My kitchen door is open. A cool March breeze is flowing. The songbirds chirp as I gaze outside at a perfectly crisp Spring day before me–so much beauty right in front of me. Yet I keep looking up from my blank screen and its blinking cursor, afraid to start typing because it will all be inadequate now. I am not the same person who wrote about basketball games and red chucks… Barbie Houses and messy lunchrooms. My world is different now — I am changed. And my words today just seem…inadequate.
There are beautiful chimes hanging outside our kitchen — a gift that arrived on my doorstep last Friday, exactly a week after we laid my father to rest. ‘Chimes of Mozart’, they are named, given in honor of my father’s appreciation for such classical composers. The chimes are tuned to the opening intervals of the Andante movement from Mozart’s Piano Concerto number 21 in C Major (K. 467). I’m sure my father knew it well — I, of course, had to google it but recognized it the moment it began. So I have been watching and listening to the chimes every minute I am able. Their music draws me into a sort of communion with my father. And ironically, their movement guides me to just Be Still… a gift in itself.
Looking down from the chimes, I glance at the screen of my laptop: 3:52. The time that my oldest son Henry was born. Of my children, he is most like my father.
It will be little things — like simply noticing the time of day — that I will consider beautiful ‘signs’. Signs that Dad is still present with me, perhaps even more so than when he was on earth, now that he is in the presence of God… now that Dad is eternal.
Earlier this week I had lunch duty at my youngest son’s school. Lunch duty is a messy beautiful thing, so I’ve written about serving in the cafeteria a couple of times before– I Served Time and I Served Time. Take 2. I actually enjoy lunch duty, once I get there. Tuesday was no different, until Charlie came into the lunchroom without his lunch box. With broom and dustpan in hand, I watched as Charlie placed his head down on the table and covered his head with his arms. Walking over to him, I noticed his shoulders were shaking. Charlie was weeping at the table.
He had just been rightfully reprimanded for tossing a pencil eraser back and forth to a classmate across the classroom. But I know Charlie, and this was not a cause for tears. This was just a catalyst for emotions that needed to come out, and they were coming out right there in the middle of the cafeteria. I led Charlie outside the room to talk; he was inconsolable. Seeing your child sobbing at school because their Granddaddy has died is cause for a mother to become inconsolable, as well. And so there we both were, embracing and crying in the hallway, as children were lining up next to us to return to their classrooms.
So Charlie and I left school at Noon that day, but not before a dear teacher comforted us both — the teacher who has helped carry Charlie through his grief since Michael Talley passed away — as Michael was her student and friend, too.
And there in the hallway, as children looked at us and wondered what was wrong, in all of our vulnerability, we found beauty… in the messy.
And beauty kept coming. As I approached the car, I noticed a card tucked beneath my windshield wiper. A sweet message from a friend with whom I had shared lunch duty the day before — a friend who has lost both of her parents. She knew I would be at school that day, so she must have stopped by just to leave the card. The timing of her words were perfect.
When Charlie and I got home from school, we just sat side by side on the deck in the sun for a while. We talked. We dried our tears and laughed. And then Charlie shot some basketball before beginning his schoolwork.
When my sister called me over two weeks ago to tell me that the church had been secured for Dad’s funeral, and that he would be laid to rest on March 4th, I paused. The significance of the date does not escape me: “March forth.” Dad was marching forth into Glory. And in a way, that is what we must do, right? Keep on marching forth. But I am learning that there will be moments where I will cry uncontrollably, without the need to be consoled. Sometimes we just need to grieve. And there will be moments of joy when I take in all that is around me, appreciating the new life that Springtime yields. And I have done that over the past few days. God has created beauty in its time, for us to enjoy. And His beauty is on splendid display this time of year…
Shortly after Charlie and I arrived home midday on Tuesday, my neighbor noticed me on the deck and came over to talk–and to comfort me. She shared a story with me that touched me; her honest words were a balm to my sadness… beauty in my messy. And when I look out over my deck, I see blooms from her budding magnolia, planted on her first Mother’s Day. A sweet reminder of life…and that it goes on.
And to the left of me, I see our neighbors’ budding forsythia plants, bursting forth with my father’s favorite color…and mine.
And of course there’s our backyard creek,
gurgling as streams of water flow —
rainwater from the recent storms.
And it dawns on me:
without the storms, there would be no life within the creek.
And looking across the creek, I cannot help but notice The Stump, about which I wrote this time last year.
Once surrounded by frozen earth and remnants of winter, it is now adorned by life: freshly growing moss and yellow daffodils.
But perhaps the most poignant sign that I have been given this week are these:
Two mourning doves —
building a nest together outside my kitchen windowsill.
Throughout the day I hear their soft and gentle coos, for which they received their name: Mourning Doves. Could there be a sweeter gift from God to me? In the midst of my mourning, He is sending me tangible signs of PEACE. New life will soon be brought forth from them– as it was for the Three Little Birdies— and my family will be witness to it. And hanging right about them is artwork that Henry created years ago: the flame which is a representation of the fire of Pentecost — of the gift of the Holy Spirit — whose very symbol is also that… of the Dove. It’s just another sign of the presence of my Father… and of my father.