Time flies . . . especially when things are ordinary. This time last year started out pretty ordinary. Monday just seemed like a typical Monday after a horse show weekend. Brooke was usually exhausted from the weekend and used that as an extra excuse for a nap (as if she really needed one). Frankly, I don’t recall too much about that Monday. But when I look back at my texts with Brooke, I’m reminded that Monday (March 13, 2017) was “National Napping Day.” Perfect! That sounds exactly like a typical Monday.
Tuesday was one of those days that I would have recalled vaguely as time passed, but I can only pinpoint it with accuracy because of the events that unfolded later in the week. Graduation was still a couple of months away, but Brooke had found a few dresses that she wanted to check out. (If you knew Brooke personally, then you are keenly aware of her powers of persuasion.) So, we went shopping that afternoon. It was a fun shopping trip. No drama. We visited with the girls in the shop who are also friends. We found a cute dress and then headed to the grocery to pick up dinner.
If you don’t shop at Fresh Market, they have this thing they call “Little Big Meal.” On Tuesday the LBM was spaghetti, salad, garlic rolls, and ice cream. NO. The only thing in that mix that would have made it in the kitchen at that time – the salad. My diligent effort to eliminate things like white flour and refined sugar from our diets and Brooke’s powers of persuasion met head on. I caved.
While we were finishing up our shopping, Brooke asked for money to go to a nearby store to buy some Roman Candy. Enough refined sugar for one day. No, ma’am. “Upset,” Brooke headed to wait in the car. She took the keys (and her powers of persuasion). Within minutes, she had returned even more upset than when she left because I didn’t have enough change hidden in the car to pay for a piece of Roman Candy. Bee line to the checkout before she whipped out those “powers” again.
At the checkout, we ran into some dear friends that we hadn’t seen in about a year. There was catching up and neck hugging. Just a typical Tuesday in a small, Louisiana town.
Wednesday was Wednesday that week. We went through some old pictures looking for the perfect baby picture to submit for “Project Graduation.” Nothing out of the ordinary. Again, I would have recalled that memory fondly later but would have had trouble pinpointing it in time, but for . . .
Even Thursday started out pretty typical. Brooke spent the afternoon working in my office. We had lunch together, as we did at least once or twice a week. When it was time to leave for the horse show, we hugged each other and said our typical “good-byes” and “I love yous.” That was 1:28 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
When I got home from the office, Todd and I had planned to go to dinner. At the last minute, we invited some friends to join us. I actually recall thinking, “why are we bothering these friends? They have music practice every Thursday. They can’t even go.” They accepted the invite. That’s strange. Turns out that there was no practice on that Thursday. The first glimpse that Thursday might not be ordinary.
Now as I look back on that week, I can see God’s hand. He sent in his troops ahead of the storm. A warm visit in the dress shop. A chance “goodbye” in a grocery store. An unexpected dinner date with friends. A hurricane was bearing down and God was lining up bread and water.
Why didn’t He stop the storm? I don’t know the answer to that question. Honestly, by the time I’ll get the chance to have it answered, will I even care? The “whys” really only matter in the here and now. So, I’m not going down that rabbit hole. At least not today.
What I am thankful for today, is that God provided comfort before I even knew it would be needed. I cherish that shopping trip. We were at Brooke’s favorite Lilly Pulitzer store and visited with our friend who manages the store. Those weren’t just any friends in the chance run-in at the grocery store. We used to live across the street from this mother and son and the rest of their beautiful family. Brooke was seven years old when the younger son (who is now getting to be a young man) came home from the hospital. Brooke made a beeline to their house the day he came home and she was the first person who wasn’t “family” to hold him.
God knew we were in for a long night on Thursday. He sent loving, loyal friends – not the ordinary kind, but the kind that know what you need even before you do. The accident happened about an hour from home. Instead of driving us to the restaurant, our friends drove us to Mississippi. They helped with sharing the horrible news with the rest of our friends. God knows me and my hard resolve. I would have done all of those things on my own – even pushing others, my husband included, aside to do it myself. God knew that Todd needed help to make sure that I didn’t pull that load onto myself that night. (Where do you think Brooke’s “powers of persuasion” came from?)
It is so easy when we are in the midst of the storm to miss the grace. It is so much easier to head for the “rabbit hole.” To bury our heads in the why. How often do I look past the provision? Why do I so often choose hunger and thirst when bread and water are set out before me? Yet, His mercy and grace are always there. Sometimes, it’s that blinding light shining from above. Other times, it’s that dim flicker in a dark hall.
These little vignettes punctuate the last days of Brooke’s life. Ordinary – barely a flicker. As time as passed, that flicker has grown and continues to grow into a bright, shining light highlighting one of the greatest comforts of all – no unfinished business. No silly arguments. No words that needed to be unsaid. And, no words left unsaid. If I had five more minutes, I wouldn’t need to waste it with I’m sorry or Please forgive me.
As I look ahead to the first anniversary of the accident, God’s at it again. Planning ahead for our comfort. In the early hours following the accident, the song “I Can Only Imagine” played over and over and over in my head. If you aren’t familiar with the song, it ponders the question of how we will react upon entering heaven. Will we sing? Will we be speechless? Will we dance? Will we even be able to stand?
What do you imagine heaven will be like? Before Brooke’s accident, I hadn’t given it much in depth thought. Heaven was some place – over there. Brooke’s passing has been a reminder of just how thin the veil really is. Heaven feels closer than it ever has before. Heaven is but a whisper away. At times, I can feel it right at the tip of my heart – beckoning me through this earthly journey.
I imagine that reuniting in heaven is going to be a lot like that chance encounter at the grocery store. There was no drama about who should have called whom or why had it been so long. It was a whole lot of – Look at you! You’re so grown up. How’s school? How’s life? Give me a hug. That’s what heaven will be like. No drama about the time that separated us. Just a whole lot of – Let me take a look at you. You look fantastic! White is your color! Have you been wearing sunscreen? When did you learn to play the harp? Come give your momma a hug. Let me kiss your cheek.
Then, I envision a large, dinner table like my Mamaw set every Sunday of my childhood with everyone I love gathered there. It is no irony that the “Little Big Meal” on that ordinary Tuesday was spaghetti. Italian is my comfort food. When times are tough, I make spaghetti. That celestial table will be overflowing with spaghetti and meatballs and homemade Italian sausage and bread (I hear carbs don’t count in Heaven) – because we will finally be home.
It turns out that Bart Millard of Mercy Me wrote the song “I Can Only Imagine” as a tribute to his father. It also turns out that a movie about the story behind the song opens in theaters on March 16, 2018 – exactly one year after the accident. We will conclude a long day of tributes in Brooke’s memory by gathering with family and friends to watch the movie together. Our store manager friend, our grocery store friends, our dinner date friends (their son who sang “I Can Only Imagine” at Brooke’s funeral), and so many family and close friends will be there. I can’t imagine a more fitting way to close out the first year of this journey.
So, if I had five more minutes, what would I say? I could use it to say the thing that I often tell my girls when we part – Be safe. Make good choices. Have fun. I love you! And, then I might add, Hold a place for me at the table. Fly high, Baby Girl!