Sometimes I picture my husband and I as two tall trees growing side by side. Perhaps he’s a strong oak and I a colorful maple or we are both cedars reaching for the sky. We are independent people, in need of our own space to be individuals (and do things our way!) but our long branches touch each other, our leaves fall together, and beneath the ground our roots are entwined as they grow deep, searching for water and nutrients.
We’ve been through a lot over the years. Career changes, unemployment, high risk pregnancy, medical scares, and worst of all, the death of our daughter. We are very different in how we handle stress and grief. I talk (sometimes too much) and he thinks. In grief I am depressed, anxious, and constantly tearful. He is angry, sullen, and impatient.
It causes fights and it brings us together. It tears us apart and it forces us to lean on each other. We cling to each other knowing that we couldn’t possibly get through this alone and if we try it could forever hurt our family.
After God created Adam, He said “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
My awesome friend volunteered to babysit so we could have a date. Dates are precious events for us because they do not happen often and we were both counting down the hours. I declared that we needed to do something fun. We needed to connect, enjoy being with each other rather than just leaning on each other in an effort to survive.
We live in a small town and there is not much to do in the dead of winter therefore bowling was the activity of choice. I enjoy taking the kids, but spend the whole time keeping little ones from chasing the ball down the lane and don’t actually bowl myself.
We are AWFUL at it! I laughed and laughed, partly out of embarrassment and partly from the look on his face when that 15 lb ball rolled yet again into the gutter.
The building was full of families looking for fun on a cold, snowy Saturday. Voices and pins dropping echoed off the walls and the radio was waaaay too loud. Inside of us the storm raged, tears stood ready just behind my tired eyes, but my heart was full of love for him and his for me. We did the best we could to be happy, connect, embrace “us” before the storm destroyed what nothing had been able to so far.
I woke up this morning with that verse from Genesis running through my head. I don’t think it is exclusive to marriage. I believe God created us to be social, to seek out communion with Him and those around us. To live in families, groups of close friends, and communities.
The first weeks after the accident, I could not pray. I remember telling my mom that she needed to intercede for me because I had no words. The way my parents have stood as strong towers through the birthdays and holidays that followed is something I will always remember.
It doesn’t stop there. The neighbor that did my laundry and the strangers that sent cards, poems, and gifts of love. A need to reach out to the family torn apart by something horrible. The friends that vacuumed my house, cried with me, prayed for me, took turns coming over after Brett went back to work so I wouldn’t be alone, texted me, helped with Rebekah’s service or simply stayed near by as a presence in case we needed them. The 2.5 months of food and the sporadic meals that are still coming. My sister who has us over for supper every Sunday because it was a Sunday that my life turned dark and I can’t bear to be at home. Those dear people who remembered my boys, giving them gifts and loving them.
All of this support, love, and encouragement is pushing us through, keeping me from sinking permanently into the dark place where I sometimes still dwell. I wonder if all these beautiful people know how much they’ve done for us? I could never repay them. My only hope is that I can be as good a friend, that I can support and love my friends and neighbors and encourage them through their own heartaches.
So, my friends, today I am going to smile at the cashier and really mean it when I say “have a nice day”, call my mom and tell her I love her, and text my friends a “thinking of you” message. I understand now how important this outreach is because I could’ve never made it this far without it.