Here is one of those moments where Matt is with us– in the way that all of the kids are grinning at me.
I am still running regularly and I know that Matt would be too. As much as my body compels me to continue I still find myself pushing through the uphill stretches wishing I were doing something else. I often count the remaining uphill parts till I’ll be done, but today, a lightbulb went off and I started thinking maybe I should be counting the downhills left to go.
P.S. Does this change of perspective mean I am officially over the hill?
We were reading a chapter of Summer’s religious education book at dinner and came to the question:
If Jesus joined us for dinner tonight, what one question would you ask him?
How is dad doing?
-Summer, without hesitation
Going on the fourth Christmas, I have come to accept the Christmas tree as Matt’s presence at Christmas time. Before we had kids, Matt wanted nothing to do with having a Christmas tree. We celebrated Christmas of course, but he kind of bah humbugged a lot of it on the principle that Christmas is over commercialized. As soon as Summer was born, he went out and bought a huge artificial Christmas tree. It is 12 feet tall and he got a very good deal on Craig’s list. It is a high quality tree but it is not pre lit and you have to put it together, branch by branch. He even researched the best way to string lights which is not round and round but in and out along each branch. To properly light the tree in this way takes about 1000 lights and 2 full days of work. Needless to say, once Matt died, this was not something I was able to do on my own. But with three kids, I had to have a Christmas tree even if I didn’t feel like it. The prospect of putting the tree up in good time was quite a burden. The first year, Josh and the McNamaras helped put it up. The second year I went shopping for a pre lit tree. I looked at Target, at Lowe’s, at Home Depot and online. What I found was that none of the trees measured up to the fullness of our tree and the ones that came close were very expensive. My solution was to put up 2 instead of 3 sections of our tree which meant a 9 foot tree instead of 12 feet. There are about 9 or 10 rows of branches this way and since the top section has shorter branches, it goes up pretty fast. I also don’t try to get the tree up all at once. We work on it about an hour a day over the course of several days and now that the kids are older, they can help by fluffing out the branches before I put them up.
This year, I pulled out the tree and decided it would represent Matt himself and that putting up the tree is a meditation of sorts and a way to measure my readiness. It’s also a sort of Advent calendar as seeing the tree go from a small tuft at the end of a six foot pole to a five foot tree raised up above the ground to the full 9 foot portion corresponds to the days closing in on Christmas. The kids love holiday decorating so much and that definitely helps a lot. I try to get most of the gift shopping done in November and then slow down in December with only Christmas extracurriculars and a goal to de-rush amidst the Christmas rush. This year actually feels a bit measured and steady.
I was talking to a friend who was concerned that his daughter has not sufficiently grieved the loss of her mother. After four years, I wondered about my own kids and I asked him, “What would it look like for her to grieve now?”
Neither of us really had an answer. The obvious answer is being sad and angry and nostalgic about direct memories of the person you are grieving. But I know that’s just a part of it and with kids who are growing and changing and involved with the now so much, there are fewer of those outright connections.
The answer I’ve come to is the simple one: it’s all grieving. It sounds extreme, and I admit I came to this because really I can’t always know what is and isn’t grief in my children. Also, it all feels like grief to me. So I add a little perspective and acknowledge that there is a lot of grief in growing up. In our household grief for the loss of Matt is naturally woven into the experience. I’ve come to see that grief itself is the mechanism we humans have to work on ourselves.
Today, something different. It seems to have nothing to do with Matt, but really it has everything to do with him.
I really like the Katy Perry song, “Dark Horse,” but was a little appalled when I saw the video. In typical Katy Perry fashion, it is over the top and a little silly. So why was I appalled to get what was expected? My little secret is that I have been using this song for a visualization and my first impression with the video was that it was too gaudy and silly for my serious deepness. Right on, Katy Perry. A few days later, it dawned on me just how deeply the video worked with my visualization. And it’s always good to be reminded not to take myself so seriously.
Hopefully, you can view the video, but to summarize:
So you wanna play with magic
Boy, you should know what you’re falling for
Baby do you dare to do this?
Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse
Are you ready for, ready for
A perfect storm, perfect storm
Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine
There’s no going back
Katy Perry is an Eqyptian queen approached by various suitors all offering her precious gifts– jewels, delicious food and drink, sex, godliness, a pyramid of gold. All of these she rejects and turns her suitors to dust, after which she consumes them in some way.
Imagine that the narrator/singer of the song is your best, truest self singing to you and asking you to say yes to love and promising a relationship with yourself more amazing than you could ever imagine. This relationship is magical and doesn’t come from anything you plan or control. It’s something you let happen by saying yes. And once you say yes, “there’s no going back” simply because it is so wonderful. Of course, this is what the lyrics mean. Now, what if you reflect them on to yourself as you listen?
How the video fits:
All of the suitors in the video are the mental and emotional drama that we humans bring into ourselves on a regular basis. From preoccupations to obsessions and addictions with stuff, food, alcohol, sex, work, etc. And this relationship with ourself, which is love, is so powerful that it eventually turns these suitors to dust even if we are initially attracted.
I love that she mixes Greek and Eqyptian mythology.
I don’t have dreams of Matt very often, but I had one the other night. I dreamed that Matt came back from the dead, but he wasn’t quite the same, somehow disabled. He wanted to play the guitar and perform. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go since he didn’t know how to play the guitar but, I went along with it because it was something for him to do. So he got up in front of some audience– it was a talent sort of situation– with his guitar flat on his lap and started picking out a song and singing. It was actually much better than I was expecting although not that great. Then when he was done he started telling jokes. He told one that was dirty and the Director of Elementary Religious Education of my church was there and she kicked him out for inappropriateness. We left and everything was very serious, but the joke itself was actually really funny and self referential to the dream itself. (I can’t really translate it from dreamland but it involved laughing at our own fears represented by a scorpion.)
I woke up and thought a lot about the joke and the dream. How often do I stress with fear over failing at something that isn’t actually about doing the thing right but about finding the right audience? And when the trying it out should be fun? This is a lesson I know well from myself and from watching Matt.
I cleaned out the garage (for the most part) over the holiday and had a garage sale. Most of Matt’s large tools were sold by friends a while back, but this time I did it myself. That means the garage really is mine now, except for all of the trash to get rid of. When I was piling everything for the sale on and around a 4×8 sheet of plywood table, it mostly seemed like haphazard junk. But with the help of my brother and neighbors, the sale ended up looking like a pretty cool guy’s sale.
I was ready which means that cleaning out the garage was a very straightforward and natural process. As I was cleaning out the large toolbox that I had given Matt one of the first Christmas’s we were married, I remembered Matt working on the car with his socket wrenches. What a grace he had with tools! He spent more time in this garage doing woodworking. I think about all the time he spent in there and what it must have been like for him (it’s a four car garage!) I didn’t see as much because I was inside with kids, but I suppose it will come to me some time.
Then when it came time for the garage sale I was so nervous. I posted on the wrong craigslist board and only 2 people came plus my neighbors. I still managed to get rid of almost everything thanks to my neighbors hauling it away for me.