My year of loss began like all New Year’s, hoping that life would turn out like I planned.
The newness of spring found me polishing a program for emerging authors and inviting a group of brilliant authors into my home. What could be better? But time quickly changes things and later in the year a rift occurred between myself and a dear friend. For weeks I fretted, worried, and shed tears. Friends are important pieces of my life; being alienated from someone troubles me.
I would soon learn that 2014 was full of troubles.
It took several weeks for me to convince myself that perhaps everyone isn’t meant to be a life-time friend, but that God intends them to be short-term friends to teach me, or maybe even both of us, some important lesson.
Short-term friends aren’t my preference. My preference: lingering and loving for as long as possible. I’m a memory maker, a friend collector, a people person.Eventually I reached the point where I thanked God for the limited-time-friendship and then I waited for my lesson.
Do I give too much of myself?
Do I jump to conclusions?
Am I better off erecting a wall around my heart?
Mid-year my Mother’s fragile condition worsened. The doctors found more tumors, the inoperable, untreatable kind. I donned my brave face and carefree cadence long enough to receive the news. I would cry later.
And cry I have.
Quietly. At night while my husband sleeps.
Leaned against the door of my closet among the shoes and my favorite books.
Loudly and alone outside with only the trees for comfort.
I have done my grieving alone. I brave-face it in public, but in private . . . grief is, well, it’s just hard.
Summer meant prepping for the release of my new book and working with Farmer Billy to get his place ready for the book launch. I began to feel guilty. He had dug up every inch of space, planted way too much for he and I to tend. I did all that I could to help and recruited volunteers as did Tracy, the photographer whose work was selected for the book cover.
After the launch I suffered from exhaustion. I was dehydrated and the part-time job I accepted prior to the event (being an author doesn’t pay the bills) had lingered. I still have the job, am thankful for it because it helps pay the bills.
I was invited to the prestigious Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance Conference- a big deal in the life of any author. Unfortunately, the weekend came with bad news. I didn’t make it to the event. Life changed and I had to prioritize. Book promoting would have to wait. I was torn between needing to spend time with my daughter who would soon leave the nest, and my mother who would soon leave this earth. The book had been my priority for too long. I chose my mother, hoping-praying that each visit would give me an opportunity to heal our relationship.
Fall arrived and my spirits fell with the leaves. My dear friend, Harriette, was –allegedly- (I have to write allegedly until his trial) murdered by her husband. Her death caused me to drop all of the balls I had been juggling.
Weekends now consisted of trips to NC to spend every possible moment with Mom where I would give Dad a break while still hoping, still praying for a repaired relationship. I sacrificed time with my husband and family in order to care for her. I do not regret the moments, not in the least, even though I saw no improvement with our relationship. She was thankful, and in her own way did the best she could to make things better.
Then on a day like any other, she was gone. I drove like a bat out of hell, burst into the hospital room, only to find my mother unconscious and in a condition that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I said, “Momma, Jesus has picked a beautiful day to come get you.”
Momma never opened her eyes.
And then I waited for an excruciating amount of time for Jesus to come. I begged. I prayed. I whispered, Momma, He is coming. Just let go.
One week later, I was in a car accident. Now my body and my heart hurt. My car . . . gone. Totaled. Irreplaceable. That symbol of hard-work . . . poof. Gone.
By mid-December I was trying run away from the grief I felt nipping at my heels. I was in denial, but understood that I was in denial, about Harriette, lagging book sales, Mom’s death, my accident.
I begin to carve out time to grieve and study The Word.
I have a lot to process.
Too much loss.
Too much pain.
Too little sleep.
Too little emotional support during this phase of my life.
Too much, it is all too much to process.
Time heals, so they say. But grief isn’t done in a day, a month, or even a year.
The potter is molding the clay, pruning the vine, testing by fire. At one point I prayed, Lord, tie me to the cross until I learn what it is that You would have me to learn!
And then someone reached out . . . it was my estranged friend.
She had been fretting.
She had missed me.
Missed me as much as I missed her.
She believed in second chances, in being vulnerable, in laying it all out like I am doing with you right now. We both apologized and resumed our friendship, not where we left off; but at a new place – a better place, a place of hope where we are both growing, and grieving, and changing, and hoping. We had a moment of mutual Grace, and grace-my friends- is a beautiful gift.Grace doesn’t point fingers, doesn’t sya, You wronged me and I am going to remind you of it until you die. Grace lets things go.
My friend, in her wisdom, said, “I pray God will give you the strength to rest.”
Ponder those words. Truly, it takes a strong person to rest. To sit. To wait. To listen and not interrupt God. I need to work on that . . . on interrupting God.
So goodbye 2014, my year of loss.
Hello 2015. Here’s to a year filled with love and friendship.
That is my wish for you.
I wish that for you every single day.
That you never feel the sting of loss.
That you never weep silently, or wail aloud.
That you will never beg God to ease the suffering of your loved one.
That you never feel alone as I have so many times during this past year.
But if you do. . .
If you feel any of those emotions, even for a moment, know this one true thing: you matter to me.
You are not alone.
Together, when we reach out, even in a virtual friendship, we are not alone.
Happy New Year!
Blessings to you, always
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.