and the blessing of opening that door, that little love note from God was this-
I sang Max to sleep tonight-for the first time in nearly 2 years, I sang my son to sleep.
I don’t do that anymore.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, I didn’t decide the day they died that I wasn’t that kind of mama anymore. It just didn’t occur to me anymore that I still had a little person who wanted, who needed, whose heart would be comforted by the melody only mama could sing for him.
Before, I sang them all to sleep. All 5 of them. It was my favorite thing to do at the end of all the crazy days…I could rock in my chair for hours singing to my little people. When I could slip away from the little people, I’d hover in the doorway of the big girls' room, "Castle on a Cloud" and "City of God" slipping from my lips into their softly settling hearts... I’d make up songs, change words to the ones I held dear, alter the tune, I’d do absolutely anything I could to-
just. keep. singing.
Not one thing was more precious to my mama heart than those sleepy snuggles, the soft and gentle caress of a chubby hand on my face, whispers of “i love you, mama,” and finally the heavy weight of a wholly loved, completely cherished child softened into slumber.
I still rocked Sammy sometimes, right up until he died. Not in the chair anymore, just in my arms when he’d scooch into my lap, early in the dawn of morning as I read my Bible or late at night when he just couldn’t settle into sleep. He didn’t live long enough to outgrow his mama.
How I desperately wish he had.
How. I. wish. it.
All around me, their friends are growing up, just like my surviving children.
Just like they would be.
They grow leaner & taller, chubby baby faces long gone. They’re moving on, the memories of their time with Mercy and Sam fading and growing dim, every day a little further away from the time before The Accident.
When all was right in the world and my heart was full.
Tonight I put my Max to bed-
He never slept alone before The Accident and really hasn’t since. From the moment he was conceived until the day Mercy and Sam died, Max never slept all night alone. Not even once. I will never, ever forget the sight of him sleeping halfway into the night alone when Charles and I finally reached our children in Texas the night of The Accident. And immediately, Charles laid with our surviving son, so he wouldn’t be alone. So neither of them, my husband or my son, would be alone when morning came and we woke to the reality that this wasn't a nightmare or simply a very awful dream-
it was real.
So tonight, when Charley was blessed to have her oldest friend Hailey for a rare sleepover, it was finally Max’s time to sleep alone.
And that broken hearted little boy both shattered his mama’s heart to pieces and filled it all over again when he let me sing to him, then wrapped his precious arms around my neck, pressed his cheek into mine and whispered-“i love you, mama.”
It will never matter how much time will pass or how old I become. Until the day I meet my Savior face to face, I will yearn, mourn, weep and long for the days when my heart was truly and completely full.
And for so many years, when my heart was full, we seemed to always celebrate in one very special place.
Today we were blessed to share in a new chapter in that special place that holds so many memories and laughter- and quite frankly, tears- for our family.
I don’t remember the first meal we ever had at Rucker John’s. I just know we must have looked a hot mess, because we absolutely were back then. We had 2 squirmy babies, an unruly 3 year old, a shy and reticent 7 year old and I was probably hugely pregnant with Sammy. They must have made an impression-because we just kept going back. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, family visits, date nights and “just because mama is a wreck and can’t cook” nights and some homeschool "field trip" lunches thrown in for good measure. But most memorably, "Daddy is home from deployment and everyone survived" nights!
So many memories wrapped up in that one place. I distinctly remember how walking back in there for the first time “after” was one of the most painful, yet comforting, moments of my life. As we walked in that door we’d passed through so many times, a flood of memories rained down and blanketed my scattered and discordant mind.
I couldn’t even get through the door that day without rivers of sorrow covering my face. Mine mingling with all the girls at the front. The ones who had accommodated my picky table choices, fetched countless crayons and high chairs, bumped us up a spot or 2 in line when the kids were restless and filled their chubby hands with so many mints…
Walking that night through the soft light and the quiet chatter of so many others, making their memories and enjoying the night, my own eyes were blinded by tears, my ears filled with the rushing of my blood pumping so hard to keep up with my racing heart.
I know we walked all the way through the dining room that night, I distinctly remember it-we pulled out our stools, falling into them with a heaviness that defied how small we felt. But when I look back, it feels like one second we walked through the door and the next we were just there. Stunned and struck speechless by thoughts that trailed memories and wishes and what ifs. I wish I could remember who was behind the bar that night, but the only thing I remember is our friend, Mark Sheppard, walking up behind us and putting his hands on our shoulders, not saying a word, just standing with us, crying with us, and for us, and for them.
And in the time since, every time we have walked through those doors, we have felt loved, welcomed and remembered. We’ve been hugged, we’ve been held and we’ve been cherished.
So today, I couldn’t fathom how I’d feel walking back into a place that held so much of our past when I knew that on the “outside" it would look so different. I’m an incredibly visual person and I hold so much in my heart with what I see. The long window booth where we sat when we had that first dinner home from deployment when the bill just happened to be “taken care of…,” the elevated booth where I sat with the kids having lunch the first time I met precious Ann O’Malley, my mama’s “long lost twin,” the "mirror table" just outside the kitchen that made it so easy for whatever poor server got stuck with our high maintenance people to just pop into the kitchen for whatever we were asking for now…the big booth in front that served as the Dobler/Mac/Lewis/Warden spot for so many family gatherings, and the long table in the back where we had our last RJ’s meal as a whole family-when Mercy dumped water all over her dress and I just gathered her up and zipped on over to that little tye dye store to buy her a new one (much to her delight!), and lastly-the rounded booth in the front where we sat for countless simple family meals-I can’t begin to number how many times we sat and where. I just know that a piece of the heart of our WHOLE family lived there then, lives there now and and always will.
Well-you know what I felt walking into the “all new” Rucker John’s tonight?
Exactly the same as I did every other time. Like I was coming home.
So, THANK YOU-each and every one of you that gives your time, your talent and most importantly, your hearts, to serving others and making memories. To giving hugs and whispered encouragements, and for granted grace on tough days. You’re truly more special than you know.
Thank you Polly & Chris, Mark & Laurel, Mark Machado and Chris Winstead, Wallace and Julian, Caitlin and Vanessa, Cassy and Billy, Brittany and Janelle, Sam and Amy, Cortney and Billy, Lauren and Hannah, Brandy and and oh. my. goodness- every single one of you, past and present! (If I try to name you all, I’ll fail epically, so grant me a little MORE grace if you would.)
Cheers to your new chapter and giving all the glory to the One who sees and knows for orchestrating and ordaining the past, the present and the future.
And here’s to “raising people” and starting all over-
Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is greatest."
clan mac mama