There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak a time to love and time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Ecc 3:1-8
I have never pretended that I have adjusted well to my empty nest. It has been three years and I am doing better with my new life but I really miss my old one.
I spent my first year as an empty nester in a new town with no friends and no job. All my belongings and trinkets that I had collected over the years were packed up and put in storage. I was lost, and for the first time in my life lonely. As someone who calls herself an extreme introvert you know when I say that I’m lonely it must be really bad. So, I had to do something with my time, so I decided to do what I love, and write, “Between Hurt and Healing” is the result.
I took many scenes from my life and enhanced and exaggerated them and put it into this story. It was fun to develop characters and make up scenarios. The story does however, have a few themes: learning to live again after the death of a loved one and the strength and bond of family.
Maybe writing this story was therapy because of all the people that I have lost or the times I have grieved with friends who have lost loved ones.
I do believe that at different points in our lives we will go through the stages of grief when we don’t actually suffer from the death of someone close to us. I think we can feel something of a loss when we have a severe life change or when relationships end. Long time friendships are broken or family ties severed. Trusts are broken, forgiveness isn’t given or maybe not accepted, either way a loss has occurred.
It is the natural course of life for children to grow up and leave home, and as parents we really don’t want them back. That is not really healthy for anyone. But for twenty-five years I had one job, with many hats, but really only one job, and that was to raise my children. I made a lot of mistakes. I did a few things right. In the end, the kids turned out good.
It is ridiculous for one parent to take all the credit or all the blame, I had a partner through it all and he was always my strength, my companion and my friend. We were in this together and we were and still are a team. But even the two of us together can’t take credit for what God has done. It’s been He that has been there for the kids in all their decisions and all their close calls; car accidents, temptations, whatever. He has held them in His hand and I along with my husband have just been the instruments that God trusted, here on earth, to guide them.
So, as I watched the kids leave one, then two, then three and I turned them totally over to God, I found myself alone. And in my grief of letting them go, this book was born. It took many twists and turns while I was writing but God knew that I needed something to occupy my time without the sounds and activities that a full house brings. So, I created this family with all the activity, love, support and excitement that households endure every day. But also with this grief that hangs over their heads.
This is a made up story, but at the same time the people are real. Not real like they live down the street from me, but real like somewhere there is a woman like Denise who has suffered a loss and must go on. There are men like Darren and Eric in the world and kids like the four in this book. There are people picking themselves back up after a major change and trying to find a new normal, and there are people grieving because God has called so many home, unexpectedly. Some so young we can’t help but question why, and some old, but life still isn’t long enough. We understand time, that it doesn’t make it better it just makes it bearable, and we go on.
My empty nest is certainly not a death and it is not a tragedy. It is the natural course of life and it is good. All empty nesters have so much to look forward to. Children will marry and have kids of their own and the cycle will keep going. I try not to talk about it too much because I have looked into the eyes of other mothers that have said good-bye to their children forever and I am humbled in their presence and I wonder, what faith, what strength they must have.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted Mt 5:4
Here a few excerpts from the book:
Denise talking to her twelve-year-old daughter Cissy:
“She loved color in her drawings, bright colors: greens, reds, blues, yellows. All her pictures were happy. She told me when I was your age to take whatever makes you sad and color it in. I guess she just meant that colors are happy and sad is black and white.”
“Maybe that’s what Grandma meant when she said, “color it in.” Celebrations are colorful like birthday balloons and wedding cakes. Funerals are black, and hospitals are white. Funerals and always sad and hospitals can be sad sometimes too. So, if you find what makes you sad and color it in, you can be happy.
Denise listening to her friend Stacey:
“You know, death always leaves a hole in our hearts that never goes away. We can’t fill it with anything else. All we can do is take what they left with us and live our lives in honor of them. Make them proud to stand at God’s own feet and say, ‘Hey everybody look! That’s my mom. Isn’t she the best? Or ‘Look! That’s my daughter, isn’t she amazing?”’
The First time Darren asked Denise out:
“Do you like coffee?” Darren asked
Denise responded “Why?”
“Well I thought if you liked coffee we could go get some. If you don’t like coffee we could go get something else.” He pulled his backpack from his shoulder and leaned on the counter where Denise was working.
“No!” She said shaking her head looking back at her computer screen.
“You don’t like coffee? What do you like?” He reached over and picked up the pencil she had been using and twisted it between his fingers.
“No, I mean I like coffee.” Denise said, reaching across and snatching the pencil from his hands.
“So, coffee it is then.” He picked his backpack back up to put it back on his shoulder.
“No,” she said abruptly.
He stopped, dropped his backpack again and leaned over the counter. “You’ve said the word no three times now.”
“Stop.” She almost yelled it, using her hands like a shield before pushing the hair away from her face.
“Stop? Stop what?” I’m not doing anything.” He picked his backpack up one last time and adjusted it on his shoulder.
“Stop talking!” She was exasperated at this point.
“You want me to stop talking?” He looked at her and smiled just enough to make her weak.
She shook her head, refusing to allow him to rattle her. She looked around the library at the people who had been listening in. She spoke in a controlled whisper, “Why are you asking me out?”
“Because I like you,” He said, smiling
“You like me? You don’t know me, and I have done nothing to make you like me.”
“I do like you. I know you better than you think, and you’re right, you have done nothing to make me like you. As a matter of fact, I think you have gone out of your way so I wouldn’t like you.” He finished with a smirk.
Maybe he did know her after all.
Denise put her head back down and looked at her computer screen with absolutely no concept as to what she was looking at, “No, I’m not getting coffee with you! I’m not getting anything with you!”
Now it was his turn to ask “Why?”
“Because I know you too, and I would never go out with a guy like you.” She blindly hit buttons on her keyboard.
“Well, I’m pretty sure you don’t know me at all.”
“Smug?” He questioned.
“Yeah, smug! You do know what that means, right? Overconfident in your abilities or superiority,” she said coldly.
“Well, here’s the thing. I’m not smug because I am not over confident. I am perfectly confident,” he said quite smugly. He stood straight up, and Denise took her eyes off the screen long enough to see all six feet five inches of him. She quickly turned back to the screen and continued to hit buttons on the keyboard for no real purpose.
“Fine. You think you know me so well, then let’s have it,” she said in defiance.
He leaned over the counter, close enough that she felt she needed to back away but by pure will stood her ground. “Okay, here goes. You’re a loner, a bookworm, a computer geek. You don’t go to parties, and you don’t go out to movies. You choose friends on quality, not on quantity. Your room is perfectly clean. You probably live alone off campus because you would never want to live in a dorm with a person you have never met before. You’re probably a cat person because cats are independent loners, like you. A dog would require too much attention and invade your space too much. Should I keep going?”
She leaned in a little closer to him. “You’re an idiot!” She almost yelled.
“Nope, I’m right, and you’re not.” He stood up. “Another one of your qualities, you may be a control freak who does not like to be proven wrong.” He turned to walk away but stopped, looked back and smiled. “As soon as the shock wears off, consider the coffee date.” He turned to leave once again then stopped. “Oh, and I’ll make sure that it’s decaf. It might calm you down a bit.” He smiled that smile of his and, this time, turned and kept walking.
She was furious. “I’m never going to go on a date with you!” She yelled across the library. Everyone who had been eavesdropping laughed out loud.
She heard one person from the other side of the computer station yell back, “Yeah, you will!”