My mom's been gone seven months now. Although the funeral is now a poignant distant memory, there are days when the loss of her hits me like a hurricane and I am immediately out-of-breath overcome with sorrow. It can be a John Denver song in the grocery store or the fragment of a poem that I hear her say in my mind. And in that moment, all the grief is fresh and I just miss her, brand new, all over again.
Going through her belongings, in her house, was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was even harder than the funeral, because the only experiences I've had in the Oregon house are--experiences with her. To walk in that house and see her place on the couch empty, forever, was devastating. To walk through the kitchen and realize I would never hear her sing while preparing a meal or doing dishes ever again on this earth, was like a sock in the gut. To go into her bedroom and open up her drawers was to ache in a way that can't be consoled.
My brother had thrown away or donated most of her clothes in the past few months, but he'd kept some items he thought my sister and I would like. When he offered me an unremarkable, rather tattered red sweatshirt, I turned him down, because not only was I trying not to take home more than I really "needed," but also because I couldn't imagine a purpose for it. Then he explained: whenever Mom felt lonely or sad, my Dad would say, "It's a red sweatshirt day." That meant she should put on one of the red sweatshirts he always made sure she had, as kind of a security blanket that meant he loved her and would be close to her in spirit all day. My brother said, you need a red sweatshirt. I took it.
It took me about three weeks to open up the boxes I brought home from Oregon. When I did, I was overwhelmed with memories of her and of my father in pictures, love letters, and tiny memorabilia. But it was when I lifted out the linens and clothes I'd brought home that I lost it, because they smelled like her...like her house..and again the grief hit me like the waves at WindanSea when I was 17 and Alan was teaching me how to body surf.
A red sweatshirt day. The only problem? Here in San Diego it was 85 degrees, and a sweatshirt wasn't called for.
But I get the point, and the red sweatshirt is easily accessible for when the weather cools. I have a feeling there will be a lot of red sweatshirt days before the Lord calls me home and my mom and I see each other again. Until then, aside from the tangibility of a piece of clothing, is the growing sense I have that, as I've said before, heaven really isn't that far away. Sometimes as I read my Bible and pray, I feel like it's really just on the other side of me--like just a shroud of unseen substance separates me from her. Like she's really actually looking over my shoulder, or my dad is sitting on the chair next to me--we just can't touch each other.
Heaven is real, and it's close, and when we get there
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21:4, 5a
"...there shall be no more red sweatshirt days."