Monday, August 15, 2011

Stacy's muffins

Everything we experience from the moment we are born to our last days on this planet is woven together to form our memories.  Our five distinct senses are really just doors to our memories. The smell of baby shampoo takes me back to a place of new innocence and the sight of a red convertible will always remind me of my Grandma Mac, who at the age of 69 drove a red sunbird with the top down, so cool.

The other day I was flipping back through some pictures of last October and I came across one of my daughter, naked and playing in what we call the "pillow fortress."  The pillow fortress is automatically created anytime we actually make the bed all the way and there is wall of pillows to hide in.  This photo is the last image my mom ever saw of my daughter and the email which contained it was the last correspondence I ever had with my mom.  When I saw it, I instantly I tucked my knees up to my chest and I was back in last October all over again.  My senses stopped experiencing the moment I was in and started to recreate the sounds, smells and experiences surrounding my mother's death and funeral.

The same thing happened to me last week when I was baking blueberry banana muffins in my kitchen.  I used whole wheat flour, flax and fresh fruit and as I pulled them out of the oven I was instantly taken back a few semesters back to a time when I was leading a college bible study in the hallway of our ministry.  I always tried to bring a home made breakfast of sorts that would fuel conversation as well as the bodies of the students I met with.  One student, Stacy always begged for my "healthy muffins" and they were the litmus test she used to measure anything I cooked and labeled as healthy.  "It's good" she would tell me, "But not as good as the muffins."  Stacy died this past spring and when I made those muffins I was flooded with the details of the weekend we lost her.  Those muffins made me ache for Stacy all over again.

It is funny how our senses work with our emotions to help us process grief.  I never know what small event will whisk me away to a place I wasn't planning on visiting.  I have found it best to just go with these moments when they arise rather than fight them.  Loss and pain cannot be contained and they appear in our lives as needed.  Last week I think I needed to stop and miss Stacy because this week our students are all returning to school to haul bags to class and collapse exhausted on the couches of our college ministry.  As they return to these simple rhythms of college life today I have no doubt they will find themselves missing her.  We have all lost in this life and we all encounter moments like this.

When you find yourself swept up in longing for someone who is gone, I encourage you to drift for a bit, to honor that person in your heart with memories of their life and all the color and texture they brought to our world.  Take the beauty they gave you and carry it with you as you move forward.  Grief is not weakness, it is one heart missing the unfillable hole left by the absence of another.  Never seek to replace someone you lost.  You will develop new relationships and they will all be exquisitely unique.  Though I will be blessed by new care takers and meet new students there will never be another Mom or another Stacy.

So to my college students, friends, family and all who find themselves surprised by grief.  You are strong in your remembering and to live in the face of loss is necessary, beautiful and brave.  

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