On Easter weekend my sister Stephanie and I decided to take the children to indoor track. It is a tactical way of letting kids run of their remaining spits of steam before bedtime. Four children, and one baby strapped in a stroller, exploded on to the track and headed for the massive pole vault pits.
Stephanie and I took our time walking within the bounds of lanes three and four. Her youngest Gigs resisted keeping up with the older kids to instead beg his mother to run with him. From yards behind, I watched her try to keep his excited pace with stiff movements. Legs rotating in circular motions, arms in angles, head slipping to the side. There was my sister, alive. Running.
The residual trauma of the past six months had not exited my system. Either had the adrenalin from our public affair. I had prayed and wished for the new normal to present itself, and I waited while waking with a tight jaw and a suspicious soul. My heart would not believe what I saw with my eyes. There was progress.
There is progress. See, said my mind to my heart. See, here she is, with her children. And you are with your healthy baby. And there isn't so much change to your sister that you can't recognize her eternal essence.
For months I had juggled worries. Thoughts of tragedy circled my head, death or devastation. A week where I felt premonitions that a great earthquake would split our home in half. Or that my husband wouldn't make it home from work one day. That my sister would never again feel hope.
For weeks I missed children in my home. I wanted to brush their little fingernails and snuggle them to sleep. Mornings were lonely without audible demands with incessant needs. Drinks of water or bathroom aid. Our threesome were left to reinvent our lives. Specifically, what to do with all the time.
For days I didn't sleep. Bed hopping from one empty room to another, I tried to get comfortable. But comfort was not found on hard mattresses in the middle of quiet nights.
I felt empty.
On the vault pit the children played werewolves. They use soft hands to tackle and claw at each other as they rolled along on the soft padding. At one point Jane needed to use the restroom. I told Steph that I would run Jane down to the facilities if she'd watch the baby.
"If he starts to cry and holds his breath, he'll most likely faint. Just let him do his thing." Steph looked worried. Trauma is still close to her. She can sense it overcoming her in certain situations. But, she's come a long way from the days when watching my baby crawl incited fear in her heart.
When the bathroom break was over I could hear my baby's cry echoing through the massive facility. I knew he'd be alright, but for my sister's sake, I didn't want her to feel the panic of watching my baby turn blue. I started running, as fast as I ever have since giving birth. I suddenly became aware of sections of my body I have since neglected. Look at me move, I thought to myself. I am moving and moving fast.
Rounding the corner I was stopped by a passerby.
"What happened to your friend?" She was a fifty-something woman with amber-colored hair, wearing a flower print skirt with running shoes. She looked concerned and licked her lips.
"My sister, actually."
"She was in a small plane crash and was burned over eighty percent of her body."
"Oh how awful!" Licking lips.
"Yes, but she's alive." I said, feeling it for the first time.
I caught up with our party just in time to see that Stephanie had the baby out of his stroller. She held him on his lap, something she's never been able to do since the accident.
"He started to hold his breath, so I blew in his face." She told me nonchalantly. No sweat on her forehead, no trepidation in her voice. Is this the new normal?
I started to suggest we go, but the woman had rotated the track and was headed for Stephanie. People feel drawn to tell her their life story, their tragedy, their personal crashes. This woman talked of a husband who left her after five children and having to put herself through school. The more I listened, the more I felt that she had earned a right to wear floral skirts with running shoes and lick her lips all she wanted.
The visit ended with Gigs needing a drink of water. We headed to the doors nearby a drinking fountain. I kept ahead with the older children and turned to see Stephanie trying to manage lifting her solid two-year old up for his mouth to reach the stream of water. For a second, I thought of jogging back to help. Instead, I watched their struggle, ending with Gigs thirst being quenched.
"The thing is," my sister said as she caught up with us "every day I do something that I didn't think I could do. I didn't think I could do what I just did." I knew what she meant. Everyday a willing heart was reuniting with a feeble body to make a miracle. To a small degree, I felt it too.
For the next few days we celebrated Easter. There were cupcakes, egg hunts and bunny ears. We honored our devotion to a Lord who overcame death by reuniting his spirit with a glorified body. We expressed gratitude for our inevitable resurrection, the restoration of our souls. We know it will come to everyone who has ever lived, or who will live. It is a gift from a loving God to his children and will come at a time after this world's books are written.
But in my heart, I celebrated the symbolic resurrections. My sister also overcame death, not to a glorified body, but one that is reuniting with her renewed spirit. And perhaps I have overcome emotional death, not to a perfect spirit, but one that is learning to feel her body again. For our faith in Jesus Christ, we are learning to be raised.
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