I sit by her bedside in the dark.
I hold her hand. I watch her breathe. I memorize every beautiful line on her face.
It is here that something deep wells up in my heart.
One part sadness. One part relief. One part hope.
A mess of the things I know live in this place.
Here amongst the sights and sounds of life interrupted. Here among the things she calls, “Just life itself.” Here in the ashy ground where beauty will undoubtedly and painfully grow.
This is the moment that replays in my mind.
The one I carry tightly with me as I seek to love her well.
It is a sacred hard we share.
The kind that comes when a little bit of you is left behind as soon as the word stroke is uttered, a word that seems to fade into the thousand that come after it as you are moved hurriedly into all the things.
The evals. The therapy. The blasted uncertainty.
The triumph and relief. The tears and disappointment.
Over the person you used to be, the person who has been replaced by someone altogether foreign and strange.
Never would I have chosen this place for the sweet and fiery woman who I have called Mimi for nearly 40 years. I would have rather it been me, the girl who knows the drill, who has already lived in the hilarity and the hard of limitation.
But it is here that I am learning something of ashes, something of the beauty that grows in it. And in the season of Lent, it is this something that makes me wonder if this is the place He begs us to go.
To the beauty of ashes and soot.
A beauty that comes not from the leaving behind or the giving up but rather in the jumping in—free-falling back into the places that hurt so you can reach out to another freshly out of the fire.
Bending toward the flames of illness and loss and pain and struggle, instead of away from it. Choosing to face another’s hard tear-stained and mud-streaked. Willing to walk through all the things again for the sake of love.
A love that has allowed such gentle beauty to come into my life—the sound of a rainbow baby’s cry, the joy of battles won, the peace of new things ahead. Like green against the gray.
Just as they have come for her.
In walls covered with great-grands’ artwork. In first steps met with a good dose of hooping and hollering. In words that melt your heart with a, “You are getting out this rehab joint and going home to your love of 60 years.”
These are the gifts that come only from the raging fire of brokenness.
Grown so deeply in ash that when we reach the Cross, we grasp a little more the purpose in it and the love it took to choose its pain.
It is why this year, I choose tear-stained soot instead of polished dresses and fancy hats.
I choose it for her. I choose it for Him. I choose it for always.
Not to be made more but to be made less.
All because their love first chose me.