When I was on the edge of womanhood, I dreamed of falling in love, of being a writer, of traveling, teaching, and of graduate school. Life spilled open before me and opportunities seemed endless; good fortune piled itself like packages on my doorstep. But as I hear my seven-year-old’s footsteps padding into my room and the easy creak of the bed as he slides between the cold sheets into the spot his father used to occupy, it seems my luck has run out.
“Lava,” he whispers.
Last week it was meteors and the week before that, hurricanes. Since his father died, there is no end to the horrific nightmares he conjures in his sleep.
My son pushes his cold feet against my warm knees, a small consolation for his disrupted rest. Being a single parent of two is as hard as I ever imagined it would be. I think of the list of people I could phone, girlfriends I rely on at moments like this. I know it is too late to call, but I also know that any of them would answer if I did; that golden truth reminds me that, after a night of holding back lava or dodging meteors, blessings still exists. How would I ever manage without my friends? How would any of us ever make it out of the rubble?
Alex, Krista, Deb and I met in the fall of 1997 at a community mom’s group. With toddlers on our hips and babies on the way, we bonded over diaper rashes, breast feeding, and stories of out lives before stretch marks. It wasn’t long before our husbands met and we were having barbeques, dining out, and vacationing together.
In June of 2005, my husband died suddenly at the age of 35. In the weeks and months that followed, Alex, Deb, and Krista were like scaffolding—layers and layers of support that held me together when surely my life and my heart were broken. When my house was dirty, they cleaned. When I was lonely, they stayed up late to send me emails or talked on the phone. When I lost too much weight, they fed me, and when that didn’t work, they took me shopping for smaller designer jeans. They babysat, finished projects, told my kids stories of their father, and like trick mirrors they made it seem as if I was fearlessly doing it all on my own. Only I know better. I know who sent me flowers months after the funeral. I know who cleaned out my refrigerator. I know who cancelled plans in order to spend time with me. I know these things.
When the great love of one’s life dies, the pain is excruciating. My heart is shattered, but every day God sends me an angel with a little piece of tape to patch myself up. It has been months now, and the tape is still coming, bits and pieces to glue the raw wounds together. And through this, I am reminded that opportunities are still open before me. The gifts in my life are not wrapped the way I thought they would be, but my friends are the packages scattered on my doorstep; they are God’s pure grace with an endless supply of tape to bind me together while I heal.
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