I heard a song that reminded me of Andy, and I suddenly caught a faint whiff of his cologne as I was driving with the windows down. It took me back to those long, late night conversations on the back porch. The drinks, the hugs, the tears, the laughs.
The smell of fresh tomatoes at the produce stand made me homesick for the farm, the long walks with my grandpa, and the simple fun in summer nights spent under the stars. The texture of the vine sent me back to summers in the fields, picking and packing all day, with watermelon fights and four wheeler rides.
Sometimes I remember bits and pieces so vividly, so painfully real, that I am completely caught up in that moment again, and I feel like I am trapped, drowning, unable to breathe.
I was trying to tackle the piles of boxes that still need unpacking. I was sorting through piles of laundry that were just tossed in the closet to get them out of the way. I was feeling so strong, so motivated, so happy to actually be doing something and getting so much accomplished. And then I found them. My worn out, full of rips and holes, sewn back together three times and counting, almost completely thread bare favorite pair of jeans. I remembered.....and I thought my heart would explode inside my chest.
Twelve weeks ago. Twelve long Sundays ago. 11:15 AM, Sunday morning. Still in the dirty torn up jeans from the previous night's rodeo, still in the dusty boots I'd never even taken off, with barely brushed teeth and hair, I staggered through the front doors of the church with my sister's stuffed Ninja Turtle gripped tightly in my arms.
I was one of about seven people in the entire building, and I sat on the right side, in that same middle pew as always before. I was the only person on that side of the building. But I was there.
My head was spinning in circles, faster and faster and faster, as the choir echoed distantly through my mind.
Some glad morning, when this life is over, I'll fly away. A preacher I'd never seen before ended the song with a prayer as they all sat back down in their seats on the other side of the church.
Me. I was still there. In my middle pew on my own side of the church. Completely lost among the choir noise still echoing through my mind somewhere and staring at that first window that I couldn't see through. ...some glad morning... A crack in the white paint around that first window that I couldn't see through. That first window on my own side of the church. I was still there. Dirty, lost, and alone, but still there.
I cracked like the paint around the old window. They were returning to their seats. The preacher's prayer echoed through the building. And I crumbled around my turtle and cried. There were no more choir songs, no more preacher's prayers, no more rustle of people getting resituated. Nothing. Only dirty crying me, alone in my middle pew; my head still spinning faster and faster. The thicker the silence got, the harder the tears fell down, but I didn't care. It was just me and God in my middle pew.
A lady came over from the other side and sat beside me. She said she didn't want me to be alone. The tears kept on, and my head kept spinning. One by one the rest of the church members started making their way over to sit around me. My death grip on my turtle had already left my hands entirely white. They should have been tingly, like when your feet go to sleep, but I couldn't feel them anyway. Michelangelo was wet and snotty from my tears, but I didn't care. I couldn't feel it anyway.
As the congregation gathered around me, the preacher made his way through them. He squatted down in front of me and put his arms around me, praying and crying as he held me really tight. When he was done, I had finally stopped crying as hard, and he wiped away the rest of my tears as he talked to me. The rest of the church was nowhere around. I could feel some warm spots from their arms, but it was just me and this beacon of God.
It didn't change anything that had happened. It didn't make anything better, including my dirty tear-soaked self. But I had done as I was told. He told me to come, and I did. I knew that I needed something more than I'd ever needed it before, and He was the only way to get it. I was dirty and lost, but I had to do whatever I could to get as close to God as possible. I wasn't alone in my middle pew on my own side of the church. He was there, holding me tightly, just like that preacher I'd never seen before had done. Things weren't better, but things were going to be okay.
When the preacher stood up, he told the church that they wouldn't meet for an evening service. He wanted to be at the funeral home with my family, as well as anyone else there that felt like going. The next morning, as everyone was gathering into that little room, those choir sounds echoed around me again as that same song played over the speakers. Some glad morning, when this life is over.... It wasn't a glad morning though, and I couldn't bring myself to walk through those doors. As those words echoed, I sat on the couch and cried as I held my turtle and my Aunt Emma held me.
The past couple months since then, I've needed that something just as badly. Sometimes more, on occasion. But instead of simply dropping to my knees, I've found myself beginning to drop to a bottle. When I feel myself starting to crumble again, there's usually no one around to lean on, so instead of leaning on God, I dive into a bottle and lean against whatever is closest to hold me up.
I don't know if I'm trying to drink away the pain of everything that's happened, or the emptiness, or if I'm trying to drink away what I hate about myself and all that I've become since then, or something. Whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Instead of being drowned away, it's only rooting itself deeper and deeper with every drink.
Sometimes I do have fun with it--not really because of the drinking but just because I'm fun like that anyway. But it's not fun. It's not comforting. It's nothing. Nothing at all. Well, sometimes, it is enough that I can put myself in another mind frame for a while, where nothing has to be real if I don't want it to be. So sometimes it can be like nothing ever happened, and none of that stuff or those people even have to exist for the moment. Sometimes though it just magnifies everything, and everything plays again, faster and faster, over and over, like a worn out film strip through my head. Every time it gets longer and louder and more horrible and harder to bear, until I just break down and cry and scream and try to shake it out of my head. Sometimes it's the only way that anything feels real anymore.
Call me hypocritical, as some of you already have. I don't care. Ridicule me, talk some more trash, I don't care. I know that it's not the answer. I know it's not right. I know it's not helping anything. That's why I've always hated and avoided the stuff--because I know how people get sucked into it. But I'm trying, and I'm asking for help. I'm not asking you to listen or to understand. It doesn't matter if you understand. It doesn't matter what you think about any of it. All that matters is that I'm swallowing my pride enough to admit that I have fallen into something bad. Something that I can't seem to find my way out of. Swallowing my pride and asking for someone, anyone, to please pray for me because I know that I can't do this on my own......
I wrote this in October 2006, a few months after we lost F. That was one of the hardest, darkest times of my life. That is when I experienced my first truly broken heart. I threw myself head first into the deepest, darkest pit of grief, and I drank myself ever deeper with each passing week.
When I picked up those jeans, without even thinking, I was surrounded by the smells and sounds of that pew in that church. I could smell the rodeo dirt. I could smell the snot drenched turtle. I could smell the lady hugging me. I could hear those haunting words to the song that still gives me nightmares. It was so overpowering, so real, so knock me on my ass because it suddenly hurt so bad painful.
I couldn't even react. I couldn't think. I couldn't cry. I couldn't even breathe.
And then just as quickly as it came, it was gone.