After twenty-six years I was leaving my home, the place where I raised my children and where I had spent nearly half of my adult life. The choice was not only voluntary, but necessary. Bill and I needed a fresh start, a home without ghosts of the past.
Sometimes late at night, when the ghosts and demons were likely to prowl through my imagination, I would see my ex-husband standing in the bedroom doorway and memories of that awful night re-played. Other times I saw Ron lying on the living room floor while the paramedics worked over him in a desperate effort to revive him. When I stood on the front deck I glimpsed images of Shannon and I sitting together in the swing. Too many memories, too many emotional triggers.
I moved slowly from one empty room to the next, recalling all the memories, the joyful as well as the sad. Finally, with a sigh, I laid the keys on the counter, took one last look and quietly shut the door.
Outside, I walked the perimeter of the yard, staying longest beneath the Quaking Aspens. Ron and I had planted the small grove just outside the bedroom window. I told him I wanted to hear the melodious rustle of wind through their leaves while laying in bed. They would sing me to sleep at night and gently wake me in the morning. I felt a pang of melancholy. I would not see them leaf out that year. Neither would I see the orchard in bloom or pick the fruit in the fall. Someone else’s hands would till the garden and plant the seeds.
I stood on the front deck and watched the sunset. A slight breeze brushed my cheek and a Meadow Lark broke into song. It was then I realized how much the house represented everything I had lost. By leaving I would finally let go of things past.
The first night in the new house was rough. I dreamed of my home, of the open fields and mountains, the family holidays and celebrations, of children growing. Shaking off the images, I rose and went out to the kitchen. I ignored the stacks of moving boxes and stood looking out the kitchen window while coffee brewed. The new house felt so strange, uncomfortable. Would it ever feel like home?
The sun rose, pouring bright light through the garden window and bathing the room in a warm glow. Mourning doves cooed from the rooftop and song birds chorused from seemingly every tree and bush. Humming birds flitted around the Crab Apple tree.
Bill came into the room and put his arms around me. “Good morning, Sweetheart. It is such a beautiful day let’s take a walk before we do anything else. The OC & E trail is only a few blocks from here.”
The OC& E was a converted railway stretching for a hundred miles through the heart of the city, outlying suburbs, open farmland and surrounding national forest. The section closest to our house cut through hay fields teaming with birds: meadowlarks, blackbirds, Mallard ducks, pheasants and Dove. Tall cottonwoods graced one side, mountains and old red barns lined the other - a little piece of paradise right in the middle of suburbia. I did not feel quite as homesick.
Nine years and several states later, I stood in yet another unfamiliar house, staring out the kitchen window waiting for coffee to brew. I thought about people still married to the same person, living in the same house, going to the same church, and the same job. How lucky to always be surrounded by the known, sinking roots deep within families, homes, careers and communities. I had that once, a long, long time ago, but for reasons I did not understand, God took that type of stability from me. Bill and I married late in life. We would be fortunate to celebrate our twentieth anniversary, and as to a home? We were still searching.
Bill and I took our coffee on the back deck.
"Honey, before we start unpacking, let's take a walk. I found a foot path a couple blocks from here."
The path wound through the subdivision under huge shade trees, beside manicured lawns and flowering bushes, eventually paralleling open fields. Birds were numerous: Canadian Geese, Mallard Ducks, Black birds and so many song birds I couldn’t identify them all. We paused, holding hands.
“So beautiful. How lucky we have been to always have something like this close by all of our homes. And, speaking of being lucky. My luckiest day was the day I found you. I think my whole life has been leading me here, to you. I only wish we could have met thirty years earlier, then we could have had more time together. But then, a life time with you would not be enough."
He kissed my hand. "And yet, I guess it doesn’t matter. Now is our time and nothing could be more perfect.”
“I have thought of that too- having more time with you, but had we met earlier it might not have been the same. Our life experiences have shaped who we are and the attitudes we have carried into this marriage. I think our appreciation for each other stems from the grief we have both known. That pain has made our relationship more precious. I never take you or any of the things we have for granted.”
At that moment I heard a Meadow Lark singing and I smiled. Even though a lot had changed, there were some things that always remained the same. The sun always rose in the east, there were always paths to walk and song birds to serenade us. Spring always followed winter, and God was always there, providing the most important things.
My devotions that morning quoted Ecclesiastes 3:15: That which has been made, the same continues: the things that shall be, have already been: and God restores that which is past. Restores. Amen.