The Saturday following Charlotte’s memorial on Friday, August 26th, our family headed out. Peter and I felt as ready as we could to be just us. I think our family recognized that readiness in us, too. Our family time had been so good. But now, it was time for the two of us to face our still childless home. It was time.
So, it was just us again (and of course, Annie, our golden retriever). Gosh, I seriously cannot fathom our home without Annie in it; it would be unbearably quiet and lifeless. I mean, my fish are nice, but they just don’t cut it. They can’t cuddle with you or nudge you when you’re crying.
That saying, “And then there were two” kept popping into my mind. I’m so thankful that in every season of our lives, Peter’s always got my back. He’s my biggest fan. My cushion. My kleenex. My rock. My best friend. He’s it. Whether we have a house full of kids one day or not, it’ll always be us. I love that and I find comfort there. My marriage is first for me.
That week was so hard and so good, all in one. We slept in. We cried. We talked; other times, we were quiet. We were just together. We also did a lot of house projects and consequently, we made countless errands to Lowe’s and Home Depot (so many that the folks working there would recognize us). We had this unasked-for time to do home improvements that we’d been wanting to get to but hadn’t quite yet. Peter hung shelves in the kitchen; he also built shelves in our garage. We painted cabinets and rearranged furniture. I kept the house tidy.
The toughest home project we did was conquer the nursery. It was that Tuesday when we both felt it was time to do that. Walking by that hollow space was heart-wrenching. I’d had enough of it. It helped me when I realized that the nursery we had prepared for her was never hers. She never slept there. She never wore the clothes hanging in the closet. I never nursed her on the pretty rocker in there. The space wasn’t hers. Her nursery was way better.
We gathered up all the cute things and placed them in bags by category. Bath. Blankets. Clothes. Toys. Gear. And so on. We labeled each bag and then lugged them up into our attic. There were a lot of bags. You can have so much “stuff” and still feel like you have nothing at all.
Words are hard to come by during this grief process. Words just don’t cut it, oftentimes. Like, what do we call “the nursery,” now? We struggled with that. How do we label that space? Peter was thinking about it and said, “Why don’t we call it the elephant room?” That struck me and I loved that. See, the theme for her nursery was elephants. It was kind of selfish because I love elephants! But I didn’t think she’d mind. So now, we call that space, “the elephant room.” For now, it fits.
That week, I remember sitting on the steps in Peter’s workshop. I was just sitting there, not saying much. My husband doesn’t always say a whole lot, but when he does, you better listen up because it’s good stuff. To paraphrase, he said, “I keep thinking of the word, ’empty.’ You know, we’ve been spending a lot of time trying to make all these spaces in our home functional. But no matter what we do, it’s empty.” I listened and ached for him and said, “Yeah, babe. It will never be quite right.”
But through all of our pain and nagging questions, we have hope because:
After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. 1 Peter 5:10 TLB