It's been a busy summer, but it's been a fun one. In the midst of it all, we moved. I wish I could say that we're settled in.
I mean, we're happy and spread out. Which counts for a lot.
But we're nowhere near unpacked and put away.
The neighborhood is wonderful and the people are great. Everything you hope for in a home for your children. There's one set of neighbors that we haven't met yet. They have a dog and drive a minivan, cut their lawn and go to work. I've exchanged hello's with the woman a few times--usually before sunrise on my return from a sweaty and out-of-breath hard run. But nothing more than that.
Anna had woken up early that morning, so we were dressed and fed and on the driveway with sidewalk chalk by 8a.
Anna was puttering around, chalk in one hand, a stick in the other. Talking about bikes and birds and pointing to "peens" (airplanes). It was a beautiful morning. Quiet and bright, but soft-feeling.
Ava was sitting on the pavement, describing the picture she was drawing. This will be hugely relevant in a minute. It was a very intriguing and moving picture, one that you wouldn't expect from a four-year-old. Hearts and flowers and people, sure. But not this.
As Ava and I were talking about her picture, I hadn't noticed that our neighbor (I'll call her Jane) had gotten into her car and began backing out of her driveway.
Ava and I were still discussing her picture when I looked up to wave to Jane, only to see her out of her car now, walking up to our house.
"I'm so sorry I haven't been over to meet you or your girls yet," she began.
I immediately put her at ease, reminding her that we hadn't exactly been over to meet her yet, either.
Then we got to talking about the girls and preschool and our decision to send Ava to our Catholic parish preschool. She said that she and her husband had made the same decision for their children and didn't regret it for a minute.
Then, we started talking more about her kids. I had seen two college-age boys and asked her how the transition from K-8 school to competitive high schools was for them. She answered me and then hesitated for a minute before beginning again.
"But for my daughter...do you know about my daughter?" she asked.
I shook my head sensing there was pain there.
This is when she started to tear up, telling me the story that would break my heart right there on that perfect early summer morning: her 14 year old daughter had died from a brain tumor less than two years ago. She attended high school for two weeks before falling too sick to continue. She passed away two months later.
She admitted that the loss was a big reason why she had not been over to see us yet, "one of the first questions that people usually ask is how many children we have. I dread having to answer that."
I touched her arm, "Faith must be a very important part of your life now."
"It is," she said. "Every week Father Donald tells me something that I need to hear. Like last week, he told us all that we are reunited with our loved ones in heaven. I've heard it over and over and I can't hear it enough. I've been holding onto that all week. I have to."
Then I began to tell her about the picture that Ava had just drawn, was in the midst of drawing.
"Jane" I started, "do you know what Ava started drawing while you were walking to your car this morning and then was finishing as you were walking up our driveway?"
She looked at me, intrigued.
"She was drawing Jesus on the Cross. When I asked her why she was drawing Jesus, she told me because she 'thinks about him a lot'...about how he died and then came back to us. As you were parking your car in front of her house, we were talking about His spirit. That even though we can't see him, He is always with us."
There was more discussion after that. About heaven. Ava understands that heaven is a beautiful place, "a place where you get to do all of your favorite things all of the time." It's not a scary place for her at all. Thunderstorms she'll run from and scream at, but heaven is peace to her.
I can't convey in words the experience that Jane and I and our daughters--all of them--had that morning, but we were all together on that driveway, among the bikes and the birds and the "peens."
May God Bless You Today too...and may you feel His spirit and love all around you.