Being There (On the Shores of Life and Loss)

A week ago we cried over the body of my beloved Mother.  She is gone.  This keeps hitting me like ocean waves, one after the other. How it swells.  How it breaks.  

It all seems like a dream.  The next day was of course a birthday.  My daughter’s third. The only time to cry was into the birthday cake batter or at the Dollar Store, when a stranger smiled, counted my seven children and said, “Are they all yours?”  Thinking of my beautiful, humble mother who had nine, I said yes, looked away, and wiped tears from my face.  

Singing Happy Birthday to a child the day after singing Amazing Grace at a Mother’s graveside is a metaphor that I cannot yet even begin to process.

After church last Sunday, I mourned and celebrated the life of my mother by loading up the kids with a van-full of luggage and art supplies and to-go bags and snacks, and we drove to the beach.  I understood Mama in a new way taking this many little people to see the ocean, which after God and her family, was maybe her next greatest love. What a comical mess and heroic struggle to get everyone there and back home again.  

But being there… 

Oh, being there.  

Being there.

Standing on the shore of the ocean with my family is one of the purejoy-est moments I have ever experienced in my life.  These kids don’t care it’s mid-November. They are wet from head to toe. They are laughing and freezing, falling, running, jumping, soaking in every glorious sea-salt-blue-sky-sunshine-shimmery moment. They take every wave.  One by one.

Being there.  

Being there is worth the what-should-have-been-a-five-hour-car-drive…  It’s worth the two solid days of packing and the week of recovery and reorganizing life after coming home.  It’s worth the sand and the spills and the stops and starts. The ocean fills us up with wonder. We feel small.  We feel grateful to be alive. We aren’t doing anything else right now. We are just 100% being there.

Being there. 

Life is hard.

It aches.  The heart breaks in waves.

Standing in the sea, on the shore of this world, I am longing for the next where there is no sadness or suffering or pain.  Where lives that are hand-stitched, lovingly together are not ripped apart at the seams.  

It would be easy to drown in this kind of sorrow.  To walk down into the waters of regret, to be pulled under by the currents of fear for the future of my own children who must one day feel what I feel today.

I loved my Mother’s laughter, her beautiful, gentle voice, her instantaneous “yes” to ideas of adventure.  I will most miss her understanding eyes, the smile that always met me at the front door, the way she made my life easy, carefree, uncomplicated, and full of things that were beautiful.  The way she let me become myself, always walking alongside me. Never pushing, but putting things along the path for me to discover. I miss seeing Mama and Daddy as a matching set and saying their names together.  I mourn all the little ways she made me know I was loved.

But I am still here.  And I have little ones who look to me as I have always looked to my own mother for love and comfort. What a miracle to see them before me.  The sets of eyes, the faces alive with every emotion, the indescribable brilliance of red and brown hair in sunshine…  The hearts that are tender, touched by first sorrow.  The feeling of standing beside them, knowing we share something that can never be recreated.  Mother and child.  The beauty of being here with the ones I love moves me profoundly.  The voice of the wind and water is a lullaby.  Achingly beautiful.  Hauntingly sweet.  I am standing in the wake of an ocean that is deep and wide, calm and wild, brutal and brave and brimming over with lifesong.  

Traveling the long road is hard.  There are so many places along the way where we didn’t want to stop but we had to.  To get to this moment.  I see that my love for my children is even now deepening because of these waves of sadness and loss.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  How tragic it would be to lose a mother and feel nothing.  How grateful I am to have had a mother who gently led me here with love and grace.  Even though it was she who was truly suffering, she held my hand and walked me calmly, bravely to the door of my own grief.

Life aches.  But being here is worth it.

I renounce fear.  I refuse regret.  I wear my sorrow like a shawl wrapped gently around my shoulders.  It is a bittersweet comfort but it doesn’t choke the life out of me.  It reminds me of what I have lost, but it doesn’t keep me from embracing those who are standing in this ocean with me.  Like a child on the shore, I take one wave at a time and concentrate on breathing, on showing up for the beauty, on waking up to the love that is alive all around me.

Just breathing.

Just being.

Being there.
loss, mourning, ocean, mackenzie chester, family

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