I walked by round bales of hay yesterday at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. And of course I thought of you.
I recalled the phone calls you would make each fall. You LOVED when the hay was cut and baled on the rolling hills of your Tennessee property.
“I just think it is all so lovely,” you exclaimed.
I didn’t take notice of this kind of beauty back then.
Now I do.
Your absence has taught me to pay more attention to the way God creates beauty in such ordinary acts – like baling hay. Your absence has also taught me that God creates beauty in the midst of the most evil situations. It’s as if he keeps helping me cross the bridge that leads a rooted hope.
May 2007. It’s been eight years since I kissed you on the forehead as you went to bed in my home here in Colorado. The pain of your cancer kept you from being able to say goodbye as you left the next morning. You returned to Tennessee and I never saw you again.
July 3, 2007. It’s been eight years since our baby sister called me at work to tell me that we had just lost you. I knew the day was coming, but I didn’t know how hard it would hit and that the grief would linger for a lifetime.
When I arrived in Tennessee I went straight to the back of your property, to your barn, the place where your body and mind gave in to the cancer; where you chose (chose?) to end the horrendous suffering. I stood silently where I imagine your soul cried out to Jesus for release and healing. Immediately I began to pray for your husband and children.
Then the beautiful ones approached me. Their hooves kicked up the dust from the barn floor as I scratched their noses.
Your horses. Just like you had been with them in days gone by, they had been with you that day.
I remember thanking them for their kind presence to you. I knew I would truly miss you. I loved riding together in the hills of Tennessee. I loved how we would take our sweet time in returning these beautiful ones to the field, forking the hay over the fence as a meager way of saying thank you. And so, in your barn, just a few days after you died, I gave your horses some hay. It was my last and very small act of gratitude. “Thank you for being with my big sister in her time of sorrow.”
July 1, 2015. This brings me back to yesterday, just two days before the anniversary of your death. I wasn’t expecting to come across round bales of hay on my brisk morning walk at the Chatfield gardens. I stopped in my tracks when I turned the corner and saw them. I could hear you say, “It’s all so lovely.”
And now, eight years later, the loss of you has taught me to take notice of that which is beautiful.
God is so stinkin’ good to us in the midst of suffering.
The loss of you is one reason that growing good food and helping others to grow good food has become so much a part of my life. I still have grief. I still have (what I hope is appropriate) anger about your death by melanoma/suicide. My anger could be ugly. But I have the option for it to be beautiful.
Leslie, since your death my garden has grown more beautiful and abundant. Here is why:
I was angry last month on my 53rd birthday. I was turning the age you never got to turn. I should be angry about this. But, because of Christ, I am not without joy. So, instead of sinning in my anger, I turn to planting peas. This year three times more peas than usual. And I laughed at how the flowers looked like old men.
I have moments when I’m angry that your four grandchildren don’t know you (yet anyway). It is right and good that I experience anger about this. But to keep myself from sinning in this anger, I consider how you will tend to your grandchildren in the new heavens and new earth as I tend my garden each morning. Therefore I am not without a rooted hope as I tend to baby patty pan squash, wanting to call them “party pan” because they have escaped the raised beds.
I have days when I am angry about Mom. Although you were the first one of us to notice and be concerned about Mom’s memory loss, you couldn’t make good on your intention to take care of her. But, because of Christ, I am not without love. So, with great focus, I continue to create this beautiful backyard where Mom can wander amongst beautiful things in a secure place. N.T. Wright in Surprised About Hope tells me that you are probably praying for her as she does.
I walked alongside round bales of hay yesterday, and I wanted to call you to tell you that “It is all so lovely.” Thank you Leslie, for helping me pay attention to beauty, to co-create beauty WITH God so I might be able to be in the midst of the ugly and not get destructively angry. I await the second resurrection with you. It will be a great day when we are restored to our whole selves.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry–but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.