I watch as you open your suitcase and start placing things inside. So tenderly you fold everything so they are just right as you lay them down. You have a calm and subtle smile on your face as you look at a picture in a simple frame. But the memory of that picture is a strong one, one you'll remember forever. Despite your bag being full you gently lay the picture under a layer of clothing. It will be needed for this trip, it will give strength when strength waivers.
As I continue to watch you, you peacefully go through your house tidying up to make sure there is no mess left behind. The last of the drying dishes you put away in the cabinet. Quietly you go through the whole house making sure to shut off all the lights. Yes, you are very sure everything is in order, leave things better then you found them. That is what you were taught.
I keep asking you if you have to take this trip. Why now? Why can't you wait a little longer? Tears well up in my eyes as I look at you, confused and hurt. This doesn't seem right, you shouldn't be going so far away. You gently kiss the top of my head where grey hair has replaced the blond. Years of love poured out and given to those I cherished most. You tell me you will miss me but how excited you are to take this trip. You go on and tell me that you have been waiting and that you know I wanted to take this trip first, but life is never predictable. You tell me everything is going to be okay and then you turn and start walking away.
I call after you that you forgot your suitcase. You look over your shoulder with the childlike grin you used to give me when you were young and tell me it was never meant to go with you. I look down at the suitcase puzzled by the response, when I look up you are gone. I look up and down the street but you are nowhere in sight. I look down again and slowly unzip the suitcase.
Inside I see the clothes you packed. Your suit from your wedding, your costume from a play in college, your football jersey from high school, your baby blanket from the day I brought you home. I smell in the blanket deeply and my eye catches the picture you packed. I pull it out and see myself holding you right after you were born.
I weep like a child, there in the street, oblivious to who is watching. My soul aches for you to be there when I look back up. My heart is breaking. It wasn't mean to be like this, I was the one who was to take the trip first. But as I sit rocking, holding what's left of your presence, a gentle peace washes over me. As hard as this will be I have peace in where you went. I have peace in knowing it wont be forever. I have peace in knowing God needed you home first...
As mothers there is no greater fear then the thought of God calling our children home before us. It haunts our dreams, it causes endless gray hairs on our heads, and no matter how old our children get that fear persists. That has now become the reality my grandparents are facing with their youngest son, my uncle. Most families are probably not that close, or there have been several members that have gone on home to heaven already, or some other example.
Well let me tell you about my family. We ARE close! We don't all live in the same town or even the same state, but we are close non the less. In fact I am almost 40 years old and other then one grandfather when I was 20 I have not lost a single family member. I am so grateful for that, but it scares me too. I know that the odds are starting to pack up against me and loved ones will be heading to their forever home soon. But I was still not ready to accept that even when I heard it from my dad's lips.
I will never forget where I was. Sitting watching my son practice at his gymnastic's facility I heard my phone ring. I never handle anything well when my dad is choking up, and this was no exception. "Your uncle Monte... your uncle Monte has... has pancreatic cancer." The anguish in my dad's voice at the news of his baby brother was heart breaking. This uncle, my uncle Monte is the comic relief in our family. He always has been. He was always the one growing up that would entertain us with songs or silly voices or sledding or tag. If there was fun going on at my grandparent's house it was my uncle's doing. He is the goof ball of the family and all his nieces and nephews love him for it.
My uncle got his family later in life then most. But they are an amazing family! They have been through so much and have put God in the heart of every decision, every obstacle that came their way. He wife Missy is sweet and caring and adores him. I have never seen my uncle happier then I have since the day he married her. They share a special bond that few other couples know. As a blended family they never faltered with their faith in God. All family's have ups and downs to go through, but my uncle and his wife tackled them together as a team. She gives him such life! My favorite picture below is the one to the right. Can you see the look on my aunt's face and I can tell my uncle has the same smile on his face as she does. United as one, lovers, with God at their core.
My uncle has three older siblings. They are all close but have not always gotten along. It is important as mothers to remember that no matter how hard we try, our children are going to have issues with each other. These issues will usually not be resolved with us in their face's telling them to work it out. In the later years our best tool for these relationship is to pray for them. My uncles and aunts I have watched over the years connect and then disconnect. I have seen pretty much every behavior happen in their adult years as I have in my children's young ages. Siblings will always be siblings. As mothers it is important to instill in them the importance of the bond that is their relationship; that way there is always someone to fall on in tears, rejoice with in good times, and every now and then diagree (strongly).
At our core, we are family; and when one member is going through something we all are. We go through it together and support and help each other, because that is what family does. When something like a new baby is born, we rejoice. When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, we cry. There is nothing weak about it, it is in these times our family's strength truly shines through.
The last thing I will tell you about my uncle, before I tell you why this post is important to you, is his love for his daughter. He is a hero to her. Whether she sees it yet or not, he is. I have watched him love her, be firm with her, and hold her when she is sad. He has been there for her even when at times life made it hard. He cherishes her, a gift from God, for him. If every dad could be so present for his daughter what a wonderful world it would be.
So by now you are probably wondering how this pertains to you. As mothers we must remember that even as our children grow we still need to cherish any time they will spare for us. Even when they marry and move on to start a new branch of the family's legacy we need to still be there. They will want and need to ask for advice, and we need to share our wisdom with them. When they have their children, we need to be there. We need to help them when they ask for help babysitting; or if we know they are stressed, invite them over for dinner so they don't have to cook. If we live far away then we need to travel while our bodies still allow us to. As mothers we need to keep the family united as best we can, even when our children are adults and don't agree with each other's political views or how they raise their children. Pray for them, with the hopes that once you are gone, they will go on loving each other and supporting each other. And heaven forbid, if God should call one of our children home before us, we have so many happy memories made that when the devil tries to slither in feelings of guilt or regret, we can pull up one of those beautiful memories to fall back on.
I don't know what the future holds for my uncle Monte. I don't know when God will call him home; I am praying expectantly that he will be so old that he drives a little buggy around so wildly he gets glares from young people he almost runs over (because that would be my uncle). What I do know is this. My uncle is going to heaven someday, and if that is sooner, then heaven is preparing an awesome celebration for him! But for the rest of us, it will hurt. For my gandparents, I can not imagine the pain, but the rest of us will be there to be a shoulder for them to cry on. It isn't the people leaving for this trip that it's sad for; (For my uncle would be partying it up with his famous "You're old, you're old, you're old" song in heaven) it's knowing we can't see them again on this earth, and that is the most painful part about death. So mothers, please remember, in the end we are all packing for this ultimate trip with a suitcase full of memories that will not go with us. Instead it will be tenderly left behind to help in comforting those we loved.
Pslam 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever ~
DEDICATED TO MY AWESOME UNCLE MONTE WHO IS FIGHTING CANCER WITH THE STRENGTH OF GOD AND THE HUMOR THAT IS PART OF HIS LOVING CHARACTER
I am asking for prayers from anyone who reads this for my family and my uncle. Prayers that my uncle receives complete healing and that God plans on letting him grow really, really, old. Prayers that my family be covered in peace and grow even stronger in our relationships with each other. Thank you.