I felt fifteen again.
I knew, on some abstract level, that flying home to the west coast to say our farewells to my mother would bring back memories of losing my first mother nearly twenty years earlier. What I wasn’t expecting was the rush of raw, uncensored memory and then, as my brother and I remembered together, the lack of detail. Gaps of dates and places gaped wide, leaving me with only the finality of a single memory: deep, unrelenting pain.
The guilt was palpable. Here I was, preparing for one funeral yet trapped in the memory of another. And I was fifteen again.
On Monday, my father drove me to my mother’s grave. We would be at the cemetery again tomorrow – a mere stone’s throw away – laying a fresh round of farewells in that grassy stretch of land to a woman who, in the sixteen years I knew her, had become more beloved than I could have expected. I had not been to Hazelwood in many years. The cedars edging the property seemed unreasonably tall; the trees that flanked the winding drive cast long purple shadows across faded markers. The bench I had sat on many times was no longer there. Twenty years changes a place… changes a woman. It was a fifteen year old’s tears that fell that evening, landing silently on the granite marker of the woman who gave me birth.
As we moved toward the Jeep to leave, my father motioned to a nearby area. “Tomorrow we’ll be there,” he said, a slow, shuddering sigh slipping from a place of deep pain. I looked up and wondered, with a bizarre sense of detachment, how long it takes to unearth a fresh grave. The grass there was untouched beneath the blue evening sky. I knew it would not be so tomorrow.
Grief solidifies hope. My fifteen year old self understood hope as an airy, hollow promise that meant little in the face of overwhelming sorrow. I scoffed, misunderstanding it as a well-intentioned platitude that did little to ease the raw ache within. That evening, as we drove away and I balled a soggy Kleenex into my palm, I knew the memories of a lost fifteen year old wouldn’t take hold of me. There will be sadness, yes. Tears. I will be reminded of what it feels like to miss someone so much I physically ache. I will blunder my way through a new year of ‘firsts’ and probably fall apart one day in the grocery store because some silly thing snags a thread of memory and makes the missing start all over again.
But hope? Hope is the anchor of the soul. I will lash myself to it and trust that the Maker of the storm is also the Quieter of the same storm. He is worthy of my life, my praise, my all.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. ~ Hebrews 6:19 (NLT)