We spent last weekend in Wisconsin Dells with Tim's sister and family. It was great fun for the kids. Part of the incentive for going was because of a generous, anonymous gift of money with instructions to spoil the kids. We would never have considered something like this before. We don't usually do vacations because we tend to be very practical. So this last weekend was extravagant by our definition.
It was a long, exhausting weekend, both emotionally and physically. The Dells is not a restful vacation, btw!!! :) Dh and I had deep joy watching the kids have fun, knowing that these are wonderful memories for them. But every moment of joy for us was, and is, fused with grief. Grief that Matt wasn't there with us. Bittersweet in seeing Matt's cousin, only a year younger, playing with our two youngest boys, and wishing it was Matt playing with them.
We had to drive through Rochester on the way to the Dells, too, and that was excruciating. We hadn't been there since July 29, the day Matt died. There were many tears and the wrenching pain in our hearts was intense.
I am still so perplexed as to how joy and grief can coexist. I am reminded of a saying a friend from our GriefShare group shared about experiences after grief. She said, "The highs aren't as high and the lows aren't as low." I'm finding that to be true.
But for all the sorrow we have experienced, God has been good. We were delighted to see a cardinal at a rest stop on the way. It was rather funny, however, because it took us a few seconds to realize it wasn't real. It was a wood painted one propped in a tree. But we felt it was God's little way of reassuring us of His love and telling us that Matt was near. The cardinal has become our comfort "sign" since the beginning. It was such a blessing to be able to spend the weekend with family, too. Our time in the Dells wouldn't have been nearly as fun without them!
We got home Monday evening and took Tuesday off to catch up on cleaning and laundry. While going through the mail, I came across a brochure for Trout Lake camp. Matt loved going to Trout Lake. When we received his paychecks from Pioneer in August, we decided to put them in a fund for Trout Lake camp for the rest of the kids to eventually attend.
One of the "tips" from GriefShare was to plan for significant dates so that you're not ambushed by grief. In doing so, you'll certainly still have sorrow, but at least not be ambushed by it. I have been struggling for several weeks with what to do in May for Matt's birthday. I had already checked with one retreat center up north about staying there the first week of May, but was disappointed to learn that they wouldn't extend stays outside of their scheduled dates. When I saw the brochure for Trout Lake, I checked the dates, but was disheartened to see there were none scheduled for the first week of May. However, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask, so I emailed them to inquire of the possibility of staying there. I wasn't too hopeful, so when I opened the reply email, I was overcome with emotion when I read that yes, they would accommodate us. I spent the next several hours crying. Crying with gratitude to God. It is so perfect. It is God. He is so good. Again, I am awestruck at how grief can be melded with joy. The LORD is near and continues to bring healing. (Psalm 34:18, 147:3)