I’m not one to look for signs, I never have been. So as I write this story out, it still sounds unreal to me, like something that would happen to someone else, just not me.
We are home from a weekend vacation with Jim’s side of the family. This is a tradition we started when Grace was just a year old, so for 17 years we have all packed up and spent a weekend together, usually up north. This tradition, like so many others now, causes me more sadness than joy. I want to be a part of the fun, I want to enjoy the family time, but it’s all a reminder to me of what isn’t…who isn’t.
This weekend was no exception. As the departure day grew closer, my trepidation grew greater. I wanted to dig my heels in, unpack the bags, crawl into bed and pretend that this life I’m living was someone else’s. But for so many reasons, mainly a 13 year old one, I went along.
As we drove up north, tears filled my eyes, at each expressway exit passed where a memory took place. Frankenmuth, Grace and Evelyn’s favorite place to visit. Grayling, where we took Grace on our first, family of three, vacation. Hartwick Pines, Gaylord, Wolverine. As the exits rolled by, the tears streamed down my face. How was I ever going to make it through this vacation without being a mess of emotions? (And if you know me, you know that emotional is not a word usually used to describe me. I work hard at keeping it together, sometimes so much so, that I think people often wonder if I feel at all. You laugh, but I have actually been asked that very question a time or two in my life.)
Day 1 and day 2 were not without their difficulties, but I kept myself busy with Evelyn, my sweet nieces, with visits to the beach and the giant cross in the woods. I also had a book, a fictional romance, given to me by a friend, a welcome change of pace from the how-to-grieve books that have been my steady diet.
On Saturday, as everyone was resting from the morning activities, I took my book and went outside to sit in the sun and read. I was sitting alone on the picnic table when I heard something in the trees around the side of the house. I got up to check, and around the corner came this beautiful golden retriever. (Here’s the part where I could go into a ton of back story, but I’m trying to keep this simple.) Of course, I called the dog to come by me, because, although I have been attacked twice by dogs and should have a healthy fear of them, I don’t. She came and sat right by me and just received the love that I was willing to give. After a couple of minutes, I told her that we were going to have to return her, so I checked her tags. This is the part that I wouldn’t believe to be true if it hadn’t happened to me…can you guess what her name was? Yeah, it was Gracie.
As I sat there with Gracie, stroking her gorgeous blond/red fur with one hand, and wiping the steady flow of tears from my face with the other hand, I was reminded of how much God really cares. I would’ve felt God’s love for me today with or without this little blessing over the weekend, but God knew how much I was missing my Gracie on this trip, and in His goodness and constant love for me, He provided, for me, a reminder.
These little “hugs” from my Heavenly Father break up the hard clay of grief and put in its place a workable soil, something that can have life planted in it. Seeds that will grow and produce a harvest. If I allow grief to continue to harden the ground around me, I will see no fruit come of this loss, but if I allow God to break up this ground, I know that He will bring life from this death, because He is the God of living, not the dead.