Sunday. Another weekend under our belts. They're all still hard, but I'm starting to see little glimpses of our new normal around the periphery of our current surroundings. The boys and I are joining in on activities friends invite us to, and having a bit of fun, despite the grief. The emotions associated with the mourning seem to be a bit easier to control, and that helps us get through the day. Don't get me wrong, I (we) still have our moments.
Case in point: The two Howell boys were acolytes at church today, for the first time at the same time. Andrew, a pro, had Ben, the novice, alongside him. I was so proud. They made it down the aisle with no one catching on fire, altho' Andrew was outpacing Ben by a stride and a half (Ben's robe was too long). At the close of the service, they extinguished the candles & headed back up the aisle as we sang, "For the Beauty of the Earth." Ben's wick went out, and he was hoping his big brother would light it back up with his. No such luck. As the light holders crossed time and time again as they walked back up the aisle (resembling crossed swords or light sabers), I prayed that they wouldn't drop the holders and begin to shove each other! I couldn't help it, I began laughing. Then the laughing dissolved into crying as I tried to sing the last two verses of the song. Mark, outdoorsman that he was, loved this song. And I was sure wishing he was there beside me, singing with that boisterious tenor voice.
We joined church friends in watching the annual City Lights parade in downtown Wichita Falls Saturday evening. This is an event that Mark and I frequented for years, well before the birth of the boys, and we continued it almost yearly. Whenever we arrived downtown, there was already quite a crowd gathered. I parked the car, and waited for the boys to get out. Another first, "my" leading us around...never had to do that with Mark---he'd get Andrew by the hand and boldly go forward, and Ben and I would bring up the rear. The boys looked to me to do the leading last night, and we made it. Thought it would be really hard to be there without him, but surprisingly it was not. Must've been the supportive friends nearby, there was plenty of laughter and joking to go around. Thank you, God, for our church family. They have been my rock.
We'll head to Kansas on Wednesday, to spend Thanksgiving with Mark's mom, as we do most every year. This time, there will be no pheasant hunting with Maggie May. Our time there always revolved around hunting, playing basketball in the barn haymound, trudging through the pasture looking for wildlife (and bad thistles), and just hanging out.. We'll have to find new things to do, and we have Mark's grave to visit for the first time since we left there in August. Not looking forward to that, but know that we have to do it, trusting God to get us through the hard parts. The bitter part will give way to the sweet, as it always does....but I'm ready for the sweet to arrive more quickly. I'll venture to say that part of me wishes I could snap my fingers and have it be January 2012, just so I could be past the next six weeks. The holidays are going to be very very hard.
As I tuck the boys into their beds tonight, the older one stays up to read Harry Potter, while the younger one & I snuggle, say prayers, and wait for sleep to come. As Ben rolls over onto his tummy, I rub his back, saying, "Don't forget to say your prayers, and thank God for all He's given us. Because God is really good." Ben sleepily replies, "Mom, God isn't good.......He's great! No, I take that back, He is awesome!" and he drifts off to sleep. Andrew, putting away his book, tells me I'm a great mom. And I say for the umpteenth time today how much I love him. "Andrew, do I tell you that too much?" I ask. "No," he replies. "Dad would say that alot, too." So, I'm telling the boys how much they are loved by both of us, since Mark's no longer here to do so. I'm glad they don't mind hearing it. Because I love saying it, repeatedly.
We hug, we laugh, we cry, we argue. It's who we are. No one goes to sleep, no one goes out the door in the morning, no one hangs up the phone without saying "I love you"...and it makes life so much sweeter.