To remember life’s major moments, to relive the frayed edges of those experiences, standing on the outside, peering back in on intimate experiences, requires an openness to taste the joy, the sorrow, the sweetness again. Nostalgia softens the edges a bit, but the saturation of each emotion is imprinted deeply. Or, at least I find this to be true in my experience.
My memories of major moments are like scattered snap shots, blinks of time, impressions caught on the film of my heart, ready to bring back to consciousness a feeling, an emotion, a detail. To remember is to willingly walk back into rooms, despite the flood of emotion, and relive the formative touchstones of my life.
When Timm and I got married, I remember…
The sanctuary filled to overflowing with friends and family, each soul a sign of solidarity as we forged ahead without the blessing or presence of my entire family of origin.
The music captured our season of life, details were hand made, the wedding party absurdly large, the ceremony doggedly designed to focus on the abundance of love instead of the obvious loss.
Each minute was precious. I did my best to stay present, to drink it in, to be aware of what was happening. I remember being happy, accepted, loved.
When Annie was born I remember…
A tiny hospital in Sherwood, Arkansas, the day before my birthday. We literally had the maternity ward all to ourselves. We were having so much fun, celebrating her birth on one day, and then my birthday the next.
Friends from Fort Worth drove to meet our new baby girl. The winter sky was crystal blue, and the cold January air snappy and electric. We took Annie home to a cute bungalow, and we filled those early days looking at her for hours on end.
I remember being giddy at two in the morning, getting out of bed to go see her again. I also remember sobbing in the bathroom because after five days of waiting for my milk to come in, my baby was hungry, and I couldn’t feed her. Full of shame and believing a load of lies, I secretly made a bottle of formula for her, sure I was ruining my motherhood track record before it even began. I don’t know where that shame came from, but I get weepy when I picture that scene and recall needing someone to mother me. To tell me to feed my baby however I could, to hold her, and to assure me I was a good mother.
When Jake was born I remember…
The yelp from Timm in the operating room when the doctor announced it was a boy.
Tenderly introducing him to his fifteen-month-old big sister, conscious that neither of them would ever remember a day without knowing the other.
My profound sense of need existed on every level. I was hungry, tired, thirsty, and overwhelmed at learning how to care for two babies at the same time. I can remember being famished to the point of shaking, nursing Jake, recovering from surgery, and still caring for a not-yet-walking toddler. I felt lost in an ocean of need.
Neighbors brought us lunch from a local sandwich shop a few days after he was born. I can still taste that sandwich, full of deli meat and cheese with some sort of vinegar-laced sauce. I remember sitting at the kitchen table and inhaling that sandwich like it was my last meal. I remember being so thankful they brought me chips and a drink, two things I rarely choose for myself but they tasted so good that day. I remember being thankful that someone else had made all the decisions for me regarding this meal and just handed me food.
When Norah was born I remember…
Settling into the reality that scheduled C-sections were going to be the norm for me. I was rested and showered when we arrived at the hospital early in the morning, hair styled, make-up on. My friends were there waiting right after her birth. I felt confident, sure, prepared.
Despite my preparedness, Norah was not an easy baby. She cried all the time. Day and night. Any confidence I had from already having two babies faded with Norah’s incessant crying.
My friend Tamara came to town to help, and she literally stayed up all night with Norah while she cried so I could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. We took her outside. We rocked her. We fed her. We swaddled her. She just cried. And so did I. It didn’t last forever, but it was not easy, and I can vividly recall how helpless I felt.
When Lillian was born I remember…
Drinking in every detail, knowing this was my final baby. I remember Rachel spending hours with me in my hospital room the day after Lillian was born, while Timm was home caring for the other three. I dozed while she held and rocked Lillian.
I appreciated, even more than with the other three, how my friends showed up and made as big of a deal over Lillian as they had with Annie. We laughed together in the hospital room, cooing over her little fingers and toes, dressing her up like a doll. We all had babies by then and knew the routine, and Lillian’s birth was like a final opportunity to drink it in and enjoy the newness afresh.
Timm’s parents took all three of our other children for a long time (maybe a week?), and he and I were left alone in our home with tiny baby Lillian. All we had to do was feed her, watch her, and sleep. I can remember appreciating the luxury of being alone with a newborn. It is a gift that is not fully appreciated with a first baby, but so indulgent and sweet with the last one.
When Scott died I remember…
A phone call late at night. A hurried shuffle to put on clothes. A frantic drive to the house, not knowing what was final or not. A tentative asking and then knowing he was gone.
A gathering of friends, grieving and stepping in to support his family. A stolen moment getting to watch his wife tell him goodbye before the coroner removed his body from the house.
A shocked feeling that lingered for weeks, numb to the reality, but knowing nothing would ever be the same. A loss so deep I could not fully look at it.
A funeral, where I sang with unprecedented vulnerability and strength. A hole left in my heart that reminded me of so many other holes, wondering how many losses I could absorb, scrambling to find reassurance. The tears of others at my condition.
When Rachel got married I remember…
An acute awareness of the sacred unfolding. The intentionality, the beauty, the setting, all of it pointed to the Gospel and the power of hospitality in creating space for change.
A living room full of guests. A kitchen housing musicians. A cocktail hour in our dining room. A bench full of our four children, dressed up and watching.
A staircase as an aisle. A picture of redemption and spiritual adoption as Timm walked with Rachel on his arm. A song punctuated with tears. A groom, waiting by the kitchen island to receive his bride.
A celebration set at a banquet table. A dance. A toast. A yard full of confetti.
I remember being so lit up from within after her wedding that I absolutely could not sleep. I stayed up all night, high on adrenaline and love for all the beauty, my body refusing to admit it was over.
The details of each of these moments are unique, but what stands out to me when I recall them is how I was never alone. Even if I felt lost or uncertain, and despite being in great need, I was not alone. The people who entered in, showed up, shared the celebrations and the sorrows with care, love, and provision are as much a part of the memory as the event itself.
Today, years removed from all of these major moments, I know more will come. I know I will continue to walk towards events I cannot yet imagine. And from experience, I know I will not be alone. I will experience joy and sorrow, details will imprint, and I will at some point look back with nostalgia. The gift will be in the remembering, in the realizing life is composed of major moments where others joined me and shared parts of themselves with me, forever shifting my experiences for the better.