They are intense crimson red blossoms, with deep green stems, climbing their way up the trellis by my front door. And spilling over the sides of the pot are miniature round petals bedecked with tiny white flowers. Such bittersweet beauty.
You see, they are the first thing I noticed when returning home just after the Sheriff’s Department called off the search for Steve a year ago. My Mom and oldest sister had been busy giving my garden some love, in hopes that I would feel their love every time I looked at it. And I have. I do…except for today.
The warmth in the air, the angle of the early August sun and the timely bloom of those lovely petals all serve to transport me right back to a year ago–August 2nd–the day of Steve’s accident.
I still have frequent memories of Steve; some coming unbidden, while others are specifically sought after and pulled up from my ample cache of memories, forty years in the making.
But one of the biggest shifts I’ve noticed with the passage of time is that I don’t sense his presence with me much anymore. It feels as though he has been mercifully peeling my fingers off of his arms one by one as I sleep. And when I wake in the morning, I sense he has taken yet one more incremental step away from us.
He seems to know that this is what we need if the wounds are ever going to have a chance to move toward healing. I craved his presence, those “visits”; though I must admit the pain was searing. Love and pain, arm in arm.
But then, that’s what so much of this year has been like: striking contrasts living, moving and breathing right alongside each other:
Love and Pain.
Anxiety and Peace.
Heroism and Deceit.
Connection and Loneliness.
Faith and Fear.
It’s really almost never just one pure thing. That would be too simple.
I could so easily get immobilized with all of the negatives. But I know they each have something to teach me about myself…humanity…life…faith. So I don’t want to just turn my back on them or push them so far down I might not see them for months. Quite the contrary. Rather than push them out of the room, from time to time I’ve been inviting them in. I can tell they’re around by the heavy warmth in my chest, or an almost audible hum behind my ears, as if to say “There’s something important going on here. Pay attention, Carrie.”
It’s a form of being present to myself, loving myself: “weeping with those who weep”. (It just so happens that the weeper and the weepee are one in the same!) I think my very natural emotions deserve at least this much from me.
At the same time, it’s been a choice to focus on the beauty that has allowed me to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other each day: to receive the love that continues to come my way so lavishly…to savor the inexplicable peace of God when I slow down enough to take it in…to maintain relationships with those loving and heroic people who continue to step forward and give me fresh experiences of “God with skin on”.
I know we all feel a tug of war within our hearts from time to time; a battle over where our focus and energies will go.
So as I rest this weekend in the cozy seaside cabin my new friends, Gayle & Pres, have so generously offered to me, I will soak in their love, the steady rhythms of the ocean, the companionship of my good, honest friends Kevin and Shelly who knew Steve so well, and pray for healing when those welcome memories and waves of pain move through me.
The bitter and the sweet.