Please don’t think me morbid for my choice of photo. There was a room just like this one, in the place the bad things happened. It is a part of my story. I wish this wasn’t true. I wasn’t planning on sharing this part just yet, but life has a way of bringing the unexpected.
This week I had a family funeral to attend. It triggered memories and feelings that I wish I could escape.
This makes me angry. Death and funerals are so closely intertwined with this thing we call life, that it seems I am forever facing the cruel reminders of my past. Sure, I could refuse to go, but people would start asking questions. Questions I am not yet ready to answer.
My husband stays close by my side, to help me feel safe and protected. We bring our daughter along as well. I have found that having a little one to take care of in those moments, helps me to stay ‘present’. Keeps the memories from overwhelming me and taking me away.
It’s not the things you might imagine that are the most difficult for me. Very different, in fact, from the things that make most people uncomfortable at funerals. It’s not the awkwardness of not knowing what to say, because there really are no words. It’s not the unpleasantness of being faced with my own mortality.
No. For me, it’s the smallest details. It’s difficult to understand or predict what these might be. A particular door knob, a unique light fixture, a large crack in an old plaster ceiling.
This time, it was the stairs.
While we are waiting for the service to start, we allow our little one to toddle up and down the hallway. The time for quiet and sitting will be long enough for her. At the end of the hallway, there is a flight of stairs. It takes me back to that place. The place the bad things happened.
A steep and dimly lit staircase led down to the place my friend’s dad worked to prepare the bodies of those who had passed away – to soften the stark reality of death. As a small child of five, I was terrified every time I walked by. I knew what was down there, and I was afraid the boys would force me down those steps if ever I failed to cooperate.
Then, there were the stairs that headed to the other place. The part of the house where my friend and her two brothers had their bedrooms. The place of locked doors, shame-filled closets, and terrible secrets.
I stood there in the hallway frozen, looking at those dreadful stairs. My heart raced, and my mind ran wild with fear.
My husband turned to look at me, sensing something was wrong. “Are you okay?” he asked. I stare blankly, unable to move. “Kamea, are you okay?” he repeats, placing his hand gently on my arm.
I startle as he touches me. I’m not sure where I am in that moment. I’m caught somewhere between now and back then. I feel scared and confused.
This has happened before.
My husband leads me gently to a couch in an adjacent room. He calls my daughter over, asking if she wants to sit with me. “Hi, Mommy,” she says with a bright smile. It brings me back. Back to today. To now.
We take our seats for the service of remembrance. My little one sits on my lap and whispers to me throughout touching eulogies and tear-filled songs of tribute. The distraction is welcome. I am able to keep it together.
After it’s over, I say my good-byes to the appropriate people. I cannot get out of there quickly enough.
I’m unsettled. Things have been going so well over the last couple of months. It’s been awhile since I lost touch with reality like that. Even though it was only for a moment, I’m upset that it happened at all.
When we get home, I lock myself in my room and cry. The question of ‘why’ runs repeatedly through my thoughts.
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
Psalm 13:1-2a NLT
He reminds me gently of his faithfulness, of how far we’ve come together. The words from Ann Voskamp’s study 1,000 Gifts echo through my mind, “God is always good, and I am always loved”. The truth of it soothes me. I wipe the tears from my eyes. I know that my loving heavenly Father is always with me, and is working out his wonderful plan in my life. The things that were intended for evil, God will surely redeem for good.
May you, dear one, remember the goodness of our Lord, and the depths of his love for you,
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/angelikdi/2488115917/”>AngélicayPunto</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>