He holds fast to the memory attached to this swing. He would watch his beloved read books in the shade while gently swaying. He would sit beside her in the evenings while sipping on cool ice tea. Friends and family would arrive for visits and race to be the first one to sit on the swing. Folding chairs were hauled out from the garage and placed in a half-moon circle facing the swing. Sweet times and pleasant memories.
There has always been a wooden swing in the back yard or one hanging on the back porch. Pillows were added for a comfortable touch and cozy enough to lay down and take a nap. He would tie a rope on a branch of a tree or from a corner of the porch, long enough to reach the person sitting in the swing. We would stretch out on the swing, give the rope a tug and rock ourselves to sleep.
Things happen and life changes. She was no longer around to enjoy the swing with him. The rhythm of conversation taking place around the swing stopped because she was not there to talk. He never noticed how old the swing was and how badly the paint had chipped around the edges, until after she was gone. He noticed the swing more after the memories began to fade.
He fought back to keep the memories from disappearing. He bought lumber and set out to build a new swing. He created a swing like the original one he gave her years and years before. He built bird houses near the swing because she always loved to watch the birds. He is pleased with his carpentry knowing how thrilled she would have been and so proud of him. After memories fade, he sits on the swing he built for two and is flooded with peace that he will be with her again one day.
I wrote this two years ago. That wooly mammoth still needs taming, on occasion but thankfully grief is not “the elephant in the room” any longer. We talk about our life without her and lean into the grief and not run from it. It’s amazing how much fun my father and I have together. Mom is pleased, I am sure!
I was with my Dad yesterday. I went to his house to see him. Dad said that I never come over anymore. I have not intentionally stayed away from Dad because we talk all the time and we meet for lunch and dinner on a regular basis. However, after being with him in his home, I realized that I have avoided going there. Even pulling into the driveway and looking at the trees and wilted flower pots filled my chest with void and heaviness. It was difficult to open the back door and walk in. It’s as though I have to push against a huge wooly mammoth to move out of my way just so I can walk in his home. I can’t breathe. And then my father sees me. His smile is big, his arms opened as he moves towards me and we hug and the elephant sitting on my chest doesn’t feel quite as heavy.
I miss mom so very much. My dad misses her more. I seriously doubt that Dad would use the analogy of a wooly mammoth on his chest to describe grief, but he does relate to the heaviness and emptiness without Mom. But, I see a growing peace in his soul as the Lord gently helps him deal with his loss.
He found Mom’s poetry! We thought she had mistakenly thrown the file away, but it was in her office all this time. On top of a shelf, under a stack of books. Dad has been organizing the office, reading her notes, letters, books that she loved…and he discovered the file of poetry. The more I sat with Dad in “his office” and listened to him talk about Mom and her poetry, the more that wooly mammoth moved further away. God is so good. He is more than so good. I can’t describe how good. Only God can tame the wooly mammoth. He is. There is peace in my soul.
We are blessed with friends. When I think about it, the Lord has given us many opportunities to help our friends in time of need. It’s God’s awesome gift of His grace in our lives that enables us to live out the gospel in tangible ways. It is a joy to be “the giver.” Recently we have experienced what it feels like to be “the receiver” of good things. Friends staying by our side as we experience deep sorrow and loss. Prayer support, meals, cards, and listening to us talk. Friends sending small gifts of appreciation or a gift for no other reason but “just because.”
Last weekend, friends in Florida invited us to get away for the weekend and they treated us to several hours of sailing and dinner afterwards. We stayed in their home and we were treated like royalty. They rolled out the red carpet for us! We said our farewell the next morning and drove to our next destination at the beach. The amazing beach front condo was another gift to us. So “the giver” became “the receiver”…humbled by the generosity of others.
Sailing near Cumberland Island
My husband’s phone rings at 3:00 in the morning. He then noticed a text message sent earlier in the night, which he had missed seeing. My husband’s friend needs him by his side. He is very ill with cancer. His family needs his presence. Without hesitation, my husband quickly begins to pack the suitcases and cooler for the long drive home. For he has been “the receiver” of good things from his friend– encouragement in his faith, an example of deep unmovable faith and love for the Lord, a passion for ministry and to change the world through world missions for the gospel of Christ, answered prayers, friendship and more and more. My husband cried and said, “I will miss my friend.”
The Giver and The Receiver. We are both. Humbled that we can give to others, only because of the generosity of God’s gift to us and humbled to be the receiver of the most indescribable gift…only because of His grace.