I know I have a lot of catching up to do. I have more vacation pictures to post, pictures from a sweet baby shower we had for my friend JJ, pictures of the applique things that Whit and I have been working on, funny Hill stories, I’ve started a new bible study that I’m excited about, I have lots going on. Work has been good, I’m very busy all the way around, Hurricane Isaac has come and pretty much gone and we are all safe. I have so much to be thankful for…so many many good things in my life.
Yet, inevitably every year, year after year, around mid-August I just become melancholy. It lingers until about Labor Day but it’s there and makes me blah and sad and in a funk. It’s almost as if my aura knows like an annual light switch that something will happen, I should put my guard up, don’t take a second for granted. Not. One. Second.
Every year on August 30th my world just recrumbles. I have flashbacks of one of the worst days and nights of my life. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast today, but I can recap every move from that entire one day 15 years ago. It’s so vivid and immobilizing and grabs me by the throat and sucks the air right out of my lungs. I feel the hyper ventilation resetting in as I mentally fall to my knees inconsolable, unable to comprehend my emotions for the 15th time, again. It makes me numb. What a dark devilish vision that lay his hands on me. Same mental replay…every time.
Yet there she is. She’s not dark at all…as a matter of fact the vision of her is the complete opposite end of the entire spectrum. She’s white, iridescently glowing, pure, clean, one word…Angelic. My best friend Christina was an angel on earth, you can ask anyone that knew her. Her time here was cut short by a car accident that claimed both her life and another friend, Nancy.
That day Christina and I had plans. She was going to humor me because this random lady asked me to come to her house so she could try to sell us some Mary Kay thing. I was 17, I was a good kid, the kind that would go to a random lady’s house so she could get credit for showing me some make-up, which I didn’t even wear. I’d graduated high school that May and was preparing to leave in 4 days to go study abroad to Ecuador. Most all my friends had another year before they graduated so that summer I spent every waking second with my friends.
I called Christina to make sure we were still on for going to that lady’s house…no answer. I kept calling. It became humorous and uncharacteristic of Christina to not answer. I’d caught wind that she may be down at the Bay with some other friends. So my last message on her answering machine poked fun of her for making me go to this lady’s house solo (which Meredith ended up going with me) and I vividly remember saying…”but I forgive you.”
Who knows about what the outcome of that day would have been if I’d have been with her at the Bay, if she’d have stayed behind, if well any other alternative would have happened. I’ve grown past the “what if” stage, the wanting to punch God in the face phase, the gut wrenching loss and void of my best friend not being there from the perspective of a 17 year old kid. I’ve grown.
Don’t get me wrong, I have the what-if’s still as a 32 year old, but the focus has changed - what if she were still here what would she be doing? Where would she live? What would her husband look like? How many kids would she have? I no longer want to punch God in the face for taking her away. I don’t fester the hate of an angry 17 year old anymore, I rejoice in the fact that I know she is with Him. I celebrate hoping one day to join them whenever my time should come. The void is always there, no doubt, but the always recognizable feeling of her presence picks me up and carries me through rough days like today. Rough days like mid-August through Labor Day. Rough days as there are too many to list where she’s held me up when I simply just wanted to give up. It’s comforting to know that she has been with me through every life journey. I feel her with me, more often than not.
To get me through the grief of her absence and being uprooted to Ecuador all within mere days of each other I kept a journal every day. I'm not sure that I've ever told anyone this and I’m not sure why I haven’t, but every line, every day started with "Dear Christina." She kept me strong and she helped me experience so much that year abroad. I grew up fast and she was there every step of the way. When I returned home, out of habit I picked up the phone to call her only to stop and realize the reality of her not ever going to be there to talk. I knew she was gone. What would have possessed me to do that? I was wrong though, she’s always there to talk and Ecuador was the first of many adventures Christina has been on with me. We've traveled the world, done stupid things and shared so much and she's carried me through all of them. My loss of her has also been my gain...I believe that and I hope you understand what I mean when I say it. Christina's life on Earth touched many people and I'm one of them. Her spirit sings in my heart to this day.
I still grieve for her. I think that's natural. I think it's great when we remember her and talk about her. My dear friend Christy and I keep Christina's spirit alive we talk about her often; and every year on the anniversary of her death, even if I haven't talked to Christy in a month or so, we touch base just to say I love you. We’ve already talked today. It’s always emotional but it’s always comforting. Christy took 15 sunflowers to Christina’s grave this morning. Sunflowers were her favorite. Bright and happy which was totally her personality and so appropriate.
To coat my annual depression with more morbid darkness I need you to understand the full picture. My emptiness during this time of year didn’t really start at age 17 with Christina. It was 3 years prior in 1994 at age 14 with the loss of my step dad, Frank. His passing from cancer before Labor Day that year was devastating. I was young and worried more about my mother and his four kids than myself, then Christina’s death came upon me at such an impressionable age and the stigma of the calendar reared its head again 3 years ago with the loss of Chip’s mom on August 18, 2009, as we were expecting our first born that she so longed for. It’s like a curse. Which is such an oxymoron because I know we are to be rejoicing for they are with our Lord and we are the unlucky ones still here on earth hoping and waiting to join our loved ones. I’m just selfish and at this time of year I open my arms and reach to the sky and say in a sarcastic punk way, “What next? What this year? It’s that time!”
I’m sorry to vomit all my bad ju ju on you today. It’s just a day, THE day, that always puts me in a selfish funk. And what do I do to feel whole? I journal, I blog, I vent, I kiss Hill repeatedly and make him laugh so my heart can sing. Yet, sometimes I write things you don’t see. I found something that was dated November 9, 2011 and both my mom and Christy know this story but I’ll share its beauty with you too. The beauty of how things can be there when you need them the most.
November 9, 2011. Today I finally got around to moving a piece of furniture from my garage that my mom had given me a month or so ago. I moved it to the guest bedroom, which I'm in the middle of redecorating. As I opened the old dilapidated drawer I saw my mom had stuck an old jewelry box in there so I pulled it out and laughed at the quirky jewelry wondering what on earth I wore this hideous stuff with, but then something caught my eye. There was something in the drawer that was behind the box, a cotton ball bud with a dried up stem. I immediately broke into tears. Called my mom sobbing and asked if she knew that there was a cotton bud in this drawer? The other end of the line was quiet. I think she was worried she’d done wrong. She said she did, she put it there and gently asked me was it ok that she did that? Yes! Yes, it was wonderfuI! I guess I didn’t know that she knew what it was. How she knew what it was. And how important a silly ol’ dried up piece of cotton was. Why she’d held on to such a thing for all these years. 14 years. Mama’s just know.
You see 14 years ago, the weekend before Christina passed away, we took a road trip - ironically enough it was only a few miles from where her life was taken - we pulled over to run through the cotton fields as fast as we could. Silly carefree teenage girls. Before we got in the car we all picked a bud of cotton, why? I guess the better question at that age was why not?
The cotton bud ended up in my bedroom on a windowsill and then I moved to Ecuador 2 weeks later, by the time I returned my mom moved to a different house, then I went to college, married, have a beautiful little boy and today - 14 years later as I moved a piece of furniture around that cotton bud popped back into my life. It's as pristine and together as the day we picked it. It was a breath of fresh air, a lost happy that I needed a precious reminder of. Her presence is felt and her memories are as vivid as that day in the cotton field.
*I miss you Christina Louise Hoelscher you are my guardian angel.