Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Deep End (03/06/14)
TITLE: Breathing in Water Over My Head
By Carolyn Ancell
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The estate sale truck arrives promptly at 11:00 to carry away the stuff we cannot take to our new, much smaller house. "The stuff." Right. My Mom's stuff. My grandma's stuff. My stuff. My history. Things I have felt near me, touched and used for almost 70 years. I have no children of my own, and my husband's children do not want it. My brother, in Maine, does not want me to ship it cross-country to him from Arizona. My Mom's sterling, her beloved Wedgewood china with matching "Barley" pattern glassware, her antique sewing cabinet, the six chairs she painstakingly and proudly caned, the desk and chair where I sat and did my homework until 1962 when I left for college, my grandmother's delicate antique jewelry, her leaded crystal, her fascinating old lamps and pitchers, her rocking chair. I have saved a few things: pieces of old furniture that will fit into the new house, the hutch Mom refinished, and a small collection of items to display there, to enjoy, to remember. I know that even these treasures will be discarded when I am no longer able to care for them.
The truck drives away, and I find myself suddenly drowning in waters that are definitely over my head. I want to put my feet down, but the ground I used to walk on is no longer there. I come back into the house, and am glad I am alone. Tears pour forth unbidden.
I swim up through the waters of my mourning, break out above them, gasp for air, and give myself a hearty lecture. "You do know this is only stuff. Material stuff. Your true inheritance is in heaven, in God, in your faith, the love of your husband, the promise of a future filled with hope, with new friendships, new learning, new adventures, the beauty of natural surroundings of mountain and desert. And a tiny house."
Still I wonder, "Have I betrayed my mom, sending away those things she worked so hard to cane and refinish, to polish and preserve, to pass along to those she loved? No, she knows, better than I now, that our treasure is not here on earth. "Mom," I earnestly speak to her, expecting to be scolded, "what does not sell will be put in a thrift store. What is of great value will go for pennies." And then, deep in the tearful well of my heart, I hear her laugh! Her laughter sounds like birdsong, jubilant, light and free.
Our new community has an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Late in the afternoon, weary from unpacking boxes in the new place, I put on my suit and walk over. It is quiet, deserted. I step into the shallow end.The water comes up to my thighs. I begin walking, slowly, meditatively, mindfully toward the deeper water. Soon it is up to my waist, my shoulders, my chin. And then I am floating in waters over my head. I swim toward the far end, into the deep water. I thank God for the real treasures in my life, the memories of unconditional love, the joy-filled love of the present, the promise of the future. And I too am jubilant, light and free.
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