I walk beside our five year old listening to her excitement as she prattles on about the bugs we just dug up and the “deer steps” we see, as we spend a few moments together in the woods across our street, behind the gravesite that sits with gloomy shoulders hunched with sadness.
Her hand feels so good in mine, her soft baby skin warm to touch, and sing song voice full of life and wonder. She looks at me with those big blue eyes that light up so easily, with hope and excitement in her voice for another day to venture out in.
Kari holds the old compass carefully that “papa” used in his military days and tries to read the symbols. “I like walking with you and daddy to see the deer steps.” Her words spill out like water from a fountain.
These are the moments I drink in and tuck in my heart, like the evenings I spend at her bedside, reading stories and praying with her, listening to the angelic melodies of her laughter. These are the times I also cry.
As a mom of also an adolescent son I am feeling his pain as he has lost two buddies, A.J and Dustin, in car accidents, in a matter of seconds, these teen age lives have gone from this world forever. I see the remnants of my son, so many of the kids, and even maybe more so the parents, as they each struggle along trying to make sense of this ordeal, striving to reconstruct their broken lives.
On they do go, but with hurts and questions that still linger as mom or dad pass by or stop in to the gravesite of their children, where friends and classmates solemnly place flowers or a small token of memory just across our street, and the deer sometimes lay quietly behind the stone faces of engraved testimonies at twilight or the dawning of a new day.
Earlier, in the fall, just before the crisp pallid blankets of winter come, I planted handfuls of festively colored bulbs that were then plain faced, just an earthy brown color, nothing to boast of. In the spring however, they will be glorious blooms of rainbow shades standing tall under the promising sun.
As another season of frost soon came with it’s icy breath blowing the trees leafless forms they arrived. Silently, while we sleep, footsteps, one after another, track through our yard pass the woods and gravesite, through the thin coverlets of ivory, into my garden.
It is on another adventurous walk with my daughter as we begin to stroll past the yard I notice the robbery. “Oh no,” I sigh. My daughter and I quietly follow the empty tombs that once held my auburn seeds of hope. They are gone. “Deer steps mommy, looks like a daddy deer”, she crouches down to put her small hand in the large imprint that seems to swallow her diminutive appendages.
“I’m sorry your pretty flowers are gone mommy but I’ll help you plant more. “Aren’t you glad that the deer didn’t step on our house or me?” Kari seems to always put things in perspective.
I brush the frostiness off my baby’s cherub like hands and warm them in mine. “Yes, very glad sweetie.”
Then I notice a concerned look on her face where usually smiles are painted. Are you going to stop looking for deer steps with me mommy?” I stroke her flaxen tresses and kiss her forehead. “Never, baby girl. Why honey?” I wonder. Kari grows quiet and shrugs. “I dunno,”her voice is carried away in the stillness of the morning. People get sad or angry and they stop doing stuff they use to.”
“Sometimes it hurts too bad honey.” I tried to help her understand.
“God wipes away our tears and comforts us though.”
“Will there be deer steps in heaven?” “Maybe” I gently answer. Kari sifts her fingers through the snow. ”I think God likes going on adventures with us.” She finds the head of a bulb peeking through the white layer of frost that hasn’t been buck food. “See, there's gonna be tulips in the spring.”
I hug her tightly.” Let’s go for that walk in the woods.” As we saunter past the cemetery the sun is just rising above the trees and a herd of deer dot the horizon. “See mommy, God is taking A.J and Dustin on an adventure too.”
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