Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: A Love Remembered
By Sheree Hanna
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It is a quiet morning as I watch the warm rays of sunlight stream through my bedroom window. The spring rains have yet to wash away the dirty residue of yet another northern Michigan winter. After nearly six months of cold, my spirit is lifted by the bird songs, and flowers beginning to bloom. Spring is one of my favorite times of year.
You have to understand northern winters to appreciate what it means when spring finally appears on the horizon. Last winter started particularly early, November, in fact. It’s not that I hate everything about winter. I love the beauty of the first snow- fall, and the way it covers the branches of the tall pines. And besides, it beats the cold, drab winters in more southern areas any day. Still, by the time March rolls around, we Michiganders have all had more than our share. It’s not even fun to joke about it anymore. We’re weary of the cold, the snow, and having to commute to work over icy roads. We are aching for warmth, light and greenery.
This particular morning, I pour my first cup of coffee and snuggle up on the loveseat with my journal. Subtly aware that it’s been longer than I’d like since I have written on its pages, I take my pen in hand and touch its fine point to the creamy white page.
As I begin the script that so often begins to reveal what it is I have locked deep inside, I become aware of a grief that has washed over me every spring for the last five years. It comes so gently, as if it is asking my permission to be expressed, and in that moment, I decide to say yes, to open myself to the sorrow and the pain, and to the memories of beauty, laughter and love. It is May, the month my mom died five years ago.
Quietly I lay my journal aside and reach for a notebook. My writing is now free verse, filled with memories that bring both joy and tears, memories of walks in the woods, of bedtime stories, of Black-eyed Susans and tapioca pudding shared in the evenings of my childhood. I miss sitting at the table having coffee, and the significant conversations we had in her last year. I remember the Snow on the Mountain that edged her beloved flower garden, and the flowering crab that bloomed the days before she suddenly died. I think of the bright hues of poppies, of daffodils, and the flocks of birds that lit at the feeders hung especially for them. All of the memories of the things Mom loved, the things we shared together flooded my heart, reminding me of the love that I had always known. And I wondered again, in spite of the difficulties and ways she broke my heart, that in the end, I still was able to celebrate the good things in life we shared. Tears streamed unashamedly down my cheeks, tears of love and loneliness, joy and pain, tears that were evidence of a love I will always miss this side of heaven.
This is what I have come to know as the ache of spring, the tender sadness of May. Such breathtaking beauty stands in contrast to the empty place in my heart that none can fill. Sometimes I am tempted to drown the pain, when I wrestle with welcoming the ache that longs for me to sit with it for a while and remember. But I am learning to be gentle with my heart and to listen to the child that still lives in my soul, to hold her close and let her grieve. And in doing so, I honor my love, my grief, and the memory of my mother.
I wonder, in these moments, if God felt this mix of joy and sadness as he watched His son lay down his life. I imagine the pain that gives way to joy, the sorrow that becomes rejoicing as the children He loves are brought home.
When the first buds of spring begin to form, when the anniversary of Passover comes again, I look into the eyes of my heavenly Father, and find comfort in knowing He truly understands this familiar mix of tear-stained joy. And I long for the day when I will enter the gates of His eternal garden where my mom waits for me.
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