Tragedy broke into my world like an intruder yesterday morning. Suddenly what once was, is no more. I have lost something precious to me, and my heart cowers, bruised behind my ribs. I wonder why God allowed this to happen, but I don't ask because deep inside I think I know.
This tragedy is not about the death of a loved one, or the loss of a pet, although we have lost two of our furry family in the last seven months. It is about a mistake, an accident that can't be undone. The story that led up to this loss began before Christmas when I received a card, and later a small packet from my first step-mother. My father has been married many times and this was from wife #2 who had been part of my life for over 10 years, very difficult years. With the card she wrote a touching letter telling me how much she loved my sister and I, and she also sent a picture of us holding two life size dolls-- classic 1950's. My husband loved the picture so much he made a copy of it and we hung it on our Christmas tree. In the packet were more treasures; pictures of my step-sisters and me as teens, a special one of me, on the beach, that I didn't think existed anymore. There were pictures of her grandchildren, and her over the past few decades and with two of her favorite girlfriends; both who have died, one tragically. Also she enclosed some of her creative writing, beautifully composed, and hand written.
After Christmas I put the card and packet into a Christmas basket with all the Christmas cards we received. I don't throw them out because I like to go through them one more time and pray for everyone who sent them. Then I sort through them and keep the artistic ones, the handmade ones, and those with special meaning in tubs filled with Christmas ornaments. This year I didn't get around to it until Easter, when I finally put the basket into my home office on top of a pile of boxes. Every time I walked into the office I promised myself I'd sit down to sort and pray. Yesterday morning as I went in there to get my purse before leaving for work, I glanced at the basket and it was empty. Empty? Frozen to the spot, I stared at the empty basket my mind reeling with questions, had I sorted through it already and put things somewhere else and didn't remember? Anxious, I cried out to my husband as it became clear what had happened. I tried to push the thought away, but it was no use because I remembered waking up to the sound of the trash collectors at 5:30 that morning! He came running into the room, his face registering shock as I held the empty basket up to him, pleading "Please tell me you didn't through the cards away!" We both let out a cry; feeling as if we'd been socked in the stomach. I told him what had been in the basket and he apologized over and over, trying to explain why he thought it was trash. I knew. I had put the Christmas basket where I had temporarily put a small trash basket. It didn't help things that the night before I had been complaining about how much unwanted mail came from people wanting donations sending address labels, gifts, trinkets etc... He thought I had sorted through the junk mail and left it there to be thrown out. And then there is the fact that my office is "Paper Paradise," piles of unfinished projects spilling onto every surface.
We tried to work through our feelings on the 30 minute commute to the salon, pausing for a moment of silence as we passed the dump that now housed my precious mementos. "Maybe we could stop and look through the trash? I know how I tied the bag." He said hopefully. Yeah right, the black bag that looks just like all the others, and what am I supposed to tell my client? Shaking my head sadly, I assured him I forgave him, and we went back discussing all the would haves-should haves.
I'm coming to some realizations as I reflect on this: one is that it's not about the possessions, although it hurts to lose them. I believe that God cares about what I care about and He understands when I hurt. It is about my attitude about the loss. Can I grieve without giving into depression and hopelessness? Can I allow myself to feel my feelings, get angry but not bitter? Can I be mad and not take it out on anyone or anything?
Late at night I toss and turn, reliving the shock of it all, and I know that this will continue to happen at unguarded odd moments. Then I think about all the people who have lost everything in recent fires, floods, hurricanes, and feeling their loss I pray for them. Loss does that, it brings you into the brotherhood of suffering.
One more thought comes to me as I read Matthew 6:19-21, and Jesus speaks to me as He did to his disciples long ago "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And I am confident that even though my mementos are in the landfill; my memories of my loved ones will be with me in heaven.