Those Hands of Loss

It’s at the top of the stairs I find myself falling, falling into the hands of loss. It finds me in these strange places. There is makeup to be put on, my bag to be unpacked, my rain jacket to be found. But I can’t move. It always seems to be that in the moments when I least want to hear them that I do: I hear those memories echoing in the silence of a quiet house. I wonder at the pain it must bring to be a parent in an empty house, one that was never supposed to be empty. I wonder and hurt at the intense loneliness that this breaking brings.

My hand drops from the knob and I take the stairs. One at a time, I whisper to myself. That’s all. Just one. step. at. a. time. And it’s hard not to fall over, in this grip of loss, because it’s only in these rare moments loss has its opportunity to stare at me face to face. Oh sure, it seems to always be there, but most days it seems more like an unwelcome companion.

It does not always have the boldness it has today.

And I walk by the boxes that fill the basement, and the boxes contain the memories that refuse to be left safely inside. Because there are journals open, with her scrawl across them, that remind me of that other life. There are letters and framed photographs that once graced the wall of a family home. They once told a story. And now their story is in a box, in a basement, hidden away.

And I stop walking. Because loss is too heavy. It stops me in my tracks, and I’m frozen there until the crunch of gravel in the driveway outside brings me back.

Because there’s makeup to be put on, a bag to be unpacked, and a jacket to be found. And so I leave the journals and stories in their boxes. And I walk away.

Signs of Blessing, Too.

The sign welcoming us into my hometown appears before us, a beacon on a hill that I had driven by all my life. I’m excited to show one of my best friends where I grew up, giving her glimpses into the life I had before I knew her. We pass by one of the side streets, blocked off for construction, and I make a left by the restaurant, immediately feeling enveloped by the maple lined main street.

We make our way down the road, and I find myself pointing out landmarks as we turn onto the street where I grew up. I tell her of neighbours as we round the corner, feeling myself driving as if on autopilot. And then I see the large green evergreens, the pool peeking out from behind, and I feel my breath catch as I’m brought back to a lifetime ago. We get closer to our house, and I slow down, feeling my heart hurt as we approach. I study the grey siding, the new gardens in the back brightening up the large backyard. I see evidence of the new family that’s moved in; the new deck, the different cars in the driveway. In every way it feels as if someone has taken over my life, has moved in while I was away. I swallow and pull the car ahead away.

We’re silent for a little while, until I point out the place where my dad’s childhood home once stood. I wave to an old neighbour and then we’re driving past the public pool and I’m remembering T-ball games and babysitting trips to the park. As we turn back onto main street, heading out of the village, I feel the tears well in my eyes and I grip the steering wheel harder.

“I think what makes everything so hard,” I hear myself say, “is that it feels like I lost my whole life.” As the words leave my mouth, I feel her hand on my shoulder. “I know,” she answers quietly, and I’m infinitely grateful for the absence of empty, sympathetic words.

I can feel my sorrow and grief entering into the car with us, and I sit with them for a moment. I feel the weight of sadness and my heart is heavy. As the maple trees disappear into my rearview mirror, I swallow my remaining tears and look ahead. “Please God,” I feel my heart pray, “some day let those memories not just be signs of loss. Let them be signs of blessing, too.”

When Water Washes Away Your Words

When we had the flood in the basement, it washed away not only books, drywall, shoes and clothes, but it washed away something very precious. It washed away my words.

It was a blue journal, with purple binding along the side. On the front was a tree, raised leaves that I can still feel on my fingertips. I remember the moment in the bookstore, slipping it out of the bookshelf from among the myriad of others calling out for my attention.

In that journal were my words. It held words from the ending of my time at university, and the beginning of my trip to Africa. It held tears. It contained joy and triumph. Across its pages were the paintings I had created with my words, bits of my soul slipped in between the strokes and lines.

I long to live a life not only in the present, but a life that looks back, too. My journals let me do that. They let me see where I’ve come from, because as I see where I’m coming from I see where I’m going, too. I want to look back and see how life, how God, how people have shaped me. I want to remember who I was then so I can know more deeply who I am now.

The water stole my journal, blurring the words and marring the book with destructive mould. The book was slipped into a garbage bag with junk, the meaning and worth known only by me.  It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I’m struggling to remind myself that the process of holding my pen to paper was just as important as the end result of the filled journal. I’m trying to remember, and be thankful for the fact that although water stole my words, it can never steal my voice.

{But still my heart is hurting a little bit to know those precious words have slipped away forever.}