We had two of our four living children over last night to celebrate the 8th birthday of our middle granddaughter, Addison. The two who came are the two with children, our oldest daughter and oldest son. Our oldest daughter has three daughters ages 12, 8 and 4, and our son has a son 3 months younger than the youngest granddaughter, so he is soon to be 4.
I love to hear stories of our children and grandchildren and jump at any chance to, and last night I was rewarded with a doozy of one told by my oldest daughter about her youngest daughter. After having a good laugh about it, though, it brought me up short, reminding me of how much our loss has affected my life not only emotionally and spiritually, but practically.
My granddaughters almost always want to spend the night after a family dinner at our house, and it seems like, from what I’ve been told, that the requests to do so begin at their home before they are even here, and last night was no exception. After some explaining from their mama that they couldn’t stay because Grandma (me) had a sore arm (I have tendonitis in my shoulder) and couldn’t take care of them properly, my youngest granddaughter, Rowan, proceeded in her sassy-sweet little girl voice, to explain to her mama that they were fine and could take care of themselves while at Grandma’s house. “You see”, she said, “Grandma has a room beside the ‘messy’ room where we can stay and we’ll be fine.”
I could hear her saying this, and I enjoyed it immensely. Then I could see her looking at the “messy room”, and I am reminded of my less-than-I-was-before-the-tragedy self and am a little downhearted. Oh, how our tragedy’s tentacles have reached into all areas of our lives.
My “messy room” is a very real thing. In fact, right now I have a messy house, since the tendonitis has side-lined me a bit.
Years ago, I learned the definition of “perfectionist” and realized it fit me to a tee. I could almost get away with being one before our children started to come along. Soon after our 2nd or 3rd child was born, though, I knew I had to change my ways or risk losing the affection of my children. I knew I had a decision to make, and it was actually a very simple one – have a perfectly clean house or have happy children. I chose happy children. But making the decision to change is the easy part. I struggled for many years at putting this easily-arrived-at decision into practice. I believe, though, where my house is concerned, I’ve probably finally arrived at not being a perfectionist!
All humor aside, my precious granddaughter’s comment disheartened me a bit, causing me to recall all the areas I’ve been benched, so to speak, since our middle son was killed in a car accident. It reminded me of a 4th of July celebration we hosted shortly after our son died. Besides our children and grandchildren, we had invited a cherished (and safe) couple from our church that we had traveled with and gotten to know over a number of years, and their children. We had a delightful, though difficult day and were, in the long run, glad we had come out of our shells a bit and had someone over to enjoy the holiday with.
A few weeks after that day, I was in the kitchen, where my friend and I had spent a bit of time preparing food and visiting, and happened to look up and caught a glimpse of my ceiling fan. Oh, my. It looked like it had grown a fur coat, it was so covered in dust. Before our tragedy, I would have been mortified to realize I’d had someone over to my house and then discovered I’d neglected to clean something before they came. Not only was I not mortified, though, it was eye-opening to me that I hadn’t even thought of cleaning it in several months. Shortly after discovering it, I did clean it, and I remember my husband’s response when I told him I did, because it reminds me so of how the Lord is toward us.
When I told him about finally cleaning the ceiling fan after so many months, and that it was the first time I’d realized I hadn’t cleaned it since before our son died, he said, “I know. It’s okay. It looks good, now!”
It is utterly amazing to me that the God of the universe sees all, knows all, and can do anything He pleases, yet loves us with an unconditional perfect love, and is always patient with us. My husband is very much like that; like our Heavenly Father. I had assumed he never noticed the ceiling fan. He had. It didn’t matter. There were more important things to think about and work on, like getting me through those horrible months of deep, deep sorrow and trauma caused by our tragedy.
I still have a “messy room”. I think I might keep it that way just to give my little Rowan something to talk about! Actually, I think she’s a little like her mama when she was that age and never really runs out of things to talk about!
I still struggle to function the way I did before my middle son died a little over 3 years ago. But my husband and my God are nothing but patient and kind to me and I am working on being that way with myself.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:1-3
“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming. The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their sorrows. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. The Lord relieves the afflicted; He brings down the wicked to the ground.” Psalm 147: 1-6