Monday, December 9, 2013

From coal to diamonds... saying goodbye

Oak Street
For those of you who have been following me for awhile now, you know that my mother died in January. Grief, as many of you have experienced, is a bit like swimming in the ocean. At times, we float along peacefully, rising and falling with the motions of the waves. At other times, unexpected waves catch us unaware and toss us about like ragdolls, pulling us under the water and along the bottom of the ocean, dragging us across broken bits of shells that cut into our skin and make us bleed. Those waves usually occur just when we think we're doing okay; that we're over the worst of it.

During the past eleven months, I've made frequent trips to my childhood home, which remained vacant since Mom's death. Sometimes the trips were vacations of sorts. The home was my sanctuary where I could go and spend time by myself to write, reflect, and visit friends and family. At 240 miles away, it wasn't always easy or convenient for me to do this. 

Last week, I made my final trip home. My sisters and I sold the house and the time came for me to gather my belongings and say goodbye. Closing is this coming Friday.

The pain of parting was ridiculous. It was like losing my mom all over again. It was like losing a part of me. For over 50 years, it was home. Home in every sense of the word. It was a constant in my life, a comfort, a haven. I feel a little bit like my arm or leg or something has been severed. Something's missing. 

But amidst the pain and the stress and the grief, another emotion has swelled in my heart. Gratitude. As I journeyed through this last eleven months, I've discovered how much some people care and how willing they are to lend a hand, an ear, a meal...

My heart is full because of people like Melissa and Darryl -- neighbors here who took care of things for us when we had to drop everything to go home to be with Mom in her last days, and to stay there through the funeral. 

And Linda, Bill, and Jonathan -- neighbors of my mother's who made this past year so.much.easier. They took care of the yard and the house and relieved so much stress as my sisters and I could not be in our hometown as often as needed. They also helped when it was time for us to load the truck last week. But aside from the physical assistance, their caring and loving attitudes blessed us beyond measure. When they moved in across the backyard oh so many years ago, we never realized what a treasure they really were. 

Dawn, my best friend since childhood who, along with her husband, Scott, opened their home to us and made us feel more than welcome during times when Mom's house was full and we needed a place to stay. They ministered to us during the week of the funeral in ways they can't imagine. Now, they've taken a roomful of furniture from Mom's and created a bedroom for my husband and I so we always have a place to stay in my hometown. 

My cousin, Kelly, blessed me time and time again as I came to stay at the house. She was there to share a meal, a bottle of wine, a laugh or two, and some tears. And, she was there to help with the seemingly dauntless task of cleaning out the house. She worked tirelessly and for that, I am eternally grateful.

My girls, Bethany and Jessica, and their husbands, Tom and RT, did their best to ease our burdens as well, despite the fact that they, too, were heartbroken at the loss of their grandmother and the home in Manheim that they loved.

My granddaughter, Laura, and grandson, Lincoln, offered super tight hugs again and again. They, too, miss Grandma Gene.

And, of course, my husband, who possibly shed as many tears as I have. His tears touched my heart. Bill loved my mom, and the house on Oak Street. 

There were others, of course, like Lynne, who I'd met at a writing conference and offered her assistance when she found out what I was going through. Her offer of help meant so much to me. My church family and my writing buddies offered support as well. And there were so many of you, in the GG community, who let me know they were praying for me and reached out with virtual hugs. How often your words of encouragement helped me through the day! 

I am sad. I am a bit off kilter. And I am grateful beyond anything I could imagine.

May gratitude fill your hearts to overflowing as well. Even in the midst of great pain, there is always something to be thankful for.



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