I lie alone in my bed on a very normal Wednesday night at 11 p.m. in our sleepy, little town. My husband, the heart of my heart, is at his apartment 350 miles away where he works three days a week. Our oldest is hopefully sleeping soundly snug next to her husband over two hours away, her baby boy a few short steps away in his crib (praying he is not sleeping like a baby, but more like a teenager). Our blond-haired, blue-eyed, firstborn son is probably nodding off in his apartment after a really long day working. My away-at-college senior might just be tackling a paper he has procrastinated writing. My baby, 19-year-old, curly-headed musician is the farthest away, probably jamming away with friends on guitars, keyboards, and microphones.
My house is empty and my heart is scattered all over the East Coast.
Only eight short years ago, life was completely different. On those weekday night—after showers were taken, toilets were flushed, teeth were brushed, homework was done, video game playing came to a close, hugs were given, I love yous were said—all five of these people, whom my soul loves, lay their heads on pillows within 20 feet of my own. My house was full, and my heart was in one place at one kitchen table under one roof.
Yet tonight in my very empty house, although my heart is scattered, it is not empty. My heart is full.
Full because on this very ordinary day, I have been loved by all the incredible people I have shared the better part of my life with . . . in one place . . . at one kitchen table . . . under one roof.
“Thanks, Mom, for all you did for us today,” a phone call from the oldest as she was finishing up dinner with her new family after I had spent time caring for her baby and doing their laundry.
“See you this weekend, Mom,” a reminder from the third-born about Friday night.
“Shalom to you, too, beautiful wife,” a text from my hubby as he heads to dreamland after our discussion about what peace really means.
“Love you, too, Mom,” a text from my son in response to our discussion about us getting him a puppy for his birthday.
Just as I cuddled under my covers and was about to turn off the light, I received one last “ding” on my laptop. It was the last of the bunch, our “Bug” as she is known in these parts. And it was for no reason at all.
Lest you get some crazy notion from all this loveliness that this is how it’s always been or always is even now, let me set the record straight.
Under this one roof at one kitchen table in one place, we had our moments. Fights over the huge and minuscule (even one earlier this week, and it was a doozy). Broken rules and boundaries. Critical spirits and hurt feelings. Addictions and mental illness. Slammed doors and silent treatments. Sickness and sadness. Harsh words and ignorance. All the things that make up normal, full family life.
But as today reminded me, this is NOT all there was or is now. Under this one roof at one kitchen table in one place, there were also I’m sorrys and I forgive yous. Respect and authenticity. Forgiveness and encouragement. Freedom and healing. Open hearts and honest conversations. Health and joy. Kind words and understanding. All the things that make up normal, full family life.
So, fellow ordinary moms and wives who are still under one roof:
I see you. I was you. It’s hard.
Look up, sweet mama. Keep up the good work. Hang in there. You are amazing. The days are long, but the years are short. You’ve got this.
Your family is normal. These people you love but are ready to kill at any given moment are worth every ounce of love you can muster and are pouring into them. They will make it. You will make it. You will never regret it. It may seem like there’s no end in sight, and your stuff feels huge (and it is), but it will (and they will) be OK and even possibly wonderful. Never forget this one truth: Love is always the right decision.
So, fellow ordinary moms and wives who are alone in your beds:
I see you. I am you. It’s hard. Look up, sweet mama. Our hearts are scattered, yet they reach more places. The love we gave and continue to pour out is multiplied beyond measure. Hang in there. It will feel sad some days. It does for me, too. I miss those times under one roof at one table in one place. But it will (and we will) be OK and even possibly wonderful. Even though the end is in plain view (and possibly in the rearview), we must keep loving and giving ourselves to our people.
Even though our houses are empty, our hearts can be full.
And never forget this one truth: love is always the right decision.
(Side note for those of you who have lost children: I can’t even imagine. Your heart has been shattered beyond belief. It’s hard for me to speak to you because I don’t understand. I really don’t. But I do know the love you showed them while they were here is not wasted. It’s continuing to multiply over and over again because love is like that. You loved them with your whole heart. In turn, they loved others with theirs. That’s what this world needs, and you have given it freely and sacrificially. Thank you for taking that risk we all are taking as we love our children with our fierce, mom love. I’m so sorry, sweet mama. My heart is with you and we moms all collectively salute you and hug you with our hearts.)
When our daughter became pregnant with our precious grandson, I was giddy. Not because she was going to produce a grandchild, even though that’s a lot of fun, but because she was going to join the massive, never-ending “Mom Club” I am a part of. There’s nothing like it. We understand parts of each other no one else does. We take a gigantic risk loving these human beings, but we can’t help ourselves. We give each other that look (maybe of desperation or joy) across the room and the other mom sees our heart behind our eyes. There’s nothing like it. We turn to each other in times of great heartache and are comforted. When we can’t speak with our mouths because the joy or the pain is too deep, we receive unspoken affirmation through hugs from each other. There’s nothing like it.
So sweet mama, thank you for loving. Thank you for sharing your heart with another. Thank you for making your little world a much more beautiful and safe place. You’ve got this! And together, we’ve got this in spades!
Previously published on the author’s blog