The plane rose steadily above the North Carolina country until the visible details of life diminished into diffuse patches of green and brown farmland. “I’m not going to cry”, I silently challenged myself. I had stayed awake the night before, restless with dread. Snapshots of the last week flipped through my mind…of my two granddaughters, their warm little bodies snuggled up to mine, the way their wet hair smelled after a bath, singing next to my son at his church, the richness of fellowship and a deepening connection with my daughter-in-law. Their passion for life, each other, their desire to serve and please God leaves me awed and inspired.
When my mother visited us, she would just get up early in the dark morning and tiptoe out the door , no goodbye, no fanfare. I heard her car quietly back out of the driveway, and she was gone.
“She doesn’t like goodbyes,” I casually remarked to my stunned husband.
“Really? She just leaves?” he said. I shrugged and smiled, comfortable with my mother’s idiosyncrasies. And as my thoughts turned back to kissing my two granddaughters goodbye at the airport, my heart turned over and took a deep sharp sigh. Maybe mom was just being practical.
I hate crying. I cried so much after my son died that I started to look at it like throwing up. Sometimes you can psyche yourself out of it, other times it’s best to just give in and let it go. There was a time I wore sunglasses everywhere to hide the unpredictable burst of tears. My eyes burned and my head ached. I wore no makeup for three years.
For me, a woman who never liked to drop the emotional guard, who ran outside and hid behind a tree so my kids didn’t have to see me cry, this has been a transforming brokenness. I’m softer now. Though crying is still a little scary and unpredictable to me, I acknowledge the sadness in things, like goodbyes in airports.
I don’t think heaven is a bunch of fat little babies with wings sitting on clouds. I know it is a real place, immeasurably more vibrant and pulsing and alive than the best this earth can offer. Still, pushing up past the clouds in a jet helps me get perspective on this little planet. Somehow the clouds draw my heart closer to God’s peace and promise of a place with no more tears or goodbyes. As the beautiful old hymn goes,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
I returned home feeling tired and frail. And as I unpacked my big red suitcase I thought of my next trip to North Carolina, not too, too far away, and tried to cheer myself. Then at the bottom of my bag I found a piece of cardboard still sticky with glue. Brooklynn had presented it to me last weekend.
“Look! For you Ama!”
She had glued odd shapes of blue and yellow paper to it, in the free-form style of a three year old noting that she even managed to glue buttons to it too. I think whatever was within reach was going to be glued to that little piece of artwork. There had been three buttons but one had come off in the bag. I held the little blue button in my hand and let the tears roll. Love does crazy things like that and I’m grateful for the whole messy lot. Thankful, too, for a glue stick I found in my drawer that will hold a blue button where it belongs. And as I added it to my refrigerator gallery, I thanked God that I can get through every goodbye “in the light of His glory and grace”.