punishment.

Friday, May 10, 2013

"... you don't understand now..."

It's been an interesting week. Every once in awhile there are still days that knock me off my feet. But I'm learning to get back up. 

I've slowly been digging back into Scripture. It sort of feels like I'm falling in love with Jesus all over again. It's a slow process- one step at a time- but at least it's forward motion. It's a start.

Over and over this week, I've been led back to John 13- the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. I'm particularly drawn to the interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter. Peter is shocked that Jesus, his Rabbi, would ever stoop down to wash his feet. When he asks why, Jesus says,

"What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." 

There's so much promise in Jesus' response. It's crossed my mind so many times this week. It takes my breath away...

 "You don't understand now... but you will."

Most days, I can't wait to get on the "other side" of this. I want to be delivered of the grief. I want to bypass the hard stuff and skip to the part when life gets easy again. There's so much I don't understand. There are so many days that I feel like all I do is beg God for answers, crying out "Why? Where are you now?"

But my God's aim has always been to work all things for my good. And now, in the most difficult season I have ever faced, I will strive to believe that He is cleansing me- washing my feet- working for my good

And no. I don't understand it right now. But He has promised me that, one day? One day I will

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons From the Trenches

It's been 9 months. 9 months of both laughter and tears, good days and bad. It's been 9 months of learning some hard lessons.. because that's another thing that no one warns you about- grief is one crazy kind of learning experience.

Some things I've learned, wrestled, and struggled with the last 9 months...

1. Sometimes, you will have the right to be angry. But you will never have the right to be cruel.

When I get sad, I get angry. I don't control my tongue, and I lash out at people I love. I've said some horrible, hurtful things to people over the last 9 months. So learn it now- Don't let your anger harden your heart. Don't take it out on the people who love you most.

2. Grief feels like a very private thing, but it's impossible to avoid living it publicly.

This might not be true for everyone, but it's true for me. I feel like everywhere I go, people know who I am now. It's uncomfortable and frustrating. At times, it's made me bitter and unapproachable, because I just assume the worst of people. So I've had to learn to just answer people's questions- respectfully. Not everyone is just trying to pry into your life because they're nosy. Some people genuinely care.

3. It's okay not to be okay.

On bad days, I am constantly tempted to plaster a smile on my face and make everyone believe that everything is fine. I want people to believe I am strong enough to handle anything all on my own. I have to remind myself- Being sad won't make people hate you. Crying doesn't mean that you're weak.

4. Sometimes, you do just have to hold it together. when you're driving 70mph down the interstate with a couple of someone else's children in the backseat. That's not the time to fall apart. Sometimes you have to practice some self-control and emotional regulation.

5. God is sovereign.

Even in the hard places.
Even when it doesn't feel like it.
Even when you don't want to believe it because He let this happen.
... and He'll still be waiting for you no matter how many times you try to run from His embrace.

I have to chant this to myself every single day. It's still a struggle to believe it every morning.

6. Broken worship is still worship.

It might be the most honest worship of all. Offer up the little that you think you have to give.

7. There will be times you don't have the words to pray.

 In those moments, just be still and trust that your High Priest is interceding on your behalf. But don't use it as an excuse to let your prayer life die completely.

8. Find a handful of people you can be transparent with.

Be honest. Talk to them when you're hurting. Don't push them away on the bad days... and there will be bad days.

9. Every good day is a victory. Celebrate it. 

Sometimes, life will be a day-to-day, uphill battle. Sometimes, you'll take entire weeks in stride. I have to fight to choose joy each day. There are a few bad days that blindside me and knock me off my feet. But most bad days are days I simply neglected to choose joy.

10. Grief will change you.

As much as my control freak self wishes this wasn't true, you can't lose someone who played a huge role in your life and then walk away unscathed. But how you let your grief change you in the long run- whether negatively or positively- in completely up to you.

And me? I want to walk away from this knowing and loving Christ even more deeply than I did before.

In the end, I know He's worth it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



That's from July 21st.

That night... that's when we had our last fight.

It was late. I was packing. We both felt the tension, but we both refused to speak of it at the time. She was trying to help, but getting in the way.

I just wanted to be done... get my life packed away into those 4 crates... figure it out... lock it away so I wouldn't have to think about the coming Monday... the day I would stand in the airport and say goodbye to her for a year.

I don't remember anymore what finally made us crack. She screamed at me.. said I was heartless. I screamed back.. she was too emotional and needed to get over it- she was making things harder.

I made her cry.

She stormed out of the room, down the stairs, and slept in the living room that night. That's when she sent me those messages. The ones I read, but pretended to never see.

The ones I never responded to.

This week, those messages have consumed my thoughts. I can't shake it. I haven't been able to think of anything else. I still can't believe I didn't respond. Why the hell didn't I respond? What kind of sister does that?

I would give anything to go back to that night.. to go downstairs and talk to her.. to tell her I was sorry. I would give anything to go back and respond to her messages.

I never told her I would miss her. 
I never told her that I was dreading the goodbyes.
SHE depended on ME? That's so backwards.

Hindsight. If I had known then, what I know now...

I would have hugged her tight that night.
I would have made her sleep in our room.
I would have let her help me pack.
I would have told her I loved her.
I would have told her that she's irreplaceable.

"I know I'm not leaving you much to miss..."

Are you kidding me, Kid?
There's not a person in the world who can fill the hole you left in my life.

...and I'm sorry I didn't tell you that then.