C. and I took the weekend to travel to Nashville for a wedding and the Auburn/Vandy game. We also took the opportunity to take a day trip up to Hendersonville, my hometown, to reminisce about my formative years. We drove up I-65 and I realized that the Phillips Phamily Daddy had only been with me to Hendersonville once. My dad moved (several times) once I graduated from college so C.'s never really gotten a full picture of where I grew up.
First we drove by Johnny Cash's house, which recently burned down during renovations. I was sad to hear it won't be rebuilt, but he's gone so it's kind of fitting. We drove the same route as my driver's license test drive, which by-the-way, the office I tested at and received my learner's permit and license no longer exists. Changes. Funny.
Then we headed over to the Wal-Mart. It wasn't there. Changes.
Then we went over to the cemetery where my mom rests, but there was an elderly gentleman in a tailgating chair one plot down from my mom. He looked visibly upset, so C. and I decided to go find the new Wal-Mart and give him a chance to grieve in peace.
We didn't find the new Wal-Mart. Changes.
Then we went to the K-Mart. It still smelled the same. Some things never change.
Back to the cemetery. The gentleman was still there, but we decided that we had given enough of a grace period. I don't know what graveyard etiquette calls for, but since I was from out-of-town, I figured we could go ahead and go visit my mom.
I was a little annoyed though. I like to grieve in private and this man was just sitting there. I remember when my mom died, I told a lot of people who probably really wanted to come to the graveside service that it was family only. I just didn't want a million people to talk to and tell me they're "so sorry." I had already been through the visitation the night before at the funeral home, and I just was so sick of it all.
So, it annoyed me pretty badly that here I was, ready to visit with my mom with a stranger breathing down my neck. I also wanted C. to take some pictures so I could have something to show my children when they begin to ask, "Where's your mommy?"
I sat down and pulled out the flowers that were in the vase so I could replace them with the fall-themed ones we had gotten at the K-Mart. I remarked to C., "I bet my brother put these here. They look like something he would pick out." They were red roses which had faded to a dull pink. After I got done with the new arrangement, I looked at the old one wondering where I could throw them away. As I looked around, the gentleman behind me approached us and said, "I hope you don't mind, I put those in there for you."
"You see," he said, "they won't let you keep the same arrangement for longer than six weeks. They were here on my wife's grave, but they told me I had to move them, so I put them in this one. I hope you don't mind."
He said all of this with a gentle German -maybe Austrian- accent in a tired voice. He went on to tell C. and me about his wife and how she had died in February after being very sick. They had to move to a stepless house because she could no longer walk up stairs. He had her picture in a light post that he showed to us. They were married in 1946 and he had just lost her this February.
I explained to him how I lived out of town and didn't get to visit very often. I told him she was my mom. I told him how next week on October 11th it will be 17 years since she died.
He pointed us to a grave with no flowers and asked me to put the faded roses on someone else's vase. So we did and then we took our pictures. I still wanted to have some time alone to cry and really have more than just a "Here I am" moment, but it just wasn't happening.
I told . I was ready to go and then something happened. I had started to cry, so I was ready to bolt, but the elderly gentleman pulled C. aside and let him know that he would clean my mother's headstone and take care of her spot for me. Well...
As we drove away it dawned on me that he was supposed to be there when I got there. C. immediately saw the significance in the elderly man's presence. It made me think about how we sometimes try to change the way our lives are supposed to go, but if God has something in store for you, He'll make it happen. I couldn't be annoyed. I could only feel cared for. My mother's place will be cared for.
The rest of the day, these thoughts lingered in my head. Long into the night, I wondered how I am supposed to move forward when I still feel like some part of me has been left behind. I don't get emotional about the loss of my mom very frequently, but sometimes I get stuck in the sadness. It's like a heavy fog that just lingers and then drifts away eventually. Most often though, I live like nothing is missing.
Do you ever play the game "What if"? I do, but each time I come to the conclusion that it's pointless. God knows where He wants me to go. His plan for my life is something that I willingly seek now, so why question my past decisions? If I go down that road, will I regret my decisions or accept and be grateful for where I am now? I guess that explains the popularity of those kinds of movies--It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, The Butterfly Effect and Sliding Doors (SOME OF THESE are BETTER THAN OTHERS).
Jeremiah 29:11 lets me know who is in control. The Message puts it bluntly, "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."
So when I worry that my mother will be forgotten, that I won't get to see my girls all grown up, that I'm not doing what God calls me to do, I have to remember that He indeed knows what He's doing.