Marshmallows

I buy marshmallows in preparation for the event I don’t want to think about.

I pick them up randomly; they are not on my grocery list, but yet they are – an imperative to help my family through a troubling time. Who would have thought something with so little nutritional value would help heal souls?

We hear the news on a Thursday morning – our dear friend Carolyn has passed away. She passed away late Wednesday night, peacefully.

We are sad all of Thursday. Coincidentally, the fish dies, and we have mourning for that too; we have bad days at work and school. We are a family that misses our friend – Aunt Carolyn, our family friend who’s seen our children since they were babies. Aunt Carolyn, who taught my husband to drive at 16. Aunt Carolyn – who had been one of my confidantes and probably the best supporter of my writing efforts. Aunt Carolyn – the person who truly put people first and was always there to help. Aunt Carolyn – the one with whom an open door literally meant that “just call so I know you’re coming” and was always excited to see you and talk to you. Aunt Carolyn – the “old lady” that in my mind, was never old – always curious, still going out and drinking wine with her friends (in her later years after her husband died-it was always with the guys.) Aunt Carolyn – the one who could get lost in a paper bag (she owned this happily) she was so terrible with directions (right there with her) and finally, Aunt Carolyn – a kind, warm, loving and lively soul who never let you forget how much she cared about you, loved you fierce.

So, that evening when we were all in states of disappointment, exhaustion, sadness and just beat down by the world, I pulled out the marshmallows. Months before, we had introduced Aunt Carolyn to our culinary masterpiece, PB&J with marshmallows in the middle. I know, I know – too much sugar. But at times like this, you think about just how short and sometimes unfair life is, and by golly, having a little white cloud in your PB&J seems foolishly hopeful and happy, and sometimes that’s not a bad reminder on how to live life.

One of the last visits with Aunt Carolyn before she got sick was an indoor picnic – where we brought our culinary prowess of PB&J & marshmallows and of course, she acted like a kid, excited beyond belief; that this sandwich was of course the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was delicious, she said, happy as a clam and full of joy like she’d just been to the finest restaurant; just the thing she needed, she said, and made my children so excited to be around her, she was so enthusiastic and childlike about it all.. Gosh, how I miss her.

So on Thursday night, full of a mess of so many emotions, we sat and ate PB&J and marshmallows, in remembrance and honor of such a dear friend. All of us, silently  hoping that we’d done justice to the love she’d shown us; that we were able to send all that love back to her too in equal measure, with hope that she had carried this with her into the great wide yonder.

And just like that, marshmallows have become a little more elevated in our household. And of course, have a permanent place on our grocery list.

Godspeed, Aunt Carolyn.

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And love overcomes

So finally, here is the time to write, the time that I’m finally ready to share my thoughts, the schedule, finally, willing.

I hope these words help, sincerely I do.  Keep in mind I won’t be winning any awards here for the words I’ve written or any book contracts, but that’s ok.  That isn’t the point.  The point is to share that I’m with you, holding your hand in pain, in grief, in love, in rebuilding.  And the hope is that in some small way my words help heal.  This is the greatest gift of writing.

There are so many tragedies in my friends’ lives lately-big ones and small ones, ones full of grief and shock and the word that is deeper than sorrow, the one that hasn’t been invented yet the one where your stomach falls to your knees one day and can’t seemingly return to it’s normal position.  Lots of that lately, regardless of the time or the season. And some days it feels like fate is ruthless and really has no manners at all.  So many bad manners it can’t even leave us well enough alone during the holiday season when so many of us are wearing our heart upon our sleeves anyway.  So many of these days I’ve wondered-what’s a person to do? To think? To feel?

But it’s not about fate is it?

It’s about God, not fate.

And we can go into this whole big nasty debate about what He allows into our life and what he doesn’t, we can go into this big argument about evil and it’s role in the world and we can keep going on, fighting with each other and forming sides and groups, trying to understand the whys that maybe we aren’t meant to understand in this lifetime.

Or, maybe we can remember this truth and hold it blue-knuckled tight:

There is more than enough love to cover this.

More than enough.  So often in stories like what’s happening in some of my friends’ lives, in Newton, I wonder what happened to love, to respect, to kindness.  Like you, I’m taken aback by the sheer outrage of what happened, of where there are no words for this sort of hell on earth.

And if you read the stories, a lot happens along the way to something bad, something this so outrageously bad happening.  And yes, there is a solid and elephant-sized case for way more and way better mental illness care in this country.  This is not the point of this post, but I will not back down from this stance; just because someone has a broken head  instead of a broken arm does not mean they should have to jump through hoops of fire to find decent and affordable care.  Care needs to be available quickly, easily, and affordable.  Period.  And we need to eliminate the sense of shame with this, in admitting that someone has a problem.  We all are broken in some way; the last thing we need is shame and guilt to accompany that and for that to keep us from the care we so desperately need.

But this post is not about that.

I’ll say it again: there is more than enough love to cover all of this.

And I’m sure this makes you shocked, and I’m sure this makes you quickly jump into math mode like me and wonder how? How could there ever be enough love to cover all of this hate, of this sorrow, these big gaping holes in our hearts?

And it sure feels like there isn’t enough.  So many days of our lives the love we give to ourselves and to others feels so sparse as if love is a fruit tree that’s already been harvested, as if someone has run ahead of us and picked off all of the fruit leaving us  with only two bruised cherries.

But that’s not the truth about love, is it?

There is more than enough love in life, in this world.  There is more than enough love to help us all through this, help the families through this. There is more than enough of the strong sunshine of enduring love to get us all through.  There is an excess of that.  And it of course, comes in the form of God, of forgiveness, and of fighting with all of our collective power to overcome the bad in the world.

And like you, I’ve also been questioning whether the bad is winning out; there is so much on the news that makes me convinced that this is true, that this is a fact, that bad wins.  I stare at the news feed and wonder and look down and do the math again, and for some reason the love, the good doesn’t add up in my amatuer calculations.

And then I think of those who rise and to volunteer their time, their care and their hearts,  I think of those who will never stop knitting hats for preemie babies, I think of those who create quilts for the homeless, I think of those who bake for anyone, any time, no matter how big or small the celebration, I think of so many hearts and hands wrestled into position with knitting needles and prayer, so many who answer the call to help and heal daily, in whatever form or fashion that comes in: prayer to words to shepherding children to casseroles to simply standing by someone else through it all.

And we cannot dismiss this.  And we cannot ignore it either for if we really look around, we will see that it surrounds us in an excess that is as overindulgent as God’s love for us itself.