Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Funeral

I huddled under the large umbrella, wishing for a lull in the endless, gray rain. Goosebumps covered my bare arms, and I found my thoughts drifting to the jacket that I knew I should have brought along. Hannah's tiny hand clasps mine, and the Husband shifts his weight from one leg to another restlessly. I watch as dirt is shoveled solemnly onto the tiny coffin. Nearby, the forlorn sound of Taps signals that the time has come for us to do what we came here to do. I reach my arms out and hold him as he cries. With each wracking sob, my heart aches for my little boy and this loss. I hate for any of my children to face mortality.

Yes. Even the mortality of pet hermit crabs.

As I stood barefoot in the rain yesterday at the funeral of Chase's hermit crab, I grumbled at the absurdity of it all. I winced as McKay played Taps on the trumpet, hitting a particularly painful high note, one that pierced my eardrums to the core. I fought the urge to snap hatefully as Hannah hung on me and whined for dinner. I glanced around shamefully, hoping none of the neighbors were watching.

And then it occurred to me: Is this really my life?

I flashed back to my 15-year-old self and remembered wistfully some of the dreams I had for myself. I wanted to travel ALL. THE. TIME. I was going to be thin and rich. I would never have bad hair and would certainly not be scrubbing my own toilets. I may or may not have thought I was going to marry Johnny Depp.

No one ever told me about these kinds of days.

The days where you feel pulled like a rubber band - stretched in so many directions that you fear the sheer pressure of it all will cause something in you to snap. Wondering just how many more seconds you can take before you lose it and scream at them all.

But then, almost all at once, it changes.

It softens somehow, my heart.

I look at the tear-stained face of my sweet son, see that his heart is breaking, and I know that I would move heaven and earth to ease his pain for just a moment. I look over and smile at the thoughtfulness of my oldest child, paying respects in the only way he knows how. Not because he loved or cared for the stupid little crab himself, but because he knows it was important to his brother.

My eyes suddenly fill with tears at the realization of just how strong the bond between them is. That for all my failings as a mother, I know that these boys love each other fiercely, and maybe, just maybe, a small part of that is because of me.

I bend down and scoop up that hungry, scrawny, seven-year-old girl, getting an eyeful of her jack o-lantern teeth on the way, and remember what it was like to be her age. I briefly wonder if I drove my own mother crazy with my nonstop chatter, and feel pretty sure that I whined and complained while having to wait for dinner myself.

And all at once, I realize something wonderful. At age seven, waiting for dinner is pretty much her biggest problem in life. I silently pray in gratitude at the sheer providence in my life because of that.

Then my eyes meet the Husband's on the way inside the house, and we share a smile of understanding, of solidarity for these little creatures that have become our life. And I think, surely, he knows just how desperately I still love him after 15 years together. I vow that I will show and tell him more often, just in case he has forgotten it.

Maybe this wasn't the life I pictured as a love-sick teenager, mooning and dreaming over what would be. But do you know what?

It's so much freaking better.

34 comments:

Jen said...

I agree. My life is no way close to what my teen journal said. I think something to the effect of traveling the world and being married to some big-haired heavy metal rocker ;) What I have is way better than I could have ever imagined.

Tristan said...

What a sweet story!! I agree, this is not how I pictured my life but I am happy with it! :)

Miss T said...

Great post - I got little goosebumps at the end. I think you are a wonderful mother.

Musings of a Housewife said...

I can so totally relate to this post. And girl. You had me SCARED for a minute there! I was afraid a PERSON had died.

Hey, I hear you're coming to Philly to be a big shot photographer. Count me in!!!

Michelle said...

is this the girl who said she wasn't a true writer?

beautiful

mae said...

beautiful post, cuz.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the hermit crab...another idea for Christmas?

Lisa-Marie said...

You had me in tears at the first paragraph, then thankful and giggling at the second, then back in tears at the end, because you are right about everything. It really is so hard to watch your children mourn, but aren't you thankful you get to be the one to wipe their tears?

Great post.

brooke said...

This is why I love your blog.

diane said...

Funny and poignant. I love your words.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i had a very similar experience yetserday and today, minus the dying pet part. because i don't do pets. not even hermit crabs.

Sara said...

I know someone already said this.
I was frozen with fear in the first paragraph. Then giggled now I'm crying again. Thanks for the post.

Travelin'Oma said...

What a tenderhearted boy you've got. Your kids are learning about love and loss in the most perfect setting. How sweet that the whole family supported Chase.

Lauren in GA said...

Perfectly, perfectly, perfectly written. I loved it, Stie.

We have a trumpet player, too. I am sure we will have a funeral for a pet in the future. Perhaps, I should suggest he play. I am really touched that he played for a mourning Chase.

Emily said...

Great as always Stie. Thanks for describing it for all of us.

Beckie Steele said...

Aw... poor Chase. I keep waiting for the day I will be doing that with Jack for Shelly and Hermie (such creative names for our hermit crabs). We will be sure and invite you since you handled it so well. ;) Very touching friend.... you are a good egg! BYW..we think Shelly is molting, but my fear is she is on her way out. Did you have any signs the crab was sick? I will call later for details. You are awesome!

Christie in Dallas, TX said...

Amazing post. I've read this 4 times now. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Annemarie said...

amen

I have to admit...you got me there at the beginning.

Amanda D said...

Love this post, Stie. Tugging at the heart strings.

shilo said...

Wow. For a second I was afraid I had missed the memo about someone's funeral because I am stuck in my house all day. Very sweet rendering of the experience. I'm sure I will have to go through that someday with little Dylan!

Pajama Mama said...

I second that emotion.

ashli said...

so well written christie...i love how you so beautifully capture your feelings into words.

aren't families awesome!

Becky said...

Whew,...I was a little nervous at first and then got to thinking about how I am depriving my children of little pets cuz I am too selfish to get over my animal fears, or the gross-ness of it all. That is pretty cute- and good for you for doing it for him.

♥Shally said...

I remember burying my gerbil in the backyard. It was a big deal to me! I sobbed and sobbed. Looking back, I am so grateful that my dad took it all very seriously instead of treating me like it didn't matter. We had a funeral, sang songs, and each wrote down things we loved about our pet.

Good job, Christie. :) He will remember you fondly for being there with him!

Chatter said...

Another beautiful post!! You are a great writer Stie and you have a beautiful, adoring family. Hugs to all!

Michael said...

You had me with that intro. I was getting all set up for something cathartic, and then you tore it away from me like...someone who tears something cathartic away from someone else.

Reminds me of the time Kimberly and Robyn sang "Amazing Grace" at my turtle's viewing in the garage and then mourned his passing with me at the funeral in the backyard.

Good memories.

Cindy said...

You scared me! I thought somethimg had happened to one of the boys, my heart dropped. Sweet story, I'm glad the boys are fine. Don't scare me like that.

gab said...

So sweet! I didn't even know you had a hermit crab?!!! Hope a little Halloweening helps Chase with his loss.

crystal said...

You're right! Imperfect, chaotic reality IS so much better than life sketched out by our younger & less-complicated selves. Thanks for reminding me:)

(and girl, you are such a good writer.)

Cindy said...

Rest in peace, Crabby. It is so hard to watch these little ones we love so much deal with heartache like this...

Kimberly said...

This brought back so many memories of Michael when he was that age. We all mourned over his poor, dead Yertle the Turtle...good times! And, it goes by so fast! It's weird when you realize the roles have reversed and now we're the parent, not the child. Amazing isn't it?!

Jessica said...

WHile on the East coast (in places of sophistication, education and wealth) I realized that some of those women, should they see me in my real life with 5 young kids in tow, would feel sorry for me.

I'm SO glad I know how 1)lucky 2)happy 3)important 4)challenging, emotionally and mentally 5)fun this big old family life is.

Blazing Goddess said...

I love those moments. When you feel like it's all gone ridiculously awry. That this isn't really you and you don't belong here and the frustration builds to that bursting point....and then God steps up and changes the filter on the camera and you see the whole thing differently. Like He flipped a switch. I love those moments.

Erika said...

Wow. You really captured how it is. I feel like I could cut and paste this post (minus the hermit crab...and the trumpet...) into my own journal. Thanks. It was wonderful to read and feel my own gratitude for what I have. Even if I feel rubber-bandy some days ;-)