November 20, 2010 was the one year anniversary of my mom’s homecoming. As the day approached, I really felt the need and desire to go home and be with my family. So Jude and I packed our bags and flew out for a long weekend. Thankfully Jake arranged his work schedule so that he could work from home and stay with Ben. I was sad to leave them both behind, but I wasn’t up for the challenge of traveling by myself with both kiddos. Ben was actually thrilled to have Daddy all to himself and they did lots of cool things together…of course the highlight…playing a few holes of golf.
This was Jude’s first flight and first trip to Arkansas. The flight was crowded so we didn’t have a ton of room to squirm around. I think his ears must have hurt because despite my best effort to keep him drinking milk or chewing on his paci, he cried for the first and last 15 minutes of the flight. In between those crying episodes he was pretty content to hang out on my lap playing with the airplane safety guide or attempting to chew on the barf bag (I know, icky, right!!) placed so neatly in the seatback right in front of us and just perfect for his little hands to grasp. On one of our flights we sat between a high school kid and a grandma. They were both wonderful especially since Jude kept trying to grab high school kid’s headphones and he was literally trying to jump into the grandma’s lap. High school kid told me that I should never make Ben and Jude share a room. He went on to explain that his mom made him share a room with his little brother when they were younger and he hated it. I giggled to myself as I listened to this unsolicited advice. Sweet kid really felt like he needed to be an advocate for all big brothers out there! When Jude got fussy the grandma sang the “Pat-a-cake” nursery rhyme to him…she even held him for a brief moment trying to help out which only made Jude sob harder. They were sweet and I was grateful for their kindness.
We had a babysitter watch Jude on the morning of the 2oth while Jill, Tim and I went out for breakfast at a yummy little place called Susan’s in Springdale. As hard as this particular day was it was so special to spend it with them. While we ate we talked about Mom…we laughed as we remember some of our fondest memories of her. She was such a fun person…we never knew what goofy thing she might say (or do), or where we might find her missing coffee cup that she knew was “just right there,” or what surprise we’d find in the microwave after dinner because she forgot to put the dish on the table. Her smile. The way she’d say “hello” so full of life and energy when she’d answer the phone. And, oh, how she loved us! Sweet sweet memories.
We cried as we remembered the pain of losing her and how difficult the past year had been without her. Of course celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and special days like her birthday and Mother’s Day were really tough as expected. But other things were difficult too often catching me off guard causing a flood of emotions. For example, on the one year anniversary of the date we received the phone call that Mom was in the emergency room and they suspected she had pancreatic cancer or when we learned that she was coming home from the treatment facility and that there was nothing more they could do…it was almost like reliving the sadness all over again. Even days when I’d go to the mall and see a mom and daughter shopping and eating lunch together were really tough (okay, that one’s still tough). I was sad that she didn’t live to see Jude’s birth day, although I know she gets to see him now anytime she wants. =)
I’ll admit there were times that I just wanted to wallow in my own sadness and I did. On many days I was just angry. Why couldn’t God just heal her here on earth? Earth is where we are and we miss her. And then it hit me one day. I am sure it had been said to me a million times before but I must not have been listening or better yet, I just didn’t want to hear. I was driving when I heard a DJ on Z88.3 say, “We weren’t made for this world. God didn’t plan it this way. He planned for us to live in a garden, a perfect garden” [and we all know what happened there…thanks Adam and Eve]. So there in the car driving to Micheal’s with the boys in the backseat, I lost it. This time my tears weren’t of sorrow and anger, but more like peace and healing. So of course I still miss her and of course I still get sad about it, but I heard something else that really resonated with me. The person said, “The pain we suffer after losing a loved one doesn’t get smaller over time as if to diminish who they were, but that we just grow bigger around the pain…that it makes us stronger.” Cool, huh! Not long ago I also heard a person’s interpretation of Matthew 5:4 that says, “Blessed are those who mourn…” He explained, “We mourn because we were blessed by the person we lost.” We were blessed to know Mom and call her our mom!
After breakfast the three of us went to visit mom’s gravesite at the national cemetery. Each of us added our own bouquet of roses to the two that were already there. While we were there we spent a lot of time just being quiet and it was nice. I wish I could go there more often to visit. When we first got to the cemetery there was a woman visiting another gravesite not far from Mom’s. She was lying next to the grave. We could hear her talking, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. Every now and then we’d see her gently stroke the grass with her hand and by the look of the gravesite I could tell it was fairly new. Before she left she asked us whose gravesite we were visiting. We shared with her about Mom’s story…that she had passed away a year ago from pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. She said that her husband had recently passed away from cancer too and that he had lived with it for quite sometime. I think he was in his 70’s when he passed away. You could see the pain in her eyes as she talked about how much she missed him and about how she wished she could go now to be with him but knew she’d have to wait her turn to see him again in heaven. We shared a hug there in the cemetery that day, two complete strangers both grieving for loved ones. I was really touched by her. The way she laid next to her husbands grave was so moving. It was such a beautiful and refreshing expression of love.
And on a much much lighter note, when we returned home the following day Ben asked, “Mommy are you and Jude going to leave again so that just me and Daddy can hang out?” The little stinker makes me smile even if he was trying to get rid of me. It was good to be home again with all of my boys!