Tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of an event that changed my life more than any other event to date. Surprisingly, it’s not the day I gave birth to my children, the day I married Josh, or any of those tender, sweet, life changing events that you feel like defines you. Tomorrow is that day when my narrative changed; the moment when I began to see that my entire life was a part of HIS STORY. I went from living as the main character, to seeing that I was only a supporting role in a story much bigger than my own.
July 27th is the day that my niece, Alana Ann, went home to Jesus.
In honor of her home going and all the feels that go along with it I have a series of blog posts that are helping me to process what it looks like on this side of the valley. Or perhaps more accurately, what it looks like from this location in the valley. The shadow of death is still with us, and sometimes I wonder if it will ever go away. But just as I wrote in an email a week after Alana died, there is, still, pure Light reigning all around.
The posts that follow are meant to serve as a place for my own emotions to untangle themselves. I am not sure how many details I will share or in what capacity. My intention is not to create suspense, but to honor the details that are held close in the hearts of our family.
I struggle with what to share. What parts are mine to share? How do I honor the work God has done through Alana’s life, while also only sharing the story that is my own- the only story that is mine to share. I start to type things and feel led to write volumes on the details of her legacy. To fill post after post with the life change that I have seen, with the kingdom expansion that has come from Alana’s life. For now, I choose to write about my experience and her role in my life. A minuscule fraction of her purpose, a single page in the story of her life, a glimmer of her legacy.
Tomorrow marks one year since the last time I sat in the passenger seat while Jaylen clocked drive time. We putzed around the neighborhood, staying in the lane, encouraging him to go faster than 15mph. It felt slow. Explaining obvious (to me) things like why you can proceed at a 4-way stop even if oncoming cars have yet to arrive at a complete stop- “Jay, you have to trust that they will follow the rules of the road.” Encouraging him to own his turns, “Jay, it’s kind of like snowboarding- there is a certain aspect that requires speed. So you need some gas during the turn.”
We were exactly 10 blocks away from the house when I read the text that things had turned south. 10 blocks away when I had the punch to the gut sensation that Jaylen being in the drivers seat was keeping us from getting to where we needed to be. He was driving slow and all we needed was to speed home. “Jaylen, we need to get home. Now.” The air in the van felt thick and hot, suffocating. I considered having him pull over so I could jump in the drivers seat. But a small part of my soul felt like letting Jaylen drive kept the reality from me, from us. It kept me and the boys in a mini van in north Longmont, teaching my teenage son to drive. It kept the power to speed straight to Denver Health, to frantically call Josh and tell him he needed to turn around from his business trip to Wyoming and come to us, to realize that death was at our doorstep: it kept these realities at bay.
So for 10 excruciatingly long, slow blocks Jaylen drove home.
10 blocks- I stared out the window as he made jerky turns,
9 blocks- I saw in silence when the others at the 4-way stop proceeded, confused, because he wasn’t proceeding in turn.
8 blocks-I didn’t quiet the little boys speaking loudly from the back seat, knowing their noise was a distraction for Jaylen, because I needed the distraction to drown out the pulsating fear.
7 blocks- I didn’t remind Jaylen to use his blinker in proper time.
6 blocks-I was too busy, too busy carving out a cavern in my heart.
5 blocks- Not sure if the day would fill this cavern with relief or heartbreak, but knowing that the day ahead would require my full self and a place for the possibility of tragedy.
4 blocks- I started at the shimmering lime green oak leaves on the tree at the house on the corner of Gay St. Ever since Beau told me on a walk that the leaves were “dancing” I always noticed them. I wondered if God really did direct the wind as it is written.
3 blocks- Hot tears gather behind my eyes and I repeated silently, “He directs the wind.” Honestly, of all the verses that could come to mind, this felt useless. frustrating.
2 blocks- I felt a hatred unfelt before for the beauty the was held by that tree. I felt angry that the leaves remind me of dancing. Knowing, dreading, that this day was about to go dark. That leaves would not shimmer inside of this valley.
1 block- Jaylen made a too-wide turn into our driveway, stopped short in the garage, making the garage door incapable of closing.
Home. We left for the hospital.