I wish I could tell you I didn't hesitate, but truth is: it was a hard call. It takes about seven hours to get to my parents' with shortcuts, without stops, and I'd already made the trip twice this year, once less than two weeks before. Days before, I'd traveled to and from Maryland (3+ hours each way) for Grandma's 96th birthday party.
Jason Hatfield and I hadn't been particularly close since I'd left Scott County, I reasoned, and he isn't there, anymore. We'd visited before he died, and he knew (knows still, in heaven) I love him. I'd met his daughter only once, his wife never. I told myself I could visit his mom, his grave, later. If I went, I'd have to take the little kids and leave Jim and Cade behind, and a snowstorm was coming.
I waffled for days, but in the end, I knew I needed to go. It had been one of the closest friendships of my life, defining my middle- and high-school years, and I felt like my going or staying came down to a fundamental question: Who do I want to be? And I want to be someone who chooses love over fear. I want to be someone who loves extravagantly. I want to be someone who loves to the very end.
The little kids and I left at dinnertime, Tuesday. I found the highway eerily quiet with flashing signs alongside: state of emergency. I didn't see a drop of precipitation, though, and the four of us snuggled together under the covers of my parents' extra bed just after 2 a.m., Wednesday.
The snow started falling Wednesday afternoon. For the third time this season, Dad and I drove out looking for elk. "I'll have my elk, today, Jason Hatfield," I muttered, moving Chip's carseat from one vehicle to the other, and--although Dad and I hadn't been successful to that point--I knew we'd see elk that day, and we did: at least ten of them, specks filling the bottom of a snowy valley.
|Four of the elk at maximum zoom. (There were many more to the left of the frame. )|
The next evening, my brother's family came over to help my mom (who's still in a wheelchair from her recent foot surgery) with the kids, and Dad dropped me off at the funeral home. I'd forgotten how different funerals are in East Tennessee: how they're preached...and really preached, to include an invitation. I pried my heart and mind open to receive, and it was like forcing a contracting or cramping body to relax and accept pain when, really, all it wants to do is draw into itself and cry.
The first preacher shared Romans 8:38-39: some of my very favorite scriptures. The second preached out of 2 Samuel 12 (18-24, roughly) but also made a fleeting reference to Ziklag, one of the stories in the Bible most significant to me. The overall message was precious: get up; take care of yourself; encourage yourself in the Lord; if you are His, nothing can separate you from His love; be like David and after His heart.
I have more thoughts to share, especially related to Valentine's Day, but I'll save them for the next post. Thank you for the prayers you prayed; I did feel at points as though they were holding me up.