Michelle Massie is a family coach with LSSND's Family Coaching program. Each month on the Coach Michelle blog, Michelle will share insights and reflections on her experiences as a mom, wife and family coach.
On my morning walk, as I was scrolling for a podcast, I noticed the date. Today, Aug. 18, 2020. Tears streamed down as I blinked, attempting to still see my phone screen through the puddle forming on my face, blurring my vision.
On this day, 13 years ago, you flew up to heaven and left me shattered. Without you, the firm foundation of our family crumbled like a stale, many-days-old cookie.
See, from the moment I met you, I knew that I wanted to be a warm, soft, emotional, “I am here” mom, like you. Now you were gone, and I was here – without you, my mentor.
At first, I felt like my grief was not valid. My mom was still alive and well – living across the bridge.
So, for the first year, I went into helper mode. Choosing not to feel the great loss that was missing at the empty chair during Sunday dinners.
I cooked, I counseled and I tried my best to love your son as he grieved his momma.
I remember the first time I FELT the ache of missing you.
My baby (your granddaughter) was getting on the bus for her first day of kindergarten. You were supposed to be my person to call during that transition time.
Then when my safe bubble of a life shattered from past abuse, you were not there to tell me that I could still “be happy and free.”
When I searched for a Jesus that I never knew and went looking, longing in the dark, you were not there singing me back to the Old Rugged Cross.
I was lost.
One day while cleaning my office, I found your scarf. Your perfume with a touch of cigarette smell still lingered on it. I cried for your missing warmth during the cold, grey season of my life.
Your oldest grandson graduated high school, while your favorite crab apple tree in our back yard bloomed. The changes of a different state, different home, but somehow your favorite tree joined us there and sprouted with life.
I started a job as a hospice nurse. I spent my time with families as they said their last words to their loved ones – each time wishing for that final hug and love that was missed with your passing. And, at the same time, grateful for the real, open conversations that occur at death’s door.
Your grandkids continued stretching. With that came some growing pains of life. I so badly craved the memory of them parked in your soft lap, singing “Jesus Loves Me,” ever-so-slowly as you sounded out each word for them.
Time continued marching on.
This year, that granddaughter who seemed to just board the bus for her first day of school, graduates. She has your sass and class, Grandma.
This month, we met for our annual family camping trip at the big lake. I sat with your oldest daughter and had a heart-to-heart as the rest of your kids and your grandkids splashed in the water. It reminded me of a time when we were at the same waters that I watched you and your friend have a meaningful conversation. I remember listening intently, so taken by your honest words.
Tomorrow I meet with someone from work to talk about starting a grief group during this pandemic time. I’m curious what kinds of questions she has for me regarding grief, and if I have any answers.
And, it all brought me back to today, here trying to reflect on the years passed and how fast time marched on (and sometimes crawled), without you.
Grief may be the most unexpected emotion, right Mar? It finds you in the most mundane moments as you are searching for a podcast or tidying your office, and it comes to you like an unexpected tornado, leaving you tired and naked. Trying to pick up the puzzle pieces of life and make a safe haven for your family, again.
Other times, grief may be like the expected storm you see coming in on the wide-open skies of the prairie. You know it is coming, with the empty spot around the Sunday dinner table, or picking up the phone to dial the number that no longer reaches you during the transition time.
Either way, we never know when it will hit us. But we know for certain that it changes us.
And maybe, God willing, it brings us to our knees clinging to the Old Rugged Cross and finding solace there, while leaning in to love and learning how to live, “happy and free.”
Love you Mar, Always.
Michelle Massie is a family coaching specialist for Lutheran Social Services in Dickinson, ND. She works with families on raising children birth through adulthood navigate through rough waters, ensuring families have the right materials at the right time to construct, maintain or repair well-being. Call 701-223-1510 or fill out the form at lssnd.org/help to get connected with this program.