Another weekend under my belt. Thanksgiving looms closer and closer, but I’ve decided to let God handle the sticky sad details, and the boys & I will drive to Kansas for some quality time with their grandma. We’ll rip and snort some on our beautiful pasture, check on the pond’s water level, listen for pheasants, quail, and wild turkeys, and take our binoculars along for sighting the big buck that seems to call our little piece of heaven home.
Things are a-changing in Kansas, much as they’ve changed here at home. Mark’s mom is closer to a move from the old farmhouse to a duplex at the retirement village in town. It’s something she’s needed to do for awhile, so I will cherish each and every visit left in that drafty old abode. There are a million memories there, and I’ve been a part of them for almost 25 years. I’ve watched wild turkeys strut across their back yard, listened to coyotes with their mournful howls many a night. We told Mark’s parents they were going to be first-time grandparents in that house. I’ve been speechless, standing in her front yard, as I witnessed my first real look at the Milky Way. Talk about feeling miniscule and insignificant…I’ve seen many examples of the grandeur and beauty of God’s creation in my 48 years, but looking at that Milky Way ranks up in the top 3, right along with the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve been so cold in the upstairs of that house that I began packing along my own personal electric blanket. Sleeping in thermal undies helps, too. I will never forget the morning, years before the birth of the Howell boys, that I found my antiperspirant frozen, yes frozen, on the dresser. But there’s just somethiing about that house. It’s been in the Howell family for over a 100 years. It needs alot of work. But it has character, and my sentimental husband was determined to renovate it enough that his city-girl wife would live in it for a couple of years, until we decided where to build our dream house.
The dream house, along with other great & wondrous plans we had in the works, will have to wait. I’m not sure what form that house will take, but I do know that there will be a house of some sort on our land. Andrew and Ben are connected to that land, they always will be. It is my mission to make sure they can fish in the pond, hunt in the pasture, play basketball in the barn loft, and remember how great their daddy was.
Today, I was a part of another meaningful church service. The sermon was spot-on, the fellowship with my church family was lovely, and my first communion since losing Mark was painful yet beautiful. I now fully realize that whenever I am taking communion, the saints are there with us. I felt Mark so very close, I could’ve reached out and touched him. Thank you, Jesus, for making that possible. For giving us hope beyond this sometimes-tedious and mundane life. For encouraging us to make the most of each day, so that whenever we do go to our heavenly reward, we leave the world behind a better place.
An afternoon service at the hospital chapel, honoring & remembering those who passed away there during the last quarter, was also a bit difficult. It was the first time I’ve stepped back into that hospital since losing Mark. The last time I was in the chapel, I was with our two sons, praying without ceasing that God would heal him. I can still picture those boys, wrapped up in the prayer shawls given to us by our church family, praying. Ben even filled out a prayer request and submitted it to the chaplain, triggering a hospital-wide prayer chain for Mark Howell.
The chaplain gave a short message, based on scripture from Ecclesiastes. It’s familiar scripture, quoted at many funerals. But he put a different spin on it. Ecc. 3:4 says there’s “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” He told us that when we lost our loved ones, it was a different season. I remember that summer season, 100 days of 100 degrees, who could forget it? But now, we’re in a new season. A season of cooler temps, greener grass, and needed moisture. Our time to mourn is taking a different shape. I, for one, am feeling more normal, at least my new normal. I can look ahead and see that we three are going to make it. It’s not easy, and we miss Mark terribly, but we can also laugh without feeling guilty. I can also dance with my sons in our living room, and have done so on many occasions.
Life doesn’t stop whenever you lose a loved one. For better or worse, the sun keeps shining, the hours keep ticking by, and my kids keep growing by leaps and bounds. We continue to live. We continue to laugh. We continue to embrace the great things life has to offer. We look ahead, assured that God has a good future in store for us, plans to prosper us, not to harm us. And we are ready to grab hold of those opportunities as they present themselves to us. ‘Cause Mark would want that. He wants us to be whole, and happy, and to grab life by the tail like he did.
I’m weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing…sometimes all at once. And that’s okay.