SGLY: Now these three remain
I sat on an uneven stump by a disheveled fire pit. The ashes in the pit were as cold as the grass tipped with the morning frost. As the sun grew bolder, the frost melted and bathed the blades until they showed themselves shiny green once again. However, the pit appeared as an ashtray loitered with evidence of more eventful days - remnants of blackened twigs resting in their shallow grave like cigarette butts.
My fingers curled around the warmth of the mug I held with both hands as I looked at the ground and realized I felt more like the pit than the pasture. My skin was pale, and my energy flat. Pain reminded me of my living as my head ached and my muscles and mind burned with fever. Having COVID for Christmas was a cruel gift.
"You must get fresh air every day," the doctor told me. I reminded myself of this prescription as I glanced over the empty stumps circling the fire pit. There was a day when family members filled this circle with s'mores and smiles. Just sitting so near to a memory made my mouth water: I could taste the sweetness of the melted chocolate and marshmallow. For a brief moment, the voices of loved ones and the warmth of the fire returned to me.
"How are you doing, Tennie?"
At first, I thought I was slow to come back from my daydream, but as my mom continued to speak, I realized she had come outside to check on me. Only my mom calls me Tennie. Hearing her voice speak my childhood nickname brought a flash of color upon my face. At once I felt younger than my age and in much greater need of my mother than I wanted to admit.
I remained socially distant on my island of ash. Between us, the occasional shadow of a bird flying overhead marked the sun-kissed pasture. Mom sat on the back porch in a white rocker wearing a white waffle-weave robe and a blue facemask. We sat with intermittent moments of silence speckled with small talk.
My eyes squinted in the light and distance as I looked at her – this woman who has loved me all the days of my life. How quickly and permanently life changes while we busy ourselves in temporary seconds. My mom gave me her pair of matching white rockers years ago when she left all to care for her ailing mother in a different town. A month ago, her mother passed. And now, my mom has returned, living with me until she can find a place of her own. Her white rocker's familiar rhythm comforts her once again, and I yearn to occupy its empty twin positioned beside her.
Decorated on the other side of the window behind my mom in the living room is our Christmas tree. Soft, green needles adorn sentimental ornaments from when the kids were still kids. I laugh recalling my oldest “kid” thinking as a child that the smell of Douglas fir was Santa's cologne. Now, that "kid" is home on a short holiday break from the Army. Unfortunately, I am missing
the time I had imagined sharing with him due to being ill. Time is a funny thing. It goes on without our permission, making us realize how little control we have.
"It’s a pretty day," I say, willing myself to speak positively.
"It sure is, Tennie," Mom replies.
My focus floats to the green grass at my feet. Soft blades remind me of the Douglas fir standing proudly in my living room, warmed by colorful lights and an embroidered tree skirt. I glance once more at the back porch, this time changing my focus from the empty rocker to the rocker beside it occupied by a wonderful woman in a white-waffle robe wearing a blue face mask – a woman who came out for no other purpose than to check on me.
Focus is a funny thing. It is within our control; we give permission to what we choose to dwell upon in the time we are given.
I return my eyes to the fire pit as I rise to my feet. I now see a circle of love and remnants of stories told when the fire was bright and the years were younger. Looking at my mom, I see a protective distance rather than a separation, for a mother's love knows no separation from her child. And I feel this truth as a mother as well, focusing now on how thankful I am that my oldest son is home for even a short while even if I cannot hug him.
I wait for my mom to return inside the house before making my way back to my room where I am self-isolating. Before entering the house, I sit in the twin rocker and rock slowly, looking out to the uneven stump where I had just been. I lean over and touch the arm of the now-empty rocker beside me. "Love you, Mom," I say as I get up and go inside, having renewed FAITH for better days to come.
Before I shut the door to my bedroom, I take in a deep breath and allow Santa's cologne to tickle my nose. A soft smile comes through my eyes and falls gently upon my cheek, washing the morning's frost from my perspective and giving me HOPE for the upcoming year.
I rest in the truth that even though life can change in a second, I know life is more than seconds when Christ has promised us eternity. And in this promise, the greatest gift is all around: LOVE.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.