I’ve felt for a while now that it is time to write another Gleanings. It is the end of July in 2013 and in five months we will come to the three year mark since our Becky died. I still miss her. WE still miss her. I think of her nearly every day, but now most often with quiet pleasure or sweet laughter. Even so, there are still those times when the wrongness of Becky not being with us wells up and goes deep.
We finished this year’s Grandmapa Camp on Sunday, July 8. The week of our camp contained so many delights. Shockingly, at least to me, one of the greatest delights was spending a couple of hours together in a nearby park as our photographer friend, Marci Bacho, took a combo of posed and candid family photos. Our daughters Kristin and Joni conspired together to purchase Marci’s services as a birthday present for me and Steve. They asked first because neither of us is super big on having pictures taken. And there is a back-story to this ‘family’ picture event. After Becky died and we began re-imagining our family without Becky’s earthly presence, we all came to the conclusion that there would never be family photos again. None of us could quite bear the thought of a picture that held an empty spot no matter how close together we stood. Then, much to our approving delight, Jacob remarried and things got even more complicated. If you have family pictures taken who do you include? In a very real way our family grew by leaps and bounds, and yet, in an equally real way on the Coon side it shrunk to include only Amity and Dara, our granddaughters from Becky and Jacob. Baffling. Should we send out an invitation … please check YES if you would like to be included in future Lee family pictures and NO if you prefer to remain who you always were before your mom\daughter\sister remarried. Complicated.
Grandmapa Camp solved that dilemma for us by the very nature of our time together. Kristin’s husband Christopher could not attend because his life is farming and mid-July is not a friendly time for a farmer to kiss his fields good-bye for a week. We had our two girls and the full spectrum of grandkids with us and that was it. Perfect – we took family pictures that show us, our girls, and the children of their love. Are the pictures missing people? Yes, but we love those missing people and consider them ‘ours’ even if they don’t appear in these frames. And the pictures? Oh, the pictures! What they show is a group of people thoroughly enjoying each other, having moments of laughter and fun and sweet savor. Living together for a week, deliberately focused on each other and doing things together that we all enjoy is so rich. I can see the work of our Lord ministering healing and renewed joy in each of us. I see what we are becoming as our loss births new people in each of us.
Kristin and Joni still miss Becky. The Three Musketeers are now the Dynamic Duo and the level of snorting, drink spewing hilarity that once marked their time together has been notched back a bit. But I see them both healing, loving their sister-hood, less vulnerable to unintentional hurt because of their raw, bleeding pain. I love seeing the two of them together and the depth of their love for one another. They have new wisdom in what they now know and it shows in the way they respond to other hurting people.
Amity and Dara still miss Becky. Amity has grown into an amazing and beautiful twelve year old young woman. She begins seventh grade this fall and she is into Band and Jazz Band and Track and she is beginning to feel like she can trust that this place is home. Amity and our grandson Patrick have a really special mutual admiration society going on that is such a joy to watch! A year ago Amity came to Grandmapa Camp, but with reservation and fear – she really didn’t want to be away from her home and Dad. This year she came full-bore excited to be with us! I give credit to God for healing and credit to her Dad and step-mother Cheryl for giving Amity and Dara that stable loving foundation that comes in a home where Dad and Mom love each other and are for each other. Praise You Lord! Dara is ten years old and still the very devoted, very family oriented girl who would have all those who belong to her live in a family commune if she could design her world. Grandmapa Camp fills her up and she struggles to re-adjust to life without us when camp is over. She is growing like a beautiful flower and enters fifth grade this fall. She is full of giggles and laughter and hard-headedness and was part of the inseparable twin that was DaraHelen during camp. At any time she will start asking questions and speaking freely of her Mom. She is an open book and unafraid of exploring that which happened in her life and what it means for her future. There was a time that eight year old Dara was going to go to Creighton and become a Pharmacist, but recently she confessed that she wasn’t so sure she wanted to do that anymore and that it was probably mostly about remembering her Mom. Pretty insightful for an almost eleven year old!
Helen and Patrick are a little removed from missing Becky … at least to the degree the rest of us do. Patrick was just too little to realize. Over the years he will know who Becky is and how she connects to his life because of pictures and stories his Mom tells, but he doesn’t share that real sense of loss the rest of us share. Helen is more aware and is sensitive to what this loss means to the rest of us. Every so often she comments about Becky … how Becky is in heaven or how she isn’t in the family pictures or other little things that make it clear that she knows and understands what it means to miss Becky. I appreciate her understanding of family and how it impacts her Mom and the rest of us that her Aunt Becky is in heaven. I also love her certainty that Becky IS in heaven. She seems to grasp that Becky is alive and simply in another location. I love that!
Steve and I still miss Becky. I see the shift from what our grief was in the beginning to what it is now. In the beginning our grief was a mountain. We couldn’t journey without seeing that mountain and trying to figure out how to navigate it. At first our energy level for moving forward was nearly non-existent. We could hardly make it through a day, let alone think of a lifetime that included somehow getting over, through or around our grief. Over time the mountain has leveled. What remains is Becky – our relationship with her, our love for her abides and we can more fully look to the day we will see her again. Grief still rises when sights, sounds, events or stories shared bring to us the longing to speak with her or touch her again, but generally the sorrow is fleeting and we go on planning and living and taking joy in the many rich blessings of our lives.
What about Jacob? I don’t see Jacob as much as I once did. I miss interacting with him, but I rejoice at the reasons. His life is full of Cheryl, his work, his kids and step-kids – he is busy doing life! I see healing in Jacob too – he is teaching Sunday School at church and seems to enjoy it. He and Cheryl took advantage of our Grandmapa Camp to spend a couple of days away together – hooray! I know he still hurts and wrestles with God around those hurts. And that wrestling is beautiful.
I recently saw a verse that speaks powerfully to the efficacy of intercessory prayer. Read Job 16 and you’ll see a man hurt and angry and wrestling with God. Job is in pain and he doesn’t understand what has happened to him or why it has happened. At Job 16:19-21 he appeals to his advocate in heaven … his intercessor. I know that intercessor standing at the throne of God as Jesus and I know so many intercessors standing at my side … my dear, praying friends. I praise God for our intercessors … both for Jesus, the One who sees, knows, cares, has been through that which we experience and knows exactly how to intercede on our behalf. I praise God for our friends who love us, and pray with their understanding and beyond their understanding through the Spirit within them! Praise Him for answered prayer and for acting on our ongoing prayers. My intercessor is my friend!
“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” Job 16:19-21