Today is my sister’s birthday and I woke up with a familiar ache in my heart. Something I’ve learned about grief is it’s not all that accurate to say it gets easier with time. Rather, the spaces between the difficult moments gradually grow larger.
It’s been a good while since I’ve had an especially emotional day of grief, but when it came today, it felt much like so many days crammed into the last three years. Today arrived with the same instantly recognizable longing for my sister–to hear her voice and laugh, to see her smile, to know she is here and will be here tomorrow.
Stepping outside with my Bible as the day began, I spotted the new blossoms in my bed of irises. Somehow their purple and white petals brought my mind round to Cheryl’s red and pink rose bushes. I sat down to read and pray but my thoughts remained unsettled, and I soon found myself standing in front of the flowers again. I caught the odor of lilacs from the bush a few feet away. The first bunches of blossoms had opened and the scent pulled me closer.
Cheryl loved lilacs as much as I do. I gave up blinking away my tears and inhaled the gorgeous scent. In my mind’s eye, I could see the text I would’ve sent with a photo.
The lilacs bloomed for your birthday! They smell heavenly.
How I wanted to send that text.
The tears came and went through the day. I confided in a friend who knows the pain of losing family to terrible cancer battles, and pushing through the workdays despite the distraction of that pain. I glanced through favorite photos and smiled at her smile. Cheryl hovered in my thoughts in each hour, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the back. When evening came and my kids were settled at their dad’s for the night, the restlessness crowded me in the quiet of my home. You know, that restlessness that comes with a longing that can’t be eased.
Take a walk.
The suggestion rose over the mental noise. I wanted a walk with Cheryl though.
Cheryl loved walks. I loved walking with Cheryl. I think we all did. Walking with Cheryl meant talking with Cheryl. She rarely pushed the pace because, I suppose, if you were out of breath you couldn’t be talking. Cheryl didn’t do much small talk. A little perhaps, but it’d pass quickly and the rest was spent on the real stuff. That’s not to say every conversation was intense, but every conversation was intentional. Cheryl knew what mattered and didn’t pretend otherwise. She treated time with you as a valuable part of her day. She listened. She drew you out. On a walk was a natural time to do all of that.
As I walked tonight, I thought how it’d be if she were at my side. We’d comment on the proud orange poppies swaying in the dim twilight. Marveling at the sunset, we might voice a scripture verse or worship song brought to mind by the beauty. She would ask questions that got to the heart of whatever burdened my shoulders. Walks with Cheryl were a treasure.
I want another. I want to end it in my front yard where we can smell the lilacs. But I’m thankful the lilacs are here. I’m grateful for each walk that we had. I’m eager for the walks we’ll take again someday.
I know the walks with her have not run out. There’s only more space in between them.