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Archive for the ‘Surreal’ Category

Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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Sadie: All moms are annoying. Kids don’t want moms.

Me: Hmm. I think kids would really miss moms if they weren’t there.

Sadie: Yeah, maybe other kids don’t want moms, but I do. I just wish you didn’t always tell me what to do. It’s very annoying. How would you feel if I said to you ‘Clean your room! All of it?’ or ‘Build a fort for me!’ or ‘Do my work for me!’

Me: I have never asked you to do my work, or build me a fort.

Sadie: I KNOW. But it FEELS like it.

Me: Well, when you become a mom, you can tell your own kids what to do.

Sadie: I definitely won’t be like YOU. I’m going to be a NICE mom.

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I started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.

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I was stretching at the gym earlier, and I was a little bit startled to see Tate’s feet. I had her little footie socks on that she always wore, and my brain changed my wide, chunky feet to her delicate, dainty ones–including her little chicken ankles.  I swear, I was wearing my sister’s feet, like pretty little sock-shoes. I blinked and they were my feet again, but how BIZARRE.

I wish I could talk about something else, but this is it, and here we are.

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Today was a rough one. I was listening to my ipod, bopping around–unloading the dishwasher happy as you please–when I heard this tiny snippet of a song. It reminded me of a song that my mom used to play when my sister Tate and I were little. It wasn’t even the SAME song. It just reminded me of it. I gasped and was surprised when the crushing weight of grief just pounded me. Now I know where the feelings were hiding. I just cried and sobbed and kept saying to God “I want my sister back. Please send her back.”

Tate and I had this joke about the times when we were super-over-the-top emotional. We would say ‘that one goes into our Pathetic Scene File.’ As if there were a notecard box that held all our sad, dramatic moments. I thought of that when I was laying on the kitchen floor in a heap with my nose running (I figured it would be easier to clean than the living room carpet…) Yup, Tate. Definitely one for the File.

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What happens if all I feel is a giant, heavy, Blah? It’s like a big rock is just sitting on my stomach. Sometimes I am afraid that I’m not dealing with my sister’s death at all, so I write in my journal over and over: Tate is gone. Tate died. My sister died. I have a dead sister. My sister is dead. –just to make myself FEEL the reality. But I wonder where the feelings are. I can explain the entire hospital ordeal to anyone who asks with clinical detachment. I can talk about lawyers and wrongful death and exhuming like it was something I saw on a show. I guess I’m wondering, no fearing, that all of a sudden, I’ll pass out when it truly hits me.

I’m waiting for it to hit me.

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My little sister Cindy and I stood looking into Tate’s casket on Wednesday night and asked each other, ‘Is this it? I mean, have we actually accepted this? Are we still in denial? Shock?’ Because after the initial horrible-ness of seeing her laid out–actually dead–in the funeral home, we sort of got used to it. It’s just that I KNEW that my sister wasn’t there. It didn’t look like her. It didn’t feel like her. It was like a grim representation of her, like she had put on a freakish Tate costume for halloween.

Not that we didn’t greive. I cried so much over the past few days that my head JUST NOW has stopped hurting. Maybe our bodies can’t take it all in at once. The loss of it all. Sometimes I feel like someone who has lost their leg, but they still feel it itching. I kept looking around the funeral home for Tate to make some comment about something that I knew would make her laugh. All these people came through the line to see her, and for a minute, I forgot why they were there. Some of them I hadn’t seen for years, and I kept yelling out their names like an excited sports announcer. Then I would glance sideways and catch a glimse of Tate in the casket, laying there in her Steelers jersey and realize that maybe I was being too loud. They hadn’t been there for hours and hadn’t seen her in the hospital and the shock of seeing her there didn’t match my excitement of seeing them. It was all so conflicting and bizarre.

I took a walk in the woods today, and it started to rain. I was so comforted by the sound of it and by the dim green softness. I was thinking about heaven, and how it blows my mind that someone I know so imtimately is actually on the other side. I was asking her what it was like, and wondering if she could see me there, in the rain, crying.

I’m not sure how to navigate this grief.

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