Tonight my family gathered around the dinner table and celebrated, not my sister's 32nd birthday, but the 7th anniversary of her 25th birthday, because she's fabulous like that. She picked the menu, porcupine balls and twice baked potato casserole. I made the potatoes, but the meatballs I haven't had in 20 years.
They were a specialty of my Grams. She's been with Jesus for 10 years now. Her loss is still deeply felt. As I was serving my children a dish she served me as a child, the aroma alone brought her to the table and tears to my eyes. I miss her.
She is the reason I named my blog Willow Tree; she was my first sanctuary, the tree in her backyard was the image of it.
On hot summer nights like this we used to sit on her front porch in the swing with our coffee cups. Of course I was eight, mine had water, but she always made me feel special. She would scratch my back or play with my hair while the big band music came through the open windows and I wished even then, to stop the clock, draw it out.
She fostered my love of the theater, with Phantom of the Opera. She taught me how to play solitaire, use liquid rouge and that rubbing fresh mint from her backyard in my hands smelled like heaven. She taught me things I didn't know until she was gone; strength that shone like beauty, love so pure it was potent, and because of her, I know the meaning of Grace.
She suffered at the end, Alzheimer's was an ugly, mean, disease that forced us to watch her go for years before she left. I regret not being there for her enough. I regret fearing her disease.
But oh, how merciful God is to me, that He allows me to dream of her; to put my head on her chest again. I've had the best conversations with Grams under the willow tree in my dreams. I wish my children could have known her. I can't wait to make introductions a lifetime from now, in Heaven. But I have told her of them. She knows. And she waits.
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)
She returns to us here, in dreams and red patent leather shoes I know she would have loved. In meals and memories we still share. And while she took pieces of my family's hearts with her, she left pieces of her own, with us.... and we are better for it.