July 25, 2014 by Julia
We just got back from a short vacation today and although I feel full of experiences and ready to write about anything (anything!), I am also tired and unfocused. So this post might jump around a bit.
Early last Sunday morning, my sister-in-law’s mother passed away unexpectedly in the hospital due to complications from pneumonia and a possible rare heart condition, at the age of 57. Destinee is married to my younger brother Ben, and our family has grown extremely close to her and her sister Arielle. We’d been praying and texting and visiting back and forth over the past few weeks as their mother took ill, but we thought she was on an upswing right before her death. When my mom told me at church that morning I gasped in shock and fought back tears.
I have been lucky enough in life to not have lost anyone close to me yet – just people close to my own loved ones. My dad’s best friend at a too-young age. My mom’s dad. Dennis’ grandmother. A co-worker’s husband, in a car crash. I can only imagine what it might be like to lose a mom. Our parents are such a part of our identities that I think at first it must be like floating off into outer space, with nothing to anchor us to the earth. I am also learning that the human spirit endures. But my heart still hurts for Destinee and her sister. Seeing them less than twelve hours after their mother’s passing, there were few things to say. Destinee said at one point something along the lines of, “I don’t really know what to do with myself right now.” The truth of that moment has stuck with me.
My cousin has been struggling with a chronic illness, too, which was finally recently diagnosed, but involves a year of treatment and sickening side effects. To make matters more discouraging, this is the second chronic illness she has dealt with in the past five years, and she was hoping to start a family with her husband this year. This cousin is close in age to me, and grew up with my and my sister. She has to take this year off, and focus on getting well, which will involve a lot of bed rest and careful eating. I know a little about feeling exhausted and nauseated for long periods (both pregnancies) and also about being “stuck at home” and how it can do a number on your sanity, so I am really feeling for her right now…the whole situation makes my heart heavy. The upside is, she has an amazing husband and support system, as well as a strong, inspiring spirit. I believe everything will be okay for her, both physically and mentally, but I still ache for her and worry that I won’t find the right ways to help lighten her burden.
And this summer has been harder for me mentally than I expected at first. I feel down. I was prepared for my usual depression to appear in the springtime (as it has in years past), but it seems it’s come late this year. I miss friends whose vacations seem to alternate with the times we’re out of town, or the week Jack was sick. I long for structure and interaction with adults and less screaming in high-pitched voices (the kids, in case that was unclear). I question my own abilities as a parent and as a friend, to the point of tears, on a regular basis. I am tired, and yet I want to keep trying, to keep going out, to keep seeing the world, because I long for life in all its vibrancy. Sometimes I feel like I am digging myself out of a pit, trying to motivate myself by doing and progressing, rather than thinking, and it works some of the time. Other times, though, having a clean house and the laundry done just feels empty. It’s part of my path to well-being, but it’s not the fulfillment, or the meaning.
I went over my journal tonight (not a diary, exactly, but a place where I jot down favorite excerpts, blog ideas, or realizations) in an effort to find something to write about, and one random thing I wrote down was this:
“Forgive, and forgive again. That’s where the real friendship and love is.”
I don’t remember what prompted it, but it spoke to me tonight. That’s what it all comes down to, I think. We are never going to be perfect for each other, which is quite alright and possibly preferable, although we keep forgetting about the inherent beauty of our flaws. I don’t want a flawless friend or mother or life – do you?
Our vacation was actually delightful and brought back all kinds of good memories of my own childhood vacations on campgrounds. The smell of fire, the community of families in pajamas, drinking coffee on cabin porches or kicking a ball around a tent at 8 am, the walking to the pool hand-in-hand. Catching fireflies and bickering and giggling in close quarters and getting too hot and then enjoying the chill of the early morning. It all adds up to something that I am so very grateful for.
I told you this post would be all over the place. Hope it finds you well, readers, and tonight I send out love to my own struggling family members.