The days after Thanksgiving. They are days meant for embracing random pairings of leftovers all while nestled in oversized lounge pants. No one has to be ready for color-coordinated family photos anymore. When the fork is placed on the table for a brief reprieve, hands are put to work unwinding the extension cords and Christmas lights that have somehow managed to get tangled while just sitting in a box for eleven months. Seriously, the holiday elves have to be messing with us.
As my husband tackles the twisted maze of lights, I’m in the kitchen making mac ‘n cheese for our kids. Nothing but the finer things for these young palates. This is all of the gourmet I can handle at this point. Who am I kidding? This is as gourmet as I get on any day.
Just as I’m getting to the good part, the mixing of milk, butter, and magic orange powder, it happens. I feel the tug on the back of my sweatshirt. I quickly turn around and look down, planning to see my son or daughter waiting impatiently behind me and cautiously asking, “Is it done yet?” But no one is there. My stomach turns butterflies and a small smile comes across my face.
I know exactly who it is.
It’s a visit from my oldest son, who died six years ago.
I think of myself as a pretty realistic person. I mean, I carry around a decent amount of hopes and dreams, but my practical self tries to keep both feet firmly on the ground most of the time. When I turned around to only see empty kitchen floor tiles, I immediately thought I must be losing it. But I didn’t like that theory.
I mean is it so absurd to believe? To believe our loved ones would still want to stop in and say a quick hello from Heaven?
At this moment I had a choice:
Option 1: There is a logical explanation for the feeling of tugging on the back of my sweatshirt. My husband must have opened the front door to test the Christmas lights, thereby changing the wind levels flowing through the house. This added wind speed, combined with my loose flowing clothing and vigorous stirring motion (how else does the butter melt?), caused my sweatshirt to wrinkle, and project the feeling of a tugging motion.
Option 2: My beautiful son realized the holidays are a tough time. In the midst of the joy I have been able to find since he passed away, there is always a piece of my heart that will ache. Not all of the time now. But the ache I’ve learned to live with, knowing that grief and joy are both a part of my life. So he took this opportunity, amongst this holiday chaos, to share a special moment with me. To let me know he’s always with me and we both wish he were here to have that bowl of mac ‘n cheese with his family. And to remind me that even though it’s not in the capacity I want (yup, I’m allowed to be selfish), he still is here.
I enjoyed my science classes growing up, but I’m going to go with the latter option on this one. For me, it’s the most practical.
These moments keep me going when I feel like I’ve lost.
They remind me love is all around and joy can be found amongst the sadness.
I wish a lifetime of simple tugs for all of us who have lost.