It’s funny how fast life goes. Isn’t it? I mean first you’re five years old sitting in a cul-de-sac watching the older kids ride their bikes dreaming of the time you can do the same. You blink then you’re in 1st grade, then 5th grade, then middle school, and before you know it, you’re graduating. And then somewhere between then and now you find your person. And you start a family. You blink and they’re now starting families of their own. Your life now filled with people, projects, and those darned memories that pop up once in a while and remind us of who we used to be.
I had such a memory recently. Let me say at the outset it’s not my favorite memory. In fact, it is one of my least favorite. And yet here it is, popping up all the same, over and over again. I felt the nudge to write about it and here we are.
Though I warn you ahead of time, if you choose to read on, the ending is weak.
This story took place within the first few days to the first week after my husband passed away from cancer at only 49 years old.
When I had recited “till death do us part” almost 19 years previous, I had no idea that was actually going to happen so soon.
At the time of this story, my best friend, Allan went into the hospital and was gone within four days.
I was 41 with four kids at home and was in complete and utter shock. I mean this couldn’t happen to me, could it?
The shock and grief were so great it was all I could do that first week to just try to keep breathing, and make sure my children did as well.
My family has always been everything to me. Allan and I had our first child together when I was 21. We married when she was one and a half. And later had three more children.
For most of the marriage he worked, and I stayed home with the kids, though that changed off and on a little bit over the years. He was a blue-collar worker and money was always tight. As one child put it “we never had money to go to on fancy vacations [to that I would add really any vacations] but I always knew you’d love me and that was enough.” Not only were vacations scarce, but so were many extras. That’s why when I made chocolate chip cookies my kids absolutely loved them.
So did Allan. For every time I made the kids some, I secretly made him an extra batch (with walnuts) and he would hide them so that he would have some to take to work.
I never really knew where he’d put them, never thought about asking. I was just happy that I could make him a treat, he worked so very hard.
That might have been why it hit me so hard.
Like I said it was the first week maybe within the first few days after he died. I remember my daughter and her friend were in my room and I was asked by my youngest son if he could see the kittens who were sequestered in my walk-in closet (the closet door open with a baby gate). The kittens were about to be given away, so I relented. He was young, so I wanted to keep an eye on him with the kittens.
I remember going into the closet and just sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, watching him play.
I don’t know what made me do it, but something made me look up. I saw the corner of a plastic bag and I immediately knew what it was.
I stood up I grabbed the bag where he had hidden it behind some clothes. I’m not sure how long it had been there. and I’m not sure what it was about seeing this batch of cookies, but what I do remember is the scream that emanated so from so deep within me, that when it escaped it must it rattled windows within a 10-mile radius.
My daughter and her friend were there in a flash, sitting with me and reassuring me as I continued to scream (btw I am not a screamer usually, so you can imagine everyone’s surprise), helping me out of the closet, and into bed after gently taking the cookies from my hand.
That’s it that’s the memory.
I cannot tell you what preceded that memory nor what came after. Just the loss, the closet, the scream, and the help.
To be honest for the last week I have felt a nudge, repeatedly, to write about this memory. But I have not wanted to go back.
It has been 14 years and though I never dated again, and I have healed emotionally and moved on, thinking about it put me back there.
I started out this blog post by saying the ending was weak. That is because I have had no idea why I reacted in the closet like I did.
Why scream over cookies?
Then I realized it was not about cookies at all.
It was about what they represented.
In a house as poor as ours, the cookies were the one thing that I could do special for him. And he would eat them slowly over the next week or so, knowing that he was loved.
The love that I placed into the bag of cookies, made just for him, now had no outlet.
And never would again.
On this side of Heaven.
So, are you like I was?
Are you holding a metaphorical bag of cookies, that now has no home?
Are you screaming, crying, or silently numb, unsure of what to do next?
Has your love lost its receptor?
Without trying to give trite answers, I will say that I understand, completely, and deeply. And my heart aches for the pain you are in.
I am praying that you have friends and family around you, as I did.
I am grateful beyond words for all who walked with my family.
You know who you are. Thank you for all you did.
But I would be more than remiss if I did not thank God for taking me each step of the way through the craziness that surrounded me in the beginning and all the days since.
If you have read this far there is a reason.
God has put on my heart to let you know my story so that you will know that you are not alone, he sees you in your pain of loss, whether that is of a child, partner, or dream.
You are loved!
I pray that you feel that love wash over you as you read these words.
You might not believe in God,
I get it I used to be the same way.
But I have seen Gods hand in my life repeatedly,
and felt his love way too many times to deny him.
I pray that you give him a shot to show you who he is.
Allan didn’t believe in God for most of our marriage.
This changed the last year of his life.
I know that he is in heaven now.
And that I will see him again one day.
And when I do see him again , I sure do hope that some way, somehow, I will be holding a bag of chocolate chip walnut cookies.