Eamonn woke up in the middle of the night shivering and crying and I’d brought him to bed with us for a little while so that he could calm back down and drink some water. I slept for a bit with my nose in his hair, remembering all the nights I clung to my mom when I was little, wishing that she could just stay the whole night with me. There are few aches like the aches we feel when we long for our mommies. I hold him a little closer when I feel like that and his poor, hot baby skin burned against mine while his fever did its work and he fell back to sleep.
I have been having strange dreams every night and last night was no exception. I keep dreaming I am with my mother and that she doesn’t know she’s dead and that it’s my job, somehow, to make her understand. I wonder what my heart is trying to process that makes me dream this over and over again?
When we woke up this morning, Eamonn and I were both a little the worse for wear. Since I was a little kid, a family remedy for morning blues was a trip to the local diner where all the waitresses know you. So I packed Eamonn up with promises of pancakes and we headed out to our nearest family-owned diner for breakfast.
My visits to this particular diner have been shaky at best since Mom died. It was a favorite of my mom’s and mine. It is where she, my mother-in-law, and I went for pie after seeing Eamonn on 4d ultrasound for the first time. We sat in awe with huge smiles and lots of tears, cooing to the waitresses about how clearly cute and talented my boy already was, even in the womb. We used to just sit there on rainy afternoons and laugh at Eamonn’s antics as he flirted with waitresses and old ladies who stopped by the table to say hi. It’s a busy place, but they never hesitate to pour you just one more cup of coffee over and over again when they know you. It’s the place mom took me for lunch to let me know that her cancer was back. She’s the only person I know who would buy you lunch to soften the news of her own cancer. Doesn’t it seem like cancer should be a free lunch ticket? But not to my mom.
On our visit to the Village Kitchen the week before last, I finally explained to Curtis, the owner’s son, why Eamonn and I had switched down from being a party of three to a party of two. It makes it a little easier to know that they know when I well up over my coffee, which seems unavoidable when I’m there these days. Today was no exception.
I ordered eggs, pancakes, and bacon for us. I always get cheese on my scrambled eggs and while Eamonn and I were eating we started to laugh as I pulled and pulled at a bite of cheddar and egg — the string of melted cheese was never-ending no matter how much I twirled my fork. Suddenly, like a loudspeaker had been turned on in my head, I heard my mom laughing. When Eamonn was about a year old we’d ordered him a grilled cheese sandwich and laughed over the very same melty cheese. “It’s longhorn cheddar!” she’d giggled, “What a dirty trick to play on a kid!” and we’d melted into hysterics while trying to help him manage his sandwich with such a little mouth and little hands.
Bam. Tears. That’s all it takes right now. Oh how I wanted her there.
Eamonn lasted beautifully through breakfast and then a trip to the hardware store for canning jars, but he was so tired when we got home. I put him down for his nap early and after listening to him cry for a little while he started to sob, “I lubbus, mommmm. Mommmmm, I lubbus!” His baby version of “I love you.” I couldn’t resist. I went and scooped him up and snuggled him against me in his rocker while he finally calmed down and slept. The smell of him, the weight of him, and the feel of his little hand on my neck — all of them made me ache.
This all got me to thinking about longing. I deal with a lot of longing right now. I shudder sometimes to think about the weight of the longing my father must feel without my mother there anymore. But in the midst of all of this longing, there is hope. And maybe this is why, though I long I do not fall apart the ways I expected to. And maybe this is why, too, I keep dreaming that my mother does not know that she’s dead. I’m trying to reconcile my earthly understanding of death and the seeming permanence of it with the faith I have that what we see here is not all there is.
Last night while I was cleaning, I unearthed the Christmas letter my mom wrote in 2006, only months before we found out that her cancer had returned. After all the family news was done, she mentioned that for the first time in years, we were all going up to spend Christmas with the extended family — her brothers and all of our cousins and our kids. She wrote:
“The whole bunch of us are going, and there’ll be lots of hilarity and reminiscing over old times, longing for others who won’t be able to be there, and remembering loved ones long gone. It will be a sweet time, and we can hardly wait.
There is another greater Family Gathering coming that we both find harder and harder to wait for with each passing year. That gathering will be what our Creator took on flesh for on that first Christmas and BURST into history to do battle to reclaim. It will be what He WON, on the cross, at the cost of His own life. It will be what He planned from the very beginning — His living in warm-hearted “family-ness” with His people — no more guilt on our part, no more fear, only perfect security and everlasting purpose and contentment. And it will be just as real as you standing there with this letter in your hand reading about it.”
And so as I weep and ache and long, I do not despair. My mind is trying to grasp that while she is gone from here, she is alive and well. And all shall be well. All manner of things will be well. And it will be just as real as you sitting here in front of your monitor reading this blog.