The last week has been tough for me. Waves of grief have been welling up and crashing into me. Last year at this time, Richard’s physical condition dramatically deteriorated and we entered into his last few weeks of life. Lately, when I look at the date, memories of those days surface and deep sadness sets in. Friday, I realized I needed to spend some time with my Mom and Dad. Looking at the weather report, I began planning a trip to my hometown for the following day.
I woke up Saturday morning two hours before my alarm clock would have sounded its familiar chime. The excitement of spending time in St. Joe was too much to keep me in bed. As my feet touched the floor, my dogs looked up a bit perplexed at the early start. Usually they hear the snooze alarm a couple of times before I get up. With tails wagging, they raced to the patio door and ran out to the back yard with excitement. After doing their “business” and playing for a few minutes, they bolted back toward the house. They knew something special was happening.
The smell of coffee filled the kitchen as I began to prepare breakfast for all of us. The familiar travel gear was packed with provisions for the day. After we had our food, it was time to pack up the car and get on the road.
On the ride to St. Joe, I enjoyed the quiet whirring sounds of the road thinking about the day ahead and what my heart needed. Connecting with the steadfast love of my parents made me feel more capable of doing the hard work of grieving. Though I can talk to them anytime, being in my hometown allows me to enter into a different, more simple time of life.
As I drove over the bridge just outside the city, I could see my familiar destination in front of me. Entering into the quaint little town, I parked my car on one of the cobblestone streets downtown. Leaving one snoring dog on the back seat and another nervously wondering where I was going without him, I went into my favorite five and dime to look for treasures.
Throughout my life, my Mom and I spent hours in this store looking through the melange of items to be found among the cluttered aisles and overly packed shelves. The store smelled the same as decades before, a bit earthy, yet not musty. Walking along the rows of merchandise, I smiled as I felt shifting in the worn hard wood floors under my feet and heard the familiar creaking sounds announcing each step. I picked up a few trinkets along the way to take back for my office as new reminders of “home”.
It was time to look for some flowers for my Mom. I think I enjoy getting them for her more than she enjoys receiving them. Who doesn’t like to make Mom smile? I walked over to the flower aisle and looked for the right colors. I chose pink, white and yellow bringing a bit a spring into this special day. I paid for my treasures, held the bag close to me and returned to my car.
As is my tradition, I drove down by the lake and marveled at the beauty all around me; the wind blowing across the lake and over the sand, the waves crashing on the shore. I could feel my blood pressure lower and my heart rate decrease. I delighted in the moment. After being cooped up in the car for a couple of hours, the dogs needed a walk so, I drove up the hill to the bluff where I could see the lake as we strolled along a familiar path.
After trying for 20 minutes to calmly walk the dogs, but failing (they pull me in two different directions), it was time to get back to the car and move on to our next destination. Winding my way through neighborhood streets, I drove slowly past the house I grew up in to see the changes the new owners made after they bought the place. I was hoping the owners wouldn’t see me. Didn’t want them to think I was a stalker. I just wanted to see my childhood home and remember the love we all shared in that space.
Continuing on through town, I turned in to where I would be having lunch with my parents. The overcast, 40 degree February day was a bit chilly but not anything harsh enough to ruin our visit. Leaving the dogs in the car, I parked, gathered the flowers, a waterproof tarp and my food. I walked a few steps, greeted my dearly loved parents with tears flowing down my face and placed the flowers in the ground in front of their gravestone. Clumsily, I laid out the tarp and sat down with my lunch.
For the next hour or so, I poured my heart out to my parents, with God, knowing He is with all of us. I talked about how sometimes a girl just needs her Daddy to hold her while she cries over a broken heart and her Mommy to play cards with for hours as a fun distraction. Through quiet consistently falling tears, I told them how hard it was to no longer be able to receive those expressions of love from them, yet, the memories are always with me and I am so grateful to be their daughter. They both loved me the best they could for as long as they were able.
We talked about Richard and how they now know the “real” him. They know how hard it’s been for me to grieve through so many layers of loss. In that sacred space, I knew they loved him too and warmth filled my soul. We talked about how love keeps all of us connected even though we aren’t together physically.
After I finished my salad, cried what seemed like a bucket of tears, I sent a picture of the headstone to my sister in a text saying, “Having a late lunch with Mom and Dad.” She understands what all that means. All four of us siblings miss our parents and realize how fortunate we were to have them as long as we did.
After saying my goodbyes, I gathered up my things and headed to the car. I was greeted with wagging tails and happy faces welcoming me back to the pack. After I put my things on the front seat of the car, I opened the back door to hug my furry babies reassuring them I was ok. Their love is so pure and help fill in the cracks of my shattered heart.
As a magnet to steel, I was compelled to drive by the lake one more time to enjoy the mesmerizing energy of Lake Michigan. I parked by the beach to watch and listen to the waves. It once again provided it’s soothing effect on me. Grateful for the day, it was time to prepare for the drive back to my current home.
The dogs needed a walk, so I drove up and parked once again on the bluff. I got out of the car, leashed up the dogs and I tried to absorb my surroundings one last time. Breathing in the fresh crisp air while enjoying the natural beauty surrounding me, I was caught up in the blessing it was to grow up there.
It was now getting colder and starting to rain. It was time to say goodbye to St. Joe for now. It had been a great day. Everything I hoped it would be and more. I was able to grieve with my parents, grieve for my parents and miraculously receive comfort from the Source connecting us all.
With one dog snoring in the back seat, and another one periodically grumbling in his sleep, I drove out-of-town at dusk remembering the love I experienced in St. Joe through the years is continually with me along side of the love I experience from people in my life now.
Home is where you hold memories of love.
Love is not bound by space or time.
Love never fails.