Imagine a summer day; it is warm and sunny. You are at a picnic with many friends. Adults are talking and children are laughing in the warm beams sent down to Earth by the sun. The smell of grilling food permeates the air. The picnic games begin; sack races, relay games and water balloons. Finally, the finale of all field day games begins. It is, of course, the tug of war. Two teams line up on opposite sides of a white chalk line drawn on a thick rope. Each side is certain they will be victorious, and to ensure that victory each team member digs their feet in the sand, grabs tightly to the rope and at the sound of the whistle, pulls with every bit of energy they can summon from their muscles. The rope moves slowly, being pulled in opposing directions, until finally, one team is able to move the white chalk line across the finishing mark, allowing a team to declare a win.
You are the rope.
That’s unfair, right? How could you imagine yourself being pulled and stretched in opposing directions? It was just an example, one that may not make sense, but I’m going to try and help you understand a little better…because my heart has been that rope lately.
A good friend who also recently watched a loved one die from cancer said the words I had been searching for to explain the conflict I’ve felt for a while.
She said, “Did you ever think it would be possible to laugh and cry at the exact same time?” And I knew what she didn’t say, but meant…it was TRULY laugh and TRULY cry at the exact same time.
I have to admit, I never would have thought it was possible until this past year. And, the past couple months have given her words an even clearer definition.
Given a certain circumstance, I would expect one emotion to follow another; happy then sad, joyful then angry, loving then confused. Instead, both feelings slam into each other (with full force of course) and the result is usually me holding my hands up and shrugging my shoulders, and, well, crying. (Because I have admitted before, ugly as it is, I am a ‘crier.’) These are moments when my heart wants to soar with happiness, but finds itself pulled back down quickly with a gravitational strength.
I’ll give you an example or two.
I have been concerned Campbell wouldn’t remember Caitlin. I have worried about how to help her remember without ‘pushing’ memories of Caitlin on her. So, I actually backed off and tried not to initiate those conversations with Campbell. So, you can guess the elation I felt the first time Campbell climbed in my lap, wrapped a tiny arm around me and said,” Mommy, Yaya is still for heaven, right?” I nodded, she continued. “And you can’t go get her and bring her home?” I shook my head, she continued. “And it’s not my turn for heaven yet, right?” I nodded again, biting my lip so I didn’t cry. She concluded with telling me how much she missed her Yaya. I was so thrilled and happy that Campbell remembered her sister on her own. And at exactly the same moment I was so sad that my baby misses her sister, that she won’t get to grow up making more memories with her.
I have watched in awe, as friendships have been formed, among children and adults. I have watched as families and friends have been recharged or brought back from a seemingly lost place. The connection, many times can be seen in a reason that connects Caitlin. My heart swells with pride for the gifts she left behind, and also with an ache that she wasn’t here to see them or appreciate them.
I find myself lost in gratitude and amazement at the incredible community and the kind and generous actions of so many people ‘Cheering for Caitlin’. But sometimes, if I’m not paying attention, I discover an anger that has set in around me; anger that we have all had to hurt so much in the process, and that Jeff and I have had to manipulate through a dense forest, answering questions, making decisions, explaining circumstances, and coping with something parents are not built for, and shouldn’t have to endure.
I listened to a song carefully in the car the other day. Usually, when it comes on the radio my car is filled with conversation and requests from my 3 active, busy little Downings. After a text from a loved one, I actually listened to the words. I found my heart stretched once more, in such polar extremes I was shocked at all the emotion it was filled with. Maroon 5-Daylight; a song that could have been written and sung by Caitlin in the dark hours of night before November 11, 2012. I cry with anguish when I hear the lyrics because they so clearly describe the night before Caitlin died. She uncharacteristically held onto me that night. She would wake up for no reason, touch my face, hold my hand tighter, or wipe away a tear. She was so quiet and peaceful, and smiled slightly with a knowledge I didn’t comprehend. While I want to allow myself to plunge into the anguish, I find myself smiling happily as I remember those exact same moments.
I wonder, how it is possible that a heart that has been so shattered is now able to love so much more?
Have I self-indulged enough yet?
I have one final example for you. I’m even going to give you a visual, and I challenge you to tell me you don’t feel the tug of war in your own heart.
I saw this today with a friend. It goes the entire way around the sun. Look closely to the left, there is an extra, little, almost fluorescent piece of a rainbow. I think (selfishly), it’s a window, maybe into heaven…where a tiny little angel could wave her “hello”, on this beautiful, bright day…
Feel the tug? See what I mean? with love, always…
there is more to part of this story…some incredible ‘coincidences’ that came in a rapid succession…but I’ve already written them into my book….so I won’t share them here right now;)