Running Home: The Comfort Of His Refuge (Part 2)
The tragedy unfolded a week before my sister’s birthday. Momma had bought Mavarine the Molly doll that she so desperately wanted, but the following weekend proved to be some of the hardest days of our lives. One minute we were having fun, celebrating as a family, then within a matter of seconds, she was gone.
The next time we saw Mavarine, she was laid peacefully in an open casket with a gentle netting hung over her face, she wore a pale pink dress with the precious doll tucked securely at her side. Seeing her was hard on all of us. I was just a kid, but I knew what losing her meant.
Momma stood in silence, frozen with grief and unable to speak. She held onto my hand ever so tightly in those few days. Dad wore a face as hard as stone. Momma couldn’t understand why, and that only added tension to their grief as a couple. I don’t think he knew what to say, or how to help. He knew how to be strong for his family. Dad had gone through enough on his own, being the one to catch Mavarine as she fell back into his arms on the street.
They fussed at each other for days. The day of the wake surely gave way to the saddest exchange of words that I’d ever heard from the two I admired most.
Why won’t you talk to me about it?” Momma hissed at dad while she tugged at his arm. “We need each other, we’ve always had each other. I could always count on ya, and the minute I start cryin’ you just walk off.” Momma’s voice turned to a broken whisper as people started to walk in. She wiped her tear-stricken face with a handkerchief from her purse.
I don’t think I want to right yet.” Dad replied wearily, his strong demeanor relenting slightly. ” This day is hard enough for us both, so why don’t we just talk about it later?”
Dad inched away from momma, as he felt the need to give her some space as they reached their seats in the front row. The wake was a small gathering in the old family home. The funeral would be the following day at the old country church where momma and dad met.
“When will that be?” Momma replied her voice still quiet as she faced dad, fresh tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.
“I don’t know.” Dad patted the seat next to him with a sigh, as momma sat down and watched the rest of the family come to pay their respects to the precious soul that was lost.
The sound of Pastor Perry clearing his throat pulled Gordon out of his memory, and back to present day.
“I can’t imagine having to bury your child, after all your momma went through, that’s too deep.” Men don’t do emotion well, I can tell ya that.” Pastor Perry shook his head sadly, as he took a sip of coffee. “But your momma needed someone. She needed that comfort. And she couldn’t get it from your dad.
My own coffee had gotten cold. ” I’m sorry. I lost my train of thought. I still can’t talk about it much. Even though I was little, that left a mark on me. It really did. Seeing momma relive it every day for the longest time…”
Pastor Perry placed a comforting hand on my shoulder as I saw a tear fall down his face. “Yeah, it’s too much. I’m so sorry.”
“You need to know, it’s important.” I reassured him and continued on with the story.
The whole family never was the same. I think Aunt Della felt guilty. “If I hadn’t asked ya’ll to come to the parade, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s all my fault.” She collapsed on the floor, sobbing inconsolably after everyone had left except for my uncles.
“Don’t blame yourself. There’s nothing nobody could do.” Uncle Will told her as he scooped her into his arms, and gently rocked her.
Mamaw Sylvia always resembled an empty shell of herself from that moment forward. How could a family move on from something like this? How could they live?
All of us cousins played together in silence. Nothing felt right without Mavarine. We would live on as a family, but would we do more than barely exist?
Two weeks passed before I knew it. Momma and dad started to open up to each other more a little at a time, though dad still wasn’t ready to share his emotions just yet. Another change had come. If momma and dad had shown me anything, it was that sometimes life was the very definition of unforeseeable. I sat in the same spot near the bedrooms to eavesdrop one night as my beloved sister and I had done so many times before.
“I want my little girl back! I can’t take it no more. I need to see her!” Momma leaned into Dad’s chest as she sobbed loudly. “I just can’t take being here no more in this house!”
“I know.” Dad replied softly, as he stroked her long black hair. “I know we are supposed to have faith and keep livin’, but how do you wake up everyday, how do you breathe?”
Momma’s stifled breaths brought a tear to my eye. ” We have to keep being parents to two kids, even though we only have one. I don’t know how to do it Frank!” Momma’s voice grew shaky, ringing with unthinkable pain.
“I know honey.” Dad said while he held her. “Maybe we should move back near our folks for a while. I know how much you love the city, but a little fresh air couldn’t hurt. We could both use a change of scenery.”
Momma turned to look up at Dad with inquisitive eyes. “You’ve not cried once since she’s been gone.”
Dad let out a sigh. “I’m not ready.”
Momma hugged him again. “Well, I think movin’ is a good idea. I just wish life would be normal again. I’m sorry I’ve been so hard on you lately.
Dad smiled and kissed her softly. “We still have each other and Gordo, who’s quite the listener.”
He motioned towards where I was, his eyes on me as I quickly sprang back to bed. Both of them let out the first laugh in what seemed like forever.
The next few weeks saw us move back to the farm, and back into the familiarity of country life, at least for momma and dad. We all felt it could be a source of refuge, and a safe haven made for healing. I think they were both glad that I would have some farm memories too. Life would never be the same, but the Lord had always provided, and this situation would prove to be no different. He would always listen. He would always be enough. We would always find comfort in His refuge.
“In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalm 62:7 King James Version)
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