Sometimes I am surprised by moments that heal my in ways I never imagined on this journey of loss. I met Mike because I lost Drew. And I met his daughter Shelby because of that too. And because they lost a wife and mother. And here we are, this new little family sort of scrapped together from the pieces of past lives. There are more pieces too… from our childhood quilts as well. For me, the life when my mom was alive. The life when my dad was alive. All of the pieces are sewn together into this new life we’re sharing.
With so many old, tattered pieces, I think it’s easy to wonder if my parts of the quilt are strong enough. If my whole area of our shared quilt will just fall apart at any time. It’s easy for me to doubt my abilities to be a mom for example, because I lost my mom so young that I really feel like I am just flying blind. All I have to go off of is my dad’s parenting, and he wasn’t winning any parent-of-the-year awards, let me tell you!
Every so often though, there comes a moment when I really know, that I am not only rocking at living on as a widowed person – but that I am rocking this mom thing – even if all I have to go on is my own instincts and my dad’s poor parenting.
This past week was one of those moments for me. We had a big Halloween party for Shelby and all her friends. She’s in 7th grade now, and I’m trying to find ways to continue having big, amazing memories around Halloween with her now that she is getting older. Especially because I have heard so many stories from her about how much her mom loved Halloween. From the moment I met her, I knew that we needed to keep that Halloween spirit alive and big. In past years, that meant hand making amazing costumes together and going to a few fun Halloween events. Now that she is older though, I figured a party with her closest friends would be the way to go.
For weeks beforehand I was putting up all my usual Halloween decor around the house, and then the week before the party all three of us went all out making the house super spooky. Filling the stairway with creepy webs and the front yard with headstones. The garage was turned into the perfect scary hangout, with a cauldron of dry ice smoking up a table of snacks, a blacklight shining on a black wall of plastic with creepy glow-paint handprints and words like “keep out” and “danger”. It’s an undertaking for sure, and Mike and I were exhausted, but it was so worth it.
For that evening, I watched these kids, all about 12 and 13, play hide and seek, sit around the fire pit roasting hot dogs and laughing till they fell over, painting and carving pumpkins with yet more laughter and just enjoying being kids. There was not a cell phone in sight. Not a single argument or bit of drama. No one trying to be too grown up for their own age. Just good, clean fun, with Mike and I nearby but staying just out of the way enough to let them have their fun. I could not have been happier… just to watch these kids being kids. After all, our kid isn’t the only one who’s experienced or is going through a hard time. At this age, they’re all starting to have challenges. To see them blissfully childlike on this night felt like a small time capsule of innocence that I will remember forever.
It’s moments like that when I realize that it’s okay that our quilt is a little bit tattered and has some holes in it. It’s okay that maybe we are missing pieces or the stitches sometimes come loose and we have to mend them. Because from time to time, on a night like Halloween party night at our house, this messy quilt that Mike, Shelby and I are building is given a whole new bright, sturdy, colorful square of fabric. And that new colorful square is sewn in right next to some of the more tattered ones.
For me, it’s a mending of my memories of my own mother… who loved fall and infused my world with this beautiful, warm energy each fall. When she died, that whole piece of my childhood quilt was ripped out.. Leaving nothing more than tattered holes and loose threads. Now though, I’m getting a chance to mend it. By celebrating everything in the fall season with love and vibrancy like she did. And by doing so for Shelby, I get the chance to make sure that this is one part of her childhood quilt that won’t feel tattered and full of holes as she grows up and joins her quilt with someone else’s. Instead, it will be a part – I hope – that is filled with bright colors and fun patterns and warmth and joy.
Even though grief is hard, it is inevitable in life. I think one of the truly beautiful parts of grief though is that eventually, we begin to be ready to mend. We begin to see we get to choose what colors and patterns we want to sew in beside the older bits. We get to put love into mending ourselves… creative energy comes, and we start to see possibilities and combinations and new beauty we didn’t see before. And we maybe start to make our quilt bigger by joining it with someone else’s too. The beautiful thing is that we always have a choice in when we’re ready to sit down with a needle and thread and begin to mend a little, and we always have the chance to help someone else mend too. No more beautiful thing is there I think than getting to share our tattered quilts with one another, mending and mending again over our lifetimes, giving love to ourselves and others.