Nothing like a tragic event to get you thinking about life. I’ve been journaling, praying, talking to family & friends, and yet I still have so many thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me. I feel a real need to share what’s on my heart – to know that I’m not alone? To hear some encouragement? I don’t know. But bear with me because I’m just going to type and I don’t know where I’ll end up.
My uncle died a little over a week ago. It was two days before my birthday, on Superbowl Sunday. I still love birthdays. I know I’m getting older but so far I have enjoyed every phase of my life so I still love an excuse to totally treat myself. Every year I try to celebrate all week long on my birthday week and this year was no different. But this birthday week started out with a text from my mom saying my uncle was in the ER, possibly dying. He had advanced liver disease and had been staying with my parents here in Houston (and then in a nursing home after he fell, suffering a bleed to the brain) to get treatment for the last four months. Although I knew he was in bad shape, on Sunday I thought he was stable and I still held out hope that he would get a transplant and recover. The sudden downturn caught me off guard and I broke down crying for the first time.
We decided to go to church anyway. There was nothing we could do to help, we would just be in the way, and I figured church was a good place to be. As we stood singing praise songs my mom would periodically text with updates, each one more dire than the last. I had my eyes closed and had found my voice. We sang Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other. Our God is healer, awesome redeemer, our God. Right then David hugged me close and showed me the text that said, “He’s gone.” I had been singing the song hoping for a miracle, but immediately its entire meaning changed. I knew our family would need a new kind of healing and strength. You see, my uncle is my dad’s twin and best friend for all their sixty years. Not only were we all very close but the only thing comparable to the loss of a twin is the loss of a spouse. My dad will never be the same. I broke down crying for the second time.
Later that day we picked my aunt up from the airport. Yup – she didn’t even get a chance to see him before he died. She was still at home in South Carolina because she had to work, and this had all happened in a matter of hours. She had been on the phone with my mom all morning and my mom had held the phone up to my uncle’s ear so she could say goodbye even as the medical team performed their heroic measures that just weren’t enough. We took her to the hospital where my parents still were, and we got to have one last moment with my uncle. Lots more crying.
You know, when I started this post I didn’t intend to write all that out. But there it is, and I’m leaving it. This is already getting long but I still have more to say, so I’m just going to keep going. It seems like after that nothing really matters but life keeps happening and with it come daily struggles. Work was hard last week. Obviously I was already sad and grieving but I also had a skills checkoff, was in charge for two days (which is so stressful to me & always makes me late coming home) and then Saturday was my weekend on call and I ended up being there for four hours by myself.
Being a working mom is tough anyway, and lately I’ve been missing Meredith more and more. We see her for only about two hours each day, and then weekends I try to spend with her completely but that’s also when I have to do household upkeep, church & small group, errands, and squeeze in some alone time/creative endeavors. The last is the first thing to go when there’s no time, but I’m not at my best when I don’t have time alone to recharge or work on fun things that make me excited. The two hours that we do have with her in the evening we try to make count with family dinners and walks and focused time together, but with a toddler you can’t always predict how those things will go. My dream is to work part-time, but right now money is very tight. Although we are working hard to pay off some debt and build up savings, it’s going to be a long time before I’ll be able to cut back on my hours.
And then there’s my strong desire to have another baby. It’s something almost physical. I feel the pain of it every time I read another pregnancy announcement. Of course I’m worried that I won’t be able to conceive again, but now I’m also wondering – is it responsible for us to have another child? However would we afford it? I’m not talking about baby “stuff” but the $12,000 we paid to daycare last year (ouch). And then I think about how little time we already spend with Meredith and how I would hate to have that taken away from her. And yet I want to give her a sibling not just for me but for her. My brothers and I were best friends growing up and I’d still feel lost at times without them. After my uncle died it was them I turned to right away just for the shared history and experience.
Most of the time I do a very good job of focusing on the positive aspects of every situation. It may be a defense mechanism, but I think it’s a pretty good one. In my head right now I’m trying to convince myself that these struggles are small, that we are so blessed, that I shouldn’t be complaining at all. But these feelings of grief and sadness and guilt and longing are also real. And maybe they just need to be acknowledged.