Ever since it turned March, I’ve been holding my breath. Along with that calendar page transition, something inside gave way, something that has been building and layering itself within my story for the past year.
Last March, everything in my life was completely inside out and I felt like my heart was hanging by a thread. I was at the brink of the hugest uncertainties, endings, and unwanted beginnings that I have ever known.
Just as each month has its own playlist of nostalgia, the certain songs, shades, views, and feelings that instantly carry you back in time and demand to be revisited, March has left its enduring share of reminders, refusing to leave anything the same ever again. But those enduring reminders are ones that shift perspective to what is most important in life. And so I revisited them.
In this exploring and revisiting of days, memories, and places, I expected it all to feel exactly the same as last year. Because inwardly my heart was/is still reeling. And because expectations have always been a haunting struggle.
So I went back to the graveside, to houses that feel like home, to Virginia mountains, to familiar restaurants, to the ocean waves, to certain hours and journal entries and videos. Yet none of it possessed that exact same magic, they never had that moment that I was sure would happen, one where I’d finally fall apart and process everything, or get lost in reverie and overwhelming joy, or where the beauty would cause my heart to explode.
And this feeling was beyond frustrating. I kept hoping and being unwillingly let down by the insignificance of spaces and feelings captured that I was sure would be so important all over again.
Yet, as has become the spring break tradition, I was reading the book Bread & Wine, savoring the words, slowly breaking open my cracked places to let in more light. To open to the idea of community, of hospitality and welcome, of the most beautiful things coming out of the most heartbreaking loss and suffering.
It should have been no surprise then that the words of this book perfectly aligned with my crisis of expectations not matching reality and my heart being lost in it all. The following quote helped my stubborn head readjust to reality & carry myself through March much differently than I had been.
It seems like most of the things we try to make profound never are, lost in our insistence and fretting and posing. When we want something to be momentous, it rarely is. Life is disobedient in that way, insisting on surprising us with its magic, stubbornly unwilling to be glittery on command.
Shauna Niequist | Bread & Wine
Having these words to lean on, I stopped – gradually and with a high learning curve – placing such strong hopes on returning to find things the same, instead embracing what it is now as I journeyed through memories. Because when you focus on the living instead of the significance, that’s when you find it has been profound all along.
The memories themselves, the distinct set of sounds, sights, textures, and stories that make up the month of March, are vibrantly alive still.
March is the month of an island retreat & ocean waves crashing over a heart that was already drowning in the fear.
With the taste of caramel intense blending into coffee. An attempt to ease the headache and find magic in the caffeine. Anything to keep the red-rimmed eyes a little wider and the terror more at bay. That flavor will always send me straight back to the island. Just like the echoes of Ed Sheeran’s Barcelona with its dancing vibe and carefree rhythm do. Back to that time when all was sun and salt water breeze for the first time in over half a lifetime.
With a breakfast nook hideaway under the bluest sky reflecting through the window pane, while you are curled up tight. Fresh faced, while inner tension gradually unwinds. This your morning wake up call, as sunlight makes its presence known. In this corner of the world, you write down the stories, the ones that are so tangled that it takes slow work to give the slightest glimpse of what is buried in the heart. Rediscovering the joy of writing just for the beauty of perfect descriptions that are desperate attempts to encapsulate the beauty existing in 360-degree array.
With a mist that rolls in on the horizon, in the form of hazed hues like smoke. Your ear aching as if a bomb went off and the repercussions vibrated right along the drum. A combination of saltwater pounding and not enough clarity. An aftermath of tears and silent storm leaves unfocused eyes and drained motions. Yet the coffee brews calmly and insistent in the background, pulling some normal into this whirlwind.
With moments of letting composure crumble. Late night spilling out the story to another mom who gives huge hugs and allows you to process while gently speaking from a lived life of lessons in grace and truth. On sovereignty in the mess.
With an escape more beautiful than you’d imagined. Simple nods to Disney. Strains of Mary Poppins cheer while swimming, hints of eight-year-old mountain-top memories flashing by like a highlight reel. The staff saying welcome home, specially providing the first experience of Pineapple fresh Dole Whip ice cream, long before the time of day that it should be offered. The stories of the Stan the shuttle man.
For a brief instant, you join in the celebration. But the thoughts are quick to haunt you, to make it all a nightmare. Because no matter how far you run, or how perfect and inspiring the place, or how great the people, you can’t distance yourself from the heartache or escape the truth of current events. Is it possible to grieve and intensely feel with every fiber of your being a loss you haven’t yet experienced?
With Andrew Belle’s smooth, full sound a silver wave of perfect vibes to accompany this trip. To ease the ache just a little, to travel with through the dark, rough moments. Your sighs harmonize with the beat, breaths rising and falling with the crescendos. Tell me what happens when the waves break. And in that moment among the crashing ocean waters, you have to stop long enough to acknowledge it all.
March is the month of late night star gazing and utter disbelief over the changes that transpired up to that moment in time, of re-reading the same truths and stories part of the Great One over and over until something sinks in. Until you force yourself to recognize His faithfulness.
Of going through every last photograph with a renewed sense of gratitude & sentiment as the bitter and sweet collide. Because her story has forever integrated into your history and made you who you are.
Of Hospice halls grand in beauty with rich wood & kind faces even as the end draws near, the spaces where you learn the contrasts of death & eternity.
Of final conversations where you have so many questions & so much you hope to soak in from the one who’s given you the best advice for years, the one who knows the ins and outs of your dreams, your personality, your heart. Yet those questions go unanswered as you watch her communicate the things far more important in those fleeting moments, about loving others well, about trusting in His timing, about faith.
Of purple flowers that are now always associated with strength + dignity + a legacy – all reminders of where true beauty & confidence resides. A legacy I hope to carry on & live out.
Of that Monday morning, where you got up as if it was a normal day. A crammed house, truly rivaling Full House, tired eyes, stressed hearts. Chick-Fil-A and classes setting the schedule. And at 11:30 am you hummed her favorite hymn as she went into the arms of Jesus.
Of Gilmore Girls quotes tucked into a backpack that never made it to her, and a sarcastic line from a favorite character that became our running joke & motto.
Of friends who bring in hugs and so much more. To my friends, thank you a million times over. For the cards, messages flashing across my screen, simple presence, hair help, study dates, gummy bear consumption, and drives to the graveside, the list extends on endlessly. You’ll never know how much it truly means.
Of community that is so essential to who you are, yet you never realized it.
Of that Friday standing by the grave, where the pastor said the most soberingly hopeful statement of all, one I’ll never forget. “Well my friends, this is where we find out whether or not our faith is real.”
Of flowers filling up rooms and houses and sitting by gravesites, bringing beauty to the starkest spaces.
Of the phrase “all my love” becoming the best words your aching heart could express to even touch how much she meant to you. Etched out onto the canvas at the funeral home, and a year later in the sand as you return to ocean waves, as only seems fitting.
Above all, March is a month filled with pieces of one of the greatest discoveries of this past year. So many things have changed as I look at each of these souvenirs of time. And yet my mom’s impact is so evident even now, and that is beautifully comforting to recognize even in the grief of remembering. Because love never leaves the heart where it found it. And that is so true of her and how she lived. With an impact that runs deeper than one year, ten years, and beyond.
Miss you mom. All my love.