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Thanksgiving in Loss

As I search through my closet for appropriate funeral attire, I think, “It’s too soon.”  Wasn’t I just doing this for the funeral of our friend’s 10 year old son? Now, I look for the dark apparel for a young father.  Blacks and Grays-colors of mourning.  I’ve worn these things too often.  I may even still have the dress I wore to my own father’s funeral a year and a half ago. No. I don’t think I can do that.

I am reminded of the funerals I attended for two of my friends’ brothers. They both lost them way too early.  Then a few years later, for one of those friend’s infant daughter who would never even know this world.  So much tragedy.  So much mourning.

And this, right before what is supposed to be a time of Thanksgiving.  As the sadness rushes in like a flood while I prepare food for our annual family Thanksgiving feast, I acknowledge how hard it can be to celebrate and add to that list of 1,000 gifts when a loved one is missing from our lives. I imagine how especially difficult it must be for those whose wounds are still open and bleeding.  How do they find the grace, the thanksgiving?

Then I feel it. There is grace in knowing that we don’t have to be strong.  He is strong for us. His grace is sufficient because His strength is made perfect in weakness.  When there is nothing a friend or family member can say to take away the hurt, it isn’t too much for Him.  When we don’t have the strength to take a step, He will pick us up in His arms and take us where we need to go.  When we’ve cried so many tears that we are tired of crying, he pulls us close and lets us simply sigh deeply against Him until the next wave comes.  He knows.  Even if no one else understands the depth of our pain, He can feel it.

He did feel it.  He sent His only Son to die.  The pain that we feel from missing someone extremely close to us is not lost on Him.  He did it, because He could see the grace in it.  He did it because He knew it would allow us to truly be with Him one day.  A God like that would never leave us alone to deal with despair on our own.  No matter how much we cry, or how weak we get, He is still strong.  He is still God. He still gives us hope.  We can go on, because He goes on with us.  And even when our hearts simply cannot fathom a thankful thought, there is that.

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Memories are Made of This

Now that I finally got a clear glass mug, I will drink more tea.  In my quest to give up coffee for various reasons, one being acid reflux, I bought a variety of herbal tea.  I like tea, and have enjoyed drinking it in the past, but once I began drinking coffee my tea intake significantly went down.  I’ve had a hard time switching to tea in the morning, but as I said, I bought a clear glass mug today and now it will work.

It just doesn’t seem right when I am drinking it out of a coffee cup.  Aren’t we strange like that?  Growing up I drank peppermint tea with Great Grandma in her clear mugs.  Then after she passed I spent many years drinking tea at my aunt’s house in clear glass mugs.  I have so many fond memories of those wonderful ladies that involve drinking tea.  So that’s the way it has to be.  It will work now.

It’s so crazy how so many emotions can be attached to the simplest things.  An onion reminds me of how my uncle used to call me “onion head” and a flood of memories follows: a jar with an onion that I kept until it was so rotten I couldn’t look at it anymore, a set of MC Escher cards, and listening to him playing guitar.

The word “citation” takes me back to my first vehicle: the 1981 Chevy Citation.  However, what it really does is remind me of how loving and generous my grandpa was. He bought me that car and the next few consecutive ones, and paid the insurance.  He wanted me to have transportation so I didn’t have to rely on anyone for rides.

A weeping willow tree brings all the memories of the many, many hours I spent at my other aunt’s house, growing up with my cousin-swinging on the branches, getting semis to honk and playing hide-and-seek-all the fun we had when she wasn’t torturing me.

There are many other things that stop my mind in its tracks and send me back in time.  Sometimes I am blessed with feeling the same emotions I did back then.

So whether it’s a mug, an onion, a weeping willow, or a specific word, what seemingly insignificant items take you to another place and time with a flood of memories?

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El Disgusto’s Lesson

Most people have heard the saying in one way or another: before you judge someone, you should walk a mile in his shoes. I’ve recently come up with another way to gain insight into someone’s heart: drive a few miles in his car.

The other day I had to drive my husband’s route car into town. I honestly don’t think I have driven it since it quit being an extra family vehicle and officially became his route car. He delivers mail in a rural area. The roads are rough on vehicles.  I always give his work cars special names.  Not all may be appropriate to write here, but I’ll share one: El Disgusto. See, I said he has a rural route. I mean, dirt roads-some of the last ones to get plowed in the winter-rural. If any of you live on a dirt road, you understand the dust and grime that has accumulated over the years. Incidentally, I avoid driving his route vehicles at all costs. If he has the family minivan somewhere and I am home with just his car, I act as though I have no vehicle available to me.

So for reasons that aren’t important, I drove it 15 miles into town and back to get groceries.  Before I left, he told me that when I see it smoking not to worry; it does that all the time.  I rolled my eyes and said, “Great.”  He had to come out and move the seat forward because the button wasn’t working right.  Then I got in-after putting a towel on the seat–and buckled the seatbelt. That left my hand feeling grimy and me wondering if I was going to have a dirt line on my sweater when I got to the store.  I hated to even touch the steering wheel, but after admitting there was no alternative, I grabbed on.

I called him on my way into town to ask him if it was normal for the car to shake like pieces were going to fall off of it when I reached 55 MPH.  He said, “Yes, it does that sometimes.” I literally imagined that I was going to end up like one of those cartoons-driving down the road with the car falling apart and me sailing down the pavement in nothing but a seat and steering wheel.

I told him that I can’t believe he drives this vehicle every day; that it is ridiculous that this is the vehicle we rely on for our livelihood.   I said if I had to drive that vehicle every day I would be terribly depressed.  He said, “That’s just one way I sacrifice for the family. I don’t want us to be in debt.”  Wow.  I don’t give him nearly enough credit sometimes.  Since we don’t have enough money to buy a nicer vehicle outright, he drives this one until then.  For the family.  For me.  Every single work day. And I complain when he wakes me up in the morning while he’s getting ready to go do that.  It’s nice to put things into perspective sometimes.