I’ve been feeling overwhelmed this week.
The week didn’t start well. As we gathered Saturday to celebrate my younger sister’s birthday, my parents and siblings and I received the news that my Opa–who had spent the last two weeks hospitalized after a fall–had taken a turn for the worse and wasn’t expected to last the night.
My parents left to go be with Opa, and early Sunday morning I received word that Opa had died during the night, peacefully, while my mother held his hand.
This is Opa and I:
There’s an empty space in the world, this week. As a friend of mine said to me, death is “a hole in reality.” No matter how elderly or ill someone is, death always feels wrong. And maybe there’s a reason for that, because, as a different friend wisely reminds me, it wasn’t part of God’s plan either. Death is evidence of the brokenness of the world.
So I suppose the world has been feeling especially broken to me this week. This is layered on top of my normal, somewhat selfish dread over the end of the school year this week. I value my hours of silence during the day–so much so that I rarely even put music on while the kids are away at school–and the advent of summer vacation always makes me feel a little panicky.
I was feeling all of this when I took my younger two to their bus stop this morning. There’s been something special to remember or pack extra for every day for the last three weeks, it seems. I always wonder why teachers do this at the end of the school year–all these trips and outings and special projects and could parents send money for this and come in for this…Though it does make summer seem more relaxing.
Anyway, I scrambled at the last minute to pack a swimsuit and towel for the Kindergartener who is supposed to go to the splashpad today (although weather was calling for rain and I knew it would probably be rained out), and talked with the third grader who wants me to make caramel corn for his class’s movie day tomorrow. And underneath it all was the thought of the writing I won’t be able to finish this week and the mountain of laundry that needs folding.I kissed my kids and sent them off into the bus. There’s a walking path near my house, and as I briskly headed back home towards silence and my to-do list, I found my feet turning on an impulse to go down the path instead.
And there I found strawberries.
One of my favorite things about this path is that strawberry plants grow alongside it, and the ones in the underbrush missed by the municipal mower produce these tiny, sweet, wild strawberries.
Every spring, I watch for the clusters of trefoil leaves and the little white strawberry flowers. A few weeks ago, I found some of the early green strawberries, and for a full week or so, my daughter and I were taking daily walks to watch them grow and look for ripe berries.
It was too soon then, of course, and in the interim, with the end-of-school-year busy-ness, I’d stopped looking.
But then, today, I followed an inward, impulsive prompt and walked down the path, and there they were.
I picked strawberries and daisies and the rain started to fall on me–big, sparsely spaced drops, and I remembered that not all is broken. The earth still brings forth fruit, untended and uncalled for, in a little echo of Eden.
God’s providence extends beyond strawberries and into our brokenness and loss. It extends to my Opa, gone to join his Anna, my Oma. It extend to those of us who mourn. There’s joy amidst sadness in grieving together with your loved ones, and I know there will be as much laughter as tears when I see my family this week.
And today, for me, there were strawberries in the weeds.