Yes, it has been quite awhile. I could go into all the reasons why but none of them are that good.
No, this is not a prequel to Taylor Swift’s ever-famous song about being fifteen.
A few weekends ago I had the distinct pleasure of boarding a plane with my 4 month old (more on that adventure later) for a brief visit home to Kansas. As I rode to the airport with great angst and anticipation (did I mention I was flying for the first time with an infant BY MYSELF?) I realized the date. I was travelling home on July 28th. To most, that date is just another number in the month of July. It comes and goes without a thought. To me that day hits every year. It doesn’t politely arrive with a knock, it hits. Some years it’s a light slap and others it’s a sucker punch straight to the gut sending me to my knees.
July 28th is the day a fourteen year old learned just how dark life can get.
July 28th is the day my life changed forever.
July 28th is the day I “grew up” at warp speed.
July 28th is the day my home was no longer mine but the local police department’s newest crime scene.
July 28th is the day I lost my mother at the hands of my biological father.
This year, the hit wasn’t hard. It was there, and it hurt, but the pain subsided quickly – likely because I had much to be distracted by in the form of a 4 month old boy. As I rode in the car checking on my infant son frequently (hi, new mom here) I was struck by something else.
This July 28th marked 14 years.
14 years isn’t typically an anniversary to be noted. That’s saved for the ones ending in 5’s and 0’s. It’s not “significant” by most standards (which, by the way is a ridiculous notion but I digress).
This July 28th marked 14 years and it was significant.
It was significant because 14 years meant I had now lived just as much life with my mom as I had without her. I spent the first 14 years in Lawrence, Kansas on Carolina Street with her alive and present. I’ve spent the last 14 years in many places with her absent. Sometimes it is a silent absence and other times it screams for attention.
This year was also significant because I now have a child of my own. I now know what it feels like for your heart to live outside your body. I now know I would do anything to protect that little life. It doesn’t mean I’m always confident in how I go about protecting it. I now know with more confidence than ever that she was in an impossible situation. I have never doubted my mother’s love for me.
I know she loved me.
I don’t know if she rationalized the environment we grew up in. I know she was also a victim of it. I don’t know the inner workings of her relationship with Marty. I don’t know the extent of her experiences – good or bad. I don’t know if she knew all that Matthew and I were subjected to. I would imagine for her, it was far worse.
There are still many things I don’t know and won’t ever know.
I do know she loved me with a love more ferocious and powerful than any violent act. Because that is the love of a mother. Fierce, strong, and unrelenting.
I now know she was physically pained anytime I was hurt. I now know she had trouble sleeping at night because she didn’t want to miss hearing me cry out (yes, I was the child convinced there were vampires under my bed until age 10). I now know that what happened in the dark morning hours of July 28th, what happened to her, she prayed with all her might would not also happen to her children. She fought. Not only for her life but for ours.
Perhaps it is that prayer that spared the life of my brother and I.
A lot of life has been lived without her the last 14 years.
A lot of good life has been lived without her the last 14 years. I will always miss her. I will always know she isn’t here. I will also know she would want the best for me and man has there been a lot of that.
A best new family. Parents and siblings galore.
A best place far from home to grow, change, and experience full (emotional) life without fear.
A best man to capture my flighty heart and remain a steady calm amidst my dark and stormy.
And the best of the best – the gift of motherhood to my sweet (and maybe a little intense) baby boy.
So now, 14 years later, I can more confidently than ever say: the worst brought the best. The best is still a mess and full of life in its standard form – highs, lows, and everything between. The best is the best because it’s seen through the lens of the 14 years before. I wouldn’t have what I have now had it not been for July 28th 14 years ago. The fateful day my mother left this world. The fateful day our lives were spared by God alone. I know the next 14 years will be something to cherish. I can confidently say I have & will live each day praying to God that I honor her memory and looking forward with such hope to the day I will see her again.
…I can also confidently say I will not be flying solo with an infant again anytime soon. Holy blowout Batman.