#TellHisStory Storytellers Series
Story has the power to change the world, one paragraph at a time. I share this space, once a week, with some great storytellers I’ve met during my years of writing.
This week’s featured storyteller is Tina Howard. She is one of the first bloggers I met, back in 2008, and we’ve become good friends through our work at TheHighCalling.org.
Be sure to come back Wednesday to link your own stories or photos with us in the #TellHisStory community.
We Were Made for Community
By Tina Howard
“To start the process, we will need you to identify her,” he explains as we complete paperwork.
We hardly have time to comprehend this unexpected step as the funeral director leads us down the hallway to a small room. From the doorway it looks like an empty office, but then in my peripheral vision I catch the corner of a bed tucked in a small nook that I didn’t notice when we first walked in. My husband and I, we take a deep breath and walk further into the room so we can see his mother. The director had said she would look like she was sleeping, head on a pillow, covered with a beautiful blanket. But the weight of her stillness and the colorlessness of her skin betrays his promise.
I want to move forward, to be closer, and then I panic, imagining that her eyes will flutter open or her arm will move. I will myself to remember that she has passed – this is no movie – and then grief floods my heart as I force myself to swallow this truth.
My mother-in-law’s daily life has been so intertwined in ours during these last few years, that her absence already leaves a gaping hole. My husband mumbles an affirmation and turns to go. I am momentarily torn because part of me wants to be with her just a little bit longer, but then I quickly follow as I realize I don’t want to be left in the room alone.
We finish the formalities and shake hands with the director in the marble lobby. My husband and I don’t speak much as we walk out. I’m a take charge, action-oriented kind of girl, and the last few days have been a lot of unbearable waiting. But now that I carry a 28-page book of options to consider, the weight of all these “grown up” decisions we will have to make in the coming days is too much.
I sink into the passenger seat and lose everything I had been trying to hold together; the sadness, the frustrations, and the burden of responsibility all stream uncontrollably down my face. I pour out my heart, aware that I am giving my husband one more thing to deal with, but grateful that he understands. He’s felt these waves of emotions, too. We feel overwhelmed by both our loss and the awareness that the daily pattern of our life has changed forever.
The clock on the dashboard reminds us that we should pick up our daughters. I reach for my phone to text that we are on our way, and I see several new messages from friends checking in.
These past few days, I haven’t been able to keep up with the texts, calls, posts, cards (in the mail!) and email coming in. Offering condolences, sharing fond memories, desiring to help, just checking on us.
Our community – both near and far – have enveloped us with love, and I think, This. This is why I was created to live in community.
This world is hard and broken, and to walk it alone is too much to bear. When the words are stricken from my mouth by grief, I know that others approach the Father on my behalf. When we are wearied by a long day of logistics that we feel too young to be coordinating, a meal is brought to sustain us for another moment. When we feel alone, someone checks in just to see how we are doing, and we know that we are remembered.
In every meal, kind word, prayer, and offer to help, the Father whispers to me that community is far deeper than a collection of friendships. It’s more than hanging out with people I like and more than the set of people who I see most often at church or school.
Community gets into the trenches with me, feels my grief with me, and seeks to love me well, in the way I need to be loved, even when I can’t articulate what it is I need. This richness is greater than any material possession I could own. As many tears as I have shed in grief these past few days, I have also shed in gratitude for the overwhelming care we have been receiving. And I begin to see that community is a tangible demonstration of my Father’s great love for me.
Tina lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She is the Content Editor for Laity Lodge Family Camp (link: llfamilycamp.org) and also a professional photographer. She periodically writes for The High Calling, and one of these days will finish the novel she’s writing.