Many people enjoy roller coasters. They love the thrill of being tossed and turned, spiraling up and down, and falling towards the ground at ridiculously high speeds.
Me…not so much. I do not enjoy roller coasters. At all.
Eating rocks would be more enjoyable to me.
When you are older, I will not ride roller coasters with you. If I’m honest, I won’t ride any rides with you. Unless of course you want your mother to throw up all over you and the rest of the ride.
I do not enjoy roller coasters in the literal sense. Nor do I enjoy the emotional roller coaster which accompanies grief.
Uphill, uphill, uphill, oh wait…we’re headed downhill. Close your eyes, this is scary. Downhill, downhill, bad day, starting to climb up, nope… just kidding, another bad day and I’m headed for a downhill turn.
Neala, you are walking around everywhere. This week you said a new word almost everyday! (“yum”, “hi” and “belly” just to name a few) Uphill.
But then you see a picture of our family on the wall and say, “PawPaw.” Somehow, your tiny and innocent voice saying “PawPaw” has the power to flood my emotions with sadness and grief. Downhill.
Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. Just part of the ride.
Bubby, you are moving and kicking like crazy. You are due to arrive in 9 weeks! I’m busy looking on Pinterest at ways to decorate your nursery. I am headed uphill with anticipation.
Then I look through photo albums and realize there will never be any pictures of you with PawPaw. Downhill.
We are trying to sell our house. Your father and I are busy cleaning and staging our home to make it look like we don’t really live here. Uphill.
Before I go to bed I browse the internet looking for a new home. I start to cry because your PawPaw knew everything about houses. I so desperately want him here so he can help us find the right one. Downhill through a dark tunnel at a rate faster than I prefer.
It finally stopped snowing. The temperature is rising and my students actually had outdoor recess a few times this week. Spring break has officially begun and teachers around the city are letting out a collective sigh of relief. Uphill for sure!
We visited an art exhibit and I see a picture of an old barn. I instantly thought of my daddy and know he would have loved this photograph. I could feel the ride going downhill. I wanted to burst into tears right there and cry until my eyes dried up. I wanted to grab that photograph and slam it against the wall. I wanted to throw glass plates. Lots and lots of glass plates. What began as an uphill day turned into a downhill spiral.
I am not the only one on the roller coaster of grief. My mothers and sisters are also feeling the ups and downs. The problem is, it seems we are all on a different coaster. Monday was a great day for me. But when I talk to one of my sisters, I can tell it was a downhill day for her. Thursday was ok for me. My mother on the other hand felt like Thursday took her on a loop and left her hanging upside down for much longer than she wanted.
So, here I am. Stuck on a ride I did not choose. Forced to roll with the ups and downs. Feeling as if this roller coaster has a never ending track.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t throw any glass plates. I didn’t slam the photograph against the wall either.
I did go home and have a nice cry. Even though I know he can’t hear me, I talked to my daddy.
I told him how much I missed him.
I told him how I longed to see him again.
I told him how often I think of him, especially now that spring is coming. Your PawPaw hated winter. As soon as the signs of spring arrived he would go outside and start doing something.
I told him how I went outside last weekend and did some yard work. If he were still here, he would have been right beside me. Helping me trim the ivy, or showing me how to shape the bushes.
I told him since he left, my heart ached in a way I’ve never known before.
That night as I put you (Neala) to bed, I squeezed you a little tighter and prayed.
You might think I asked God to get me off this roller coaster, but I didn’t. Everyone knows grief must run its course, there’s no getting off once the wheels start turning.
Instead, I thanked him for friends and family who have been a tremendous support to me. I thanked him for your father, who has been more than amazing through all of this.
And then I thanked God. Because even though my heart feels the weight of loss, it also feels the peace only He can give.
I might be on this emotional roller coaster for awhile, and that’s ok. I’m not alone.
I choose joy on the days it doesn’t choose me. I choose patience on the days I feel irritated. I choose to remember the wonderful memories I made with my father, instead of dwelling on the memories we won’t make.
My hope and prayer for you is to do the same. When life seems to fasten you into a roller coaster, choose joy. Choose patience. Choose to enjoy the good days, and learn to hold onto God through the bad days.
“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” -Emory Austin