Bean, Fish, and I drove down to Oklahoma to attend the funeral of a son of a dear friend of mine. I did not know him very well, but I knew my friend was in a lot of pain and I really wanted to be there for her.
One thing I have learned about life is that it's always a good idea to go to funerals when you can. Something powerful happens when people gather together to remember, to share love, to share grief. There are bonds that are created. Precious wisdom is obtained.
The funeral was a very tender experience. We intended to slip quietly away afterwards and not try to insert ourselves into their family time, but they ended up pulling us in to their family circle and we spent quite a bit more time with them.
One thing I want to remember... after the service and as the family was gathering in the gym for the meal, some of the extended family came together in a group and sang "The Lord Bless You and Keep You." Apparently, singing that song at family gatherings is a family tradition for them. I was really moved for many reasons. I thought how beautiful it was that someone deliberately created a family culture where this song, sung in gorgeous harmony, was a unifying force for them, and how meaningful and healing that then became as they came together to sing it in their grief at the loss of one of their own.
Bean and Fish are good friends with the younger sons of my friend (so, the younger brothers of the one who passed away) and what ended up happening was that Bean went with his friend to their house and I took Fish and his friend, along with a niece and another friend, up to the science museum. Everyone thought this 12/13 year old crowd could use something fun after the emotions of the morning. It was really enjoyable for me to take a group of comparatively autonomous adolescents on an outing. I didn't have to constantly keep an eagle eye on them.
For awhile at the science museum I was alone with Fish. He took me around and showed me all his favorite places that he remembered from when he was a kid and we had a membership there. He was particularly excited to sit in the cockpit of this F-16 simulator again because that was a thrill for him when he was little.
I had no idea that he had loved that so much. I had no idea how much the science museum had meant to him. I was just looking for something fun and educational to do with my kiddos. I didn't know what an impact it was having; in fact, it seemed like they really weren't paying that much attention. It's funny how you don't find out these things until later.
I am glad I have really prioritized seeking out fun learning experiences for the kids. I will definitely continue to do so.
We went back to our friends' home and I spent some time talking with my friend, looking at photographs and just listening to her remember. It was really nice. I think it helped her. I hope it did.
As we began our drive home, we decided to go drive by our old property. We've been down to Oklahoma a couple of times since we moved to Kansas, but we have never gone by our old house until last night.
I just remember when we left Oklahoma I kind of shut the door on it emotionally. On one hand, I had enjoyed our time there. On the other hand, I never felt like I belonged there, like I was truly From Oklahoma. On one hand, when we left, I was extremely sad. On the other hand, I was moving forward and I didn't want to look back. I never expected to go back. We were moving back out west where we belonged, and that part of our life was over.
So I have all these mixed-up feelings whenever I am down there. Like, it's all so familiar and yet so strange. I feel nostalgia and yet not attachment. Does this make any sense?
We drove into our old neighborhood and there was our pasture, our stable, our house. Someone is taking extremely good care of that little property. It is obvious they love it. They have made the house look cute, with shutters on the windows and flower pots on the porch. The lawn is neatly trimmed and everything is well-maintained. They have a small pony and two llamas living in the pasture. It just seemed so Right. Like it was meant to be their home, whoever they are. I felt so happy for them and for the house and land.
Then we noticed something: our cat was sitting on their porch. When we left, we couldn't take Little Miss White Socks. But the new owners said they would be happy to have a cat, so we left her with the property. That was another emotional door I shut. I didn't want to think about what might happen, about whether or not they would love her and take care of her. Well, they love her, and they are taking care of her. She has now been their cat longer than she was ever ours. We got out and went up to the porch. I knocked, but no one was home. While I was knocking, Fish spent a couple of minutes petting our sweet kitty. It was a very tender moment.
I guess maybe what I learned was that while I had decided in my head that Oklahoma was not a big part of who I was, my heart knew better. Oklahoma is a big part of me. Not just my friends I made there, but the land itself. I am grateful for it.
People matter. Relationships matter. Animals matter. Places matter too. There are connections there with all of these things-- invisible spiritual strings. You can pretend they're not there, but they are. And they influence you and make you who you are, whether you want them to or not.
Someday we will understand the whys and the hows of all these connections. Someday we will know the full meaning of the grief and the joy, the darkness and the light. And we will marvel at the pattern.