One of the tulips at Camille's funeral. It looks a little heart shaped don't you think?
"Oh Honey, I can't believe it has been more than a year since you have come for a massage," my mother-in-law's massage therapist says to me as I arrive for the massage she set up as a treat for me. "Yes," I say. Sometimes, when my emotions are close to the surface I find it easier to say as little as possible.
"Well we are going to have some work to do on you then," she says as we enter the massage room. "So tell me, does it hurt anywhere or are you just here for relaxation?"
A simple daily question. "Does it hurt anywhere?" My insides scream "YES! It hurts everywhere. Especially this gaping whole in the middle of me where Camille is supposed to be clinging to me. Is there a reflexology spot that will alleviate that pain?" I pause taking a more physical assessment.
"No, I am just here to ... relax," I conclude. Relax. Yes that word seems a bit foreign to me lately. Pleasure ... Enjoyment ... Relaxation. I am going to have to relearn to be friends with these words. I am working on that. I know Camille didn't want those things to leave me when she left. I am working on it for her and for my family. It is coming ... slowly.
I strip down and get under the sheet. The music is soothing. My massage therapist returns to the room and warms her hands and begins her rub down. I am lying on my back and she is working on my head and face.
"Does it hurt anywhere?" Her question echos in my mind. I swing between ironic inner laughter and deep searing pain in response to each echo. I struggle to keep my emotions in check. She obviously knows nothing of the recent events in my life.
Her warm hands apply pressure to my forehead as two traitorous tears escape my stronghold and role slowly down my face as she massages and warms. I consider telling her to excuse my emotions as I am prone to cry when I am relaxed lately. As I consider this I feel the weight of the burden of my sorrow heavy on my chest. It is too large a burden to pass casually to an unsuspecting stranger. I keep my mouth closed determined not to allow anymore escapees.
"I see you are hydrating well. What are you doing for exercise?" she asks.
"Pilates," I reply. "Hydrating well," I think. "I guess that is one way to put it. I am certainly producing plenty of hydration."
I think of my older brother filling me a glass of water the week before and asking me if I was hydrating well. "At least 4 big cups of water a day," he told me handing me a full glass. He was worried about me. So was I. I took the water glad for the reminder to drink.
Back in the massage room I think "you need to do better at that Stephanie. With all the water going out you need to put more in."
The massage continues and again I hear the echo, "does it hurt anywhere?" I do another assessment. There is not a single pain in my body. I barely feel the pleasure of the massage. The storm of my emotions has receded and I feel the anesthetic numbness God provides us in times of shock. It is a respite from the storm of emotions I deal with when I am faced with the reality of my loss.
I await the sweet peace of acceptance in humility that follows these cycles. It always comes after the numbness. In the numbness, I am able to gather my strength and seek the Lord. In this almost out of body state, I feel the ministering of nearby angels and drink deeply from their wells of strength. I "hydrate." Then I am more able to reenter reality with an eternal perspective of acceptance and even joy.
Yes, joy. Joy that I have children. Joy that I was blessed to be Camille's mother. Joy that I have a daughter working on our behalves beyond the veil. Joy to know what good company she is in with wonderful ancestors. Joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ.