Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – My Stolen Angel

 

*Watch Matt’s new music video: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

In the wake of my sister’s death, I’ve been on a cleaning frenzy. It’s an insignificant way to control things, but to me, feels substantial. The suction tracks in my carpet. Kitchen counters that smell of ammonia. Throw pillows fluffed and sitting squared in the corner of every couch, loveseat, and arm chair. Each of these makes its condolences known and I find myself grateful for every dirty thing in my house—even more so than for the well-meaning people who ask…

“How are you doing?” Because this is a question I can’t quite answer.

It is Christmastime, and while my home is trimmed with garland and trees, grief has decorated my heart with more memories than I can bear. So I load and empty the dishwasher. I stack and arrange silverware. And when there’s nothing left to do, I search the house for a missing cereal bowl, because I need to find that missing thing—to wash it and put it away.

My mother’s countenance spreads across my face as I clean. I can feel it there, focused and fast. I’m good at this. At this, I’m winning.

But then I see a set of Dallas Cowboy tumblers, nested three high, hiding at the back of the cupboard. A fuzzy haired neighbor boy was selling them door to door and I couldn’t resist. They were my brother’s favorite team—my brother Tim, who is already gone—killed in a motorcycle accident 24 years earlier. The cups are a cheap reminder of him, a sobering reminder that death is a part of life—perhaps the hardest part.

And now my precious sister Trina is gone too, of breast cancer. Six weeks ago I watched her winding down, fighting every step of the way—every hour and minute—until she fell asleep for the last time. She never quit on us. She never stopped loving us, protecting us, battling to survive. Because she was no ordinary person…no ordinary sister.

Together, we survived a troubled childhood and went searching for a hallelujah in our adulthood. We did our best to make peace with God…with ourselves. We were supposed to grow old together. To call each other like we always had. To remember for each other, what had happened, what we’d been through, what we’d overcome.

But…

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.” –John Green

My sister is gone. My angel. My best friend. There is nothing in the cupboard to remember her by. No Dallas Cowboy tumblers. No tchotchke sitting on the table.

The day after Thanksgiving was my first visit to her graveside. Standing before turned over flowers and soft earth, I was enraged at the audacity of God, the sickening power of cancer, and a world without Trina in it.

And then I noticed something. Hanging from a silver string of glitter, suspended in the middle of a Christmas wreath, a tiny glass angel was shifting and turning in the wind. Someone had left her there.

Her delicate outstretched arms held a small golden heart, which was pushed out, as if she were giving the heart away. Maybe she was there to keep watch over Trina. Or maybe God was trying to tell me something, some sort of secret message. But I was in no mood for riddles, so to me, she had simply been left out in the cold, and that was all.

Without thinking, I plucked her from the Christmas wreath and headed for my car. She was coming with me. The cool morning grass crunched beneath my feet as I marched in protest to the very edge of the cemetery, the stolen glass angel in my grip.

Just four weeks earlier, I had watched my sister pick this resting place. And while it was one of the most heroic things I had ever seen, today, it all felt so wrong. So ridiculous and unnecessary. Where was she? How did this happen? My heart was crying out…

“Trina…please come home.”

In times like these—in grief, that is—life has either too much meaning or none at all. I’m not sure which is worse.

I keep wondering when the overcoming part of the journey will begin. When I won’t be stealing things from cemeteries or scrubbing something down in my kitchen. But maybe there is no journey—at least not one to overcome. Because…overcome what exactly? Her? Some things are not possible.

I am learning that when it comes to grief…

“…there is no other side. There is no pushing through. But rather, there is absorption. Adjustment. Acceptance.”

You do not complete grief. You endure it. It becomes…

“…an element of yourself. An alteration of your being. A new way of seeing. A new definition of self.” –Gwen Flowers.

I think the hardest part of death is the love part. Because while our love for them continues to grow, theirs, at least on this earth, comes to a screeching halt. And this staggering imbalance of love is a problem without a solution. Because this side of heaven, we will never see them again. That’s the hard truth.

And so we continue to move forward, however slowly. We wake up leaking and plug the holes as best we can.

This is dying. This is loss.

This is Love.

Trina, my stolen angel…I tried to steal you back that day at the cemetery, because I can’t do this alone. My life doesn’t work without you, and a tchotchke love will never be enough.

My heart cannot bear a world without you. Maybe you already know this. Do you? Is that why you are holding your heart out to me? Is that what you wanted to give me—what you wanted to tell me the day I stole you from the cemetery?

I can hear you now. “Live well, Matt. Love all. Be close to the brokenhearted. This is how you honor my life.”

I’m doing my best. I’m carrying your heart with me—your love and laughter, your faith and compassion. But I will not be letting go of you anytime soon. I just can’t do that.

So until I see you again, my sister, my person, my stolen angel…

Sleep in heavenly peace.

*Watch Matt’s new music video: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)


*Check out Matt’s book on Love & Loss: FINDING GOD IN THE RUINS. (Click book title to order.) Or WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER.

Book Cover (3D)

 

 

 

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