Seasons change. We expect it. We trust it. Most of us probably don't really even notice it happening. It's that way with life sometimes. Everyday we open our eyes to the same people and places we closed our eyes to the night before ... if we are lucky. We expect it and trust it and probably don't really even give it a thought, until it changes...suddenly and unexpectedly.
The first week in August our family was together at a beach in Alabama. The middle of August our Maw Maw and Paw Paw went on a cruise to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary. On the last day of the cruise Maw Maw had a stroke. She and Paw Paw made it to the trauma center in Mobile three days before Gustav.
At first, it looked as though she was going to be okay. She was able to be awake and hear from her children, grandchildren and great grand children. She wrote a love note to the man she had adored since she was 15 and then she slipped away. The two weeks that followed would fill a novel but the short version is nothing short of remarkable and a testatment to the way love works, bridging the fragile gap between Heaven and Earth.
We all became refugees in a Super 8 in Mobile Alabama. When we were allowed to go home, Maw Maw had to stay until electricity was restored in Louisiana. Funeral plans were on hold until damage could be repaired but we were all together, all safe, and all loving our way through grief.
While we were at the beach my Mother in law had mentioned a box of little things that she had, that were either from Shannon or about Shannon or maybe photos, she wasn't specific, but she wanted us to sit down together and go through the box. I was deeply touched because we had had to work our way through the way each of us had worked through the loss of a child, and our ways were very different. We had finally found a place to be with this most tragic of life's moments... together.
My sweet sweet neices spent the week following Maw Maw's "departure" searching for the "box". We found a million photos of a precious joyous life. A life filled with family and friends and holidays and celebrations and babies and grandbabies and great grand babies, and flowers and pets and houses and fun and wonder. We laughed and we cried and we shared the love that had been so intentionally bestowed on each of us for all of her life. We read letters and cards and told stories... we looked at yearbooks from her High School days and listened as Paw Paw told us all how they met and about her spunk and beauty and I couldn't help but hope that one day in my life I would see even a glimpse of that look in the eyes of my husband.
BUT... we never found the "Shannon" Box.
Last night as I was ironing curtains, spritzing them with water scented with Sweetgrass and basil and lime, remembering summer breezes and a life I miss so much... I decided that the box had not been real. That in some magical mystical way it had been a gift from Maw Maw. A gift that in the searching , I would find something equally precious. The time spent with family, time that wasn't cluttered with worry about having to miss work or make plans quickly...was such a blessing.
In trying to be me again, trying to be brave and "happy" and embrace life as I once did... I sometimes forget how lonely I am. How much I wall myself off so that I can dive into my memories and see Shannon's face and for a moment feel whole again. I give myself that time because then I can give life what I need and want to.
Maw Maw's sudden transition opened one of the carefully placed cracks in my heart, but instead of finding the emptiness that I feared might lurk there, I found more love than I could have imagined...love to be given and received.
This morning, I got an e mail from my neice. She found the box. She didn't say what was in it...only that she would put it in the mail. I cried. Sometimes I think... no... all times, I think life unfolds to its own timetable... with a little help from Heaven. Shannon and Maw and Lee knew how much we needed that time together. If we had found the box too soon, more might have been lost.
Love fills us to overflowing. My creative writing teacher would say that's cliche... so what... it is oh so true.