I’m not sure if it was the warm dampness he felt on his shirt or the sob that rose from my shoulders that gave me away. I didn’t want my husband to see me crying. My head was buried in his chest, my arms wrapped around his back, and we were standing on the steps to our newly-built garage. He’d brought me out there to showcase the garage door opener and lights he’d spent all day installing.
“Why are you crying? What’s the matter?”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to answer. I was embarrassed that these emotions spilled out so suddenly with little to no warning. Almost like an unexpected wave of nausea that sends you running to the bathroom, only you don’t make it in time.
“I’m just so happy about the new garage door opener.”
I tried a little humor to lighten the mood, but it was ineffective. Finally, I fessed up. Or rather, I admitted to myself why I was crying.
“It’s probably going to take a full year of holidays before things get any easier. It’s just so hard every time I look around and see he’s not here.”
My husband rubbed my back and just said two simple words.
So was I. Sorry that I struggle to enjoy the family I have here and now when we gather. Because as I gaze from face to face, these eyes and smiles that share my DNA, I see the link that’s missing. My father.
I spent Saturday cooking and cleaning and decorating, and it gave me a delightful high. I wanted to make the most of this special celebration for my family. Not because I felt pressured or obligated, but because I love them. The former generation of family get-together hosts has either passed on or has aged beyond the ability. So it’s up to me. And it’s a privilege. I love seeing my family enjoy the fruits of my labor. Pastel-colored decor, mostly hand-made by my girls, sat on a table where I served roast ham from a pig we’d raised. It felt good to provide, to feed, to nourish. There was laughter and smiles and stories of days gone by. But there was an unspoken sadness. Perhaps inaudible to others, but deafening to me.
Easter. Christ rose from his grave, but our loved ones don’t. We stand at their tombs, beating the stones that will never be rolled away.
Sunday morning, the girls squealed with delight at their overflowing baskets. It was a joyful thing, but soon the rush-rush of “get to church on time” set in and the family harmony began to sing off key. Small spats speckled the hour when hair was being curled, makeup applied, missing church shoes found, and new coordinating dresses were pulled over small heads. As I pressed on to ensure that every piece of their ensemble was in place, I thought of a post a dear friend had made on Facebook. Something along the lines of not liking the pressure of pretty dresses on Easter. She just wants to think about Jesus. While I could relate to her sentiment and would normally agree wholeheartedly, I felt myself mouthing the words, “I need the pretty dresses.”
After all my family has been through this past year, I desperately wanted to hold something bright and shiny in my hands. Is the resurrection not enough? No. It’s more than enough. Is celebrating Christ’s victory over death too passe? Impossible. Rather, I felt that the vision of these two sweet sisters dressed in pink and white was a gift. The sequins on their matching headbands sparkled and shone like tiny beacons of hope.
The rest of our day didn’t go without turmoil. There were more quarrels and even an unfortunate incident where a family member with a long history of socially unacceptable remarks placed her hand on my belly and asked if I had news I’d like to share. Pregnant? No. But how I’d love to be. What an emotional tailspin this sent me into. Not only did last week mark the due date of baby we lost, but I recently found out a medical condition is causing my belly to harden and swell. Treatable? Most likely. But so incredibly frustrating. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So yes, I needed those pretty dresses. I needed the soft fabric and frilly details. I needed the smiles on my girls’ faces when friends and family commented on how nice they looked. It made them feel so good, and it made their momma feel better, too.