This past weekend, my family met in Blountville, Tennessee, to lay my sweet Grandma to rest. It was what you would expect a funeral weekend to be, but it was so much more, too. We got to see family that I haven’t seen in years and hear stories of my Grandma that I’d never heard before. There were lots of tears, but there were more smiles and laughter and that’s just the balance Grandma would have loved.
We buried her right down the road from Blountville, in the tiny town of Piney Flats, where she was born and raised. She was buried between her parents and her brother, just as she wanted to be. My mom planned the funeral and it was really beautiful. Each of her grandchildren spoke, one of my cousins sang, and the hometown minister spoke of Grandma’s call to volunteerism and service through her faith. The pews were filled with some of her favorite people and, afterwards, the ladies of the church laid out a lunch spread while we all sat in the small fellowship hall and caught up with each other. It was a perfect day of remembering and celebrating.
My own family rented a house through VRBO for the weekend and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The house itself was breathtaking. It saw on the top of a small mountain, in the middle of a bright green field. It was an “earth house,” which means it is built into the earth. You would have thought that would have made it dark, but it was just the opposite – so bright and airy inside. And it was furnished just right for a restful, relaxing weekend away. I think we spent almost the entire weekend out under the covered patio, sitting in hammocks and swings, just enjoying each other’s company. In the mornings, we saw bunnies and deer all up the side of the mountain. At night, we caught lightning bugs and found stars and planets that we can’t see from our house in the city.
But more than the house, the people inside the house made it such a wonderful weekend. I can’t remember the last time we were all together, without a whole bunch of real plans or things to take care of. There’s something about being away from home that helps you unwind, I think. In fact, we talked about how a destination Thanksgiving might be in order this year. It’s good for your heart to be with family, especially as we remember those family members who are no longer with us. I think of family kind of like grout in tile. When my heart breaks a little, it is the family who fills those cracks and smooths my heart over again.
We were laying my Grandma to rest, but I found rest myself this weekend. And it was sorely needed. Our family has been run a bit ragged this summer. Actually, it’s been this entire year. I feel like we have experience one crisis after another and that wears on you, your family, and your marriage. Chris and I are struggling to find peace again in our family, but between ourselves, too. In the months of taking care of others, we have not taken care of our marriage like we should have and our relationship is feeling the effects of the neglect. There is strain where there has never been strain before, tension where there’s never been tension before, anger where there has never been anger before. We recognize it and we are making an effort to right the ship, and I think this weekend was the perfect way to start that process.
I spent nearly all afternoon on Saturday in a hammock under a giant maple tree to top of a mountain. Under clear blue skies, with bird chirping and kids playing in the yard next to me. I prayed a bit. Slept a bit. Chris joined me for a while. The kids climbed up for a while. People came and went, and I still laid in that hammock. My body was tired with travel from the past several months. My spirit was tired from the strain of carrying family and routine throughout crisis and unrest. My heart was tired from missing my Grandma. In ever sense of the word, I needed to be laid to rest in that hammock. I finally climbed out, hours later, and felt a little better, stronger, and clearer.
The next few months for our family will be about getting back on our feet again. School is starting soon and we are all looking forward to routine again. Chris and I have vowed to spend some time healing our marriage, pouring love and grace back into it after months of drought. My job is becoming somewhat more routine for me and that has been a blessing. And I think we can see and feel the light at the end of a very dark tunnel that we have been in for the past six months.
I told a story about my Grandma at her funeral, about her jumping into my swimming pool one afternoon at 86 years old. I shared that she taught me three things in life: love your God, love your family, and love your life.
I’m learning to do those things right now one day at a time.
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