Monday, November 13, 2017

Collateral Beauty

There is an ongoing battle that rages within.  Thirteen years after the loss of my mother and the battle continues.  The war between truth and lies.  The inner voice that tells me that I didn't do all I could have done for her and yet I know there was nothing else I could have done.  There is a movie with Will Smith called Collateral Beauty that we have watched recently and repeatedly actually that really shows the grief process.  He lost a child and I lost a parent.  He shuts down and closes himself up in his grief for two years and I did the same.  In the beginning of the movie which starts three years prior he is on top of the world and he is giving a speech in front of his employees and he says that life can be summed up in three abstractions;  "We long for love,"  "We wish we had more time," and "We fear death." I've thought some about these things and while I didn't write letters to Love, Time, and Death, I did spend a bit of time trying to figure it all out.

Anyone who knows the story of my beginnings knows that I spent the better part of my formative years longing for love from my dad.  A love that he was incapable of fully giving.  Likely because he was never shown the love of a father himself.  While he did provide for me, he didn't come around and show me how to ride a bike or how to throw a ball or how to throw a punch to protect myself if ever needed.  It wouldn't be until much later that I would come to know that I had the love of a father from the beginning, it just wasn't coming from my earthly father.  My heavenly father loves me and knows me and I wouldn't know that until later.  He, knowing this also would send a young man into my life when I was seventeen to help me navigate life and to try to help mend some fences or rather break down some barriers that I had built to protect myself when it came to a relationship with my dad.  He would help me to know love and help me to grow in my faith.  So yes, I do believe we do long for love, whether we admit to it or not.

I wish every day that I had had more time with my mom. I wish she could have seen my son with hair.  I wish she could have taken the girls shopping and they would have heard her say, "What do you want to do now, Kong?"  I wish I could have made her jewelry.  I wish she could have read my books.  I wish she could be here in the southern state with us enjoying the palm trees and laying on the beach with us.  I wish she had more than fifty two short years.  I wish she could be here to tell me about life and menopause and talk me down from the ledge when I get overwhelmed.  I wish she were here to fight with me when one of us needs an attitude adjustment.  I wish my kids were younger longer.  I wish we could turn back time and I knew then what I know now about how fast it goes.  I wish I hadn't wished any of it away.  I wish I hadn't checked out for two years of their lives and been more present even though I was crumbling inside.  I wish for many things and more time is near the top of the list.

I don't fear death.  I think that's where the difference occurs.  In a family that has endured it's fair share of deaths over the years I think it is hard to fear it.  I don't long for it, but I think when the time comes I will not fear it because I know so many people on the other side.  My mother, my grandparents, my aunts, and some of my cousins have all gone before me.  There was a time when we had so many funerals on my mom's side of the family the funeral home was starting to know us all by name. I don't fear death for myself.  I'm not sure that anyone who knows God fears death for themselves.  I think rather I fear life without people I love.  It always felt so weird and uncomfortable to me that someone I loved could be gone and life continued without them.  The earth continued it's path in the solar system.  The sun rose and set.  Businesses continued to open and close at the end of the day.  Life moved on.  How can that be?  How can life just....continue to move on when my heart is shattered and I feel so battered by grief and loss?

Those are questions that I continually asked myself and sometimes still do.  When holidays come and go and my loved ones aren't here.  When I'm cooking dinner and I'm not able to talk to my mom while I cook and she can't come to dinner.  When a birthday comes and goes and the void of her not being presence permeates within my soul, I ask God how can life go on, how can I possibly go on.  The answer is...because you just do.  You get up in the morning and you put one foot in front of the other and you move.  My falling into a pit for two years did nothing to honor my mother.  Perhaps it was my outward sign of my grief but two years is a lot to miss.

In the movie Howard (Will Smith) missed quite a bit but he also observed quite a bit.  He checked out of his own life, divorced his wife, almost lost his entire business, and yet...he still knew what was happening in his friend's lives.  His wife told him as their daughter was dying a woman told her not to miss the Collateral Beauty.  He didn't get it, but she did.  As I sit here thirteen years later I can see it too.

My mother found Jesus as she was given her diagnosis.  She went to church and the number of people that came to her visitation and funeral was amazing.  I didn't know some of the people that came to pay their respects and yet they all told me of the beautiful, funny, kind woman my mother was.  My mother who worked and worked to make a life for us made an impact on this world.  She wasn't famous, she didn't make any great discoveries to help with furthering mankind.  She worked in a factory for thirty years and also as a realtor for a few years before she died and she was beloved by many. 

To be honest when I started writing this I wasn't sure where God was taking me on this.  I often don't.  I'm not trained in writing.  I hold no degrees that I have ever used.  I was a stay at home mom for eleven years.  I often try and figure out what my purpose is and feel I have fallen short.  I don't contribute to society as a whole the way I probably should....and yet....perhaps my view is too small...or too large depending on your perspective.  I may never know of the impact I have had on this world this side of heaven.  I may question whether or not I am doing enough for my family and others every day of my life but maybe I can use that as a drive to do more.  Maybe by sharing my journey someone else can see themselves in it and find something to focus on outside of the pain.  If you are looking for it, I promise you that it is there.  Jesus can take the ashes and make diamonds.  He can take your pain and use it for good.  Jesus is love and he is in all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. He is the giver of time and he conquered death. And maybe none of this is what that movie was about and this is just my translation of it.  Maybe it isn't about anything at all and it is just a movie but aren't movies a form of art?  Isn't art open to interpretation?  I think God has the power to speak to us in ways that help us to understand what he is trying to get through to us.  Whether it be a movie, or a book, or a song, or a blog from a wannabe writer, sitting on a college campus, writing in a cubicle, trying to blend in with the students while she waits for her daughter to get out of class.  My hope is that instead of shutting down in your pain like I did, you will look to the light that is Jesus and let him turn your pain into a promise.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Somewhere In Between There's Me

Somewhere between a grandmother who loves having people over and feeding them and caring for them and a teenager who really just can't deal with that much peopling there is me. Does that make me an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert?  Or does that just make me weird?  I love people.  I dare say I'm a people person.  A person who entertains, I am not.  I admire people who have the confidence in their cleaning and cooking abilities to invite people into their home and feed them and entertain them without wanting to throw up at the thought of it.  I love those people.  I wish I were those people.  Don't get me wrong here I have had many a birthday party for my kids.  I've done all the things.  I don't so much worry about what my family thinks of my ability to provide food and entertainment because they are not there to see me.   They are there to see my children and they are cute and wonderful and a good distraction from the bit of dust that permanently resides on my white furniture because dusting is last on my list of things that must be accomplished when cleaning.  Also I don't cook for them, I order food in.  We have had pizza or a foot long sub from the local sub shop every time we've had a birthday party.  The only time I have cooked or prepared anything was for fourth of July parties and the years we had a grill I didn't do the cooking on the grill, my husband did.  I only did the side dishes.

I keep looking for the adultier adult here.  Unfortunately I keep coming up short.  We are about to have our second Thanksgiving here and there is a possibility that we have guests coming. We did have guests last year but it was my best friend and her family.  My best friend exudes grace.  I'm not sure that I could come up with more than five people who have the patience and love for me to extend the amount of grace she does for me.  She's closer to Jesus than a lot of people, I'm telling you people in stores go up to her to tell her their stories.  She's that kind of person.  I don't have to worry about what the state of my home is in or how high on the culinary chart the meal I serve is.  She is going to love me either way.  I can't scare her off (Like Jesus, she just keeps loving me through all of my flaws.)

My children are growing up.  We no longer have birthday parties with more than just the five of us.  The time is drawing near that I am going to be the one who has the dinners for holidays and there are more than just the five of us here and the people involved won't be my best friend and her family.  This year we may have some friends over.  Plus there is the boy my daughter is dating that will likely come by for a little while.  He comes from a large family and from what I understand they all cook.  I just can't with this.  Here's another problem, apparently the people who live down here (or basically anyone from anywhere other than the Midwest) do not eat like we do.  You may want to sit down for this....there are people in this world who have never had a meal that consists of chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  They can't even conceive of it.  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?  That is what I want to know?  It is the standard for all comfort food.  You can't not have it.

My menu for Thanksgiving is: Turkey, ham, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple salad, green beans, salad, deviled eggs, and rolls.  I don't even know if that's the correct menu for Thanksgiving.  I probably have too many meats, too many starches, and not enough of something else.  I even forgot to add pie to the list because I don't actually even like pumpkin pie, I like apple pie so I with have to buy frozen pies to have because don't ask me to bake from scratch...just don't.  It's for everyone that I ask this.  Truly. To be fair they do need to be baked. As I look over the list I don't even know if I have enough burners on the stove for that many dishes.

How can I be here already?  I remember going to my grandmother's house as a kid for every holiday and every Sunday for that matter.  Green bean casserole was a staple for holiday gatherings.  My aunt would bring rolls and everyone thought she made them from scratch and later in years it came out that they were frozen.  My mother baked at Christmas and made more cookies and candies than I can remember to count.  She filled shirt boxes with cookies and candies and gave them to family and friends.  EVERYONE looked forward to it.  She was the best and I did not inherit her gift.  I was always just the taste tester.  Eating I excel at, cooking and baking, not so much. I don't know how to be the one who does all the things.  I'm still coming to terms with the fact that my people need to eat more than once a day.  I'm still trying to accept that my face is really my face and not my mother's face.  I still phone a friend with cooking questions and life questions.

Now I'm busy googling what a typical Thanksgiving in a southern state looks like, trying to figure out if the food is going to be good or at least edible.  Trying to figure out seating and how to entertain people and come to terms with the idea that I can't just sit and read a book while my husband watches football all while still being excited that there might actually be people coming to hang out with us.  Tell me if you have some ideas food wise or otherwise.  I would appreciate the input.  I would also appreciate having my house cleaned for this impending event and losing ten pounds beforehand as well.