More Conversations with Lucas

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Today is Lucas’s first day of Kindergarten. It’s his first full day experience with school going from 8:56am-3:59pm (yes, that’s really the official time!). I have so many mommy emotions to deal with. Someone stole my tiny baby boy and replaced him with this big, semi-independent six-year-old. He’s more than ready for this phase of life, but me? Well, I’m working on it.

The good news is that I finally have a solid stretch of time to attend to a lengthy to-do list! So naturally I’m going to ignore that and sit on the couch thinking about Lucas and writing about him šŸ™‚ Ā Here are some funny conversations we’ve had with him the past few months.

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L: Mommy! While Daddy was hugging you I ran upstairs and hid your Mother’s Day surprise in my room!

B: Oh wow! Okay, I won’t go in there.

L: It’s okay, you can go in there because you can’t see it. It’s in my closet behind the sign that Uncle Tony made for me. On Sunday Daddy and I will see if you can find it.

J: Um…

L: Don’t worry Daddy! I didn’t tell her what it was.

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L: Mommy, why don’t you ever take a shower in this bathroom anymore?

B: The shower is broken and we haven’t gotten it fixed.

L: Why?

B: Mostly because it costs a lot of money to get things like that fixed and we don’t really need to use that shower.

L: Oh. But I know Mommy!! You can have my tooth fairy money to fix it! Would that be enough?

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L: Mommy! Come look at this! [holds up his potato chip]

B: Okay, what am I looking at?

L: My chip! Look!

B: Okay……..????

L: Can’t you see it’s shaped just like Vermont?

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L: Mommy, Grandma Waterloo said I have eagle eyes. What does that mean?

B: That means you have really good eyesight, because eagles can see tiny things from very far away.

L: Oh! Does Grandma know I have really good earsight and nosesight too?

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J: Lucas, do you know one way in which you and Mommy are alike and I’m different?

L: Mommy and I are smart and you’re forgetful?

J:…Um…I was going to say you and Mommy were born in Michigan and I was born in Ohio.

L: Oh.

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B: Lucas, come quick! There’s a wild turkey in the street!

L: Whoa!

B: Or maybe that’s a pheasant? No, it’s a wild turkey. I think. I’m not sure.

L: I love it so much! I’m going to say thanks to God. Dear Jesus, thanks for sending a wild turkey but it might be a pheasant to Middleton so we could see it. Amen.

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L: Mommy, look! There are dandelions in our backyard!

B: Yeah, I see those.

L: Wow, this is our lucky day!

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B: …and when Joseph was in the far away place, God was still with him. Isn’t that great?

L: Yes! And when Joy and Bing Bong were in the memory dump, God was still with them.

B: Um, well…

L: And when Joy and Sadness got sucked out of headquarters God was still there.

B: Uh…

L: And when Riley moved to a new house, God was still with them in California!

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J: It’s time to go but I have to get something out of my car.

L: I thought we were taking your car!

J: It’s kind of smelly right now. I think Mommy would prefer if we took hers instead.

L: Oh. WellĀ IĀ don’t mind smelly as long as it’s not too smelly.

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L: Mommy, do you know what we forgot to do yesterday?

B: What?

L: Read Bible stories after lunch.

B: Oh, right. Let’s be sure to do that today. We can also read that book about hermit crabs I have in my office if you want.

L: Okay. But let’s read the Bible stories first because I like God better than hermit crabs.

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L: Mommy, did you know monarch butterflies are poisonous?

B: They are?

L: Yeah, they’re poisonous if animals eat them. But don’t worry, I’d rather stick with sandwiches anyway.

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That’s all the conversations I have for today, and it’s only 11:30 am! T minus four hours until I can leave to pick up that sweet and funny boy from school. I guess maybe I’ll have a glance at that to-do list afterall. Happy September everyone!

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Sheri’s Answers

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A few weeks ago, Jaime, Lucas and I left for our annual beach weekend in western Michigan. We started this tradition when Lucas was three and now it’s something we all look forward to. We’re fortunate that my parents live just a little more than a half hour from Lake Michigan so we have the most wonderful place to stay!

This year we left in the early afternoon on Friday and drove straight to the beach. I figured we would have a few hours of sunlight left to enjoy the sand and watch the waves. It had been cold and windy earlier in the day so we knew we wouldn’t be able to swim but the air was fresh and the water and sky were so beautiful.

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It was only a short time before the park emptied out, and finally, we were the only three left on the beach. “Mommy, I just love watching the waves,” Lucas told me as he snuggled on my lap. Me too. It was wonderful.

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As I gazed at the expanse of the lake, it struck me how peaceful it was on the beach. It wasn’t quiet–the waves were choppy and rough and they crashed forcefully onto the shore. Seagulls were squawking and scuffling. Ā But still it was peaceful, natural, lovely. A gentle breeze danced around us and I found myself breathing deeply of air that felt clean and pure. I could practically feel my heart disarm, setting aside its indignant complaints and surrendering to God’s peace. Peace amidstĀ the turbulence.

The words of the old hymn, Be Still My Soul, came into my mind, and I was transported back, again, to the summer when Sheri was dying. That hymn was meaningful to our family around that time. I quoted from it in a letter I wrote to Sheri just before she died. I posted it on my refrigerator as a way to be strengthened in my grief. My sister Julie wrote a beautiful piece incorporating its words on the first anniversary of Sheri’s death. Sheri died on September 4, 2004–thirteen years ago, today. It’s so hard to believe she’s been gone that long. I miss her so much.

I think of Sheri all the time, perhaps even more now that I find myself wrestling so much with the effects of this disease. I often wonder what advice she might have for me. Her faith in God sustained her, this I know. I saw it with my own eyes. But would she have specific suggestions for me? Would she attempt to answer the unanswerable questions? She fought through a seemingly endless string of challenges in her life without bitterness, and left a mark on this world that no one who knew her would deny. She was so faithful and so incredibly strong. But I know it was hard. She told me it was hard and I saw her struggle. I imagine that sometimes, when the house was quiet and the night was dark, she too felt overwhelmed by the burden of the fight and surrendered to the tears. Knowing that makes me feel close to her, even though 13 years have passed since I’ve talked to her and touched her. Ā Sometimes I just go ahead and ask her the questions. I don’t know if she can hear me, and I know for sure I won’t hear an audible reply, but sometimes just giving voice to them brings me comfort.

Sheri trusted God. She had hope, she had confidence in His goodness and love, and she knew God was in control. She knew He would give her the strength she needed to live and love fully until the day He took her home. And He did. There were good days, great days! Days filled with joy and hope and love. She touched so many lives and accomplished so much in her 35+ years here on earth. There were bad days full of hospitals and doctors, medicines, loss, and pain. Some days were downright ugly and filled with darkness and despair. But the beauty of her spirit is what we remember most of all–how hard she fought, how victorious she was, how strong, how loving, how generous. We remember those things because she refused to be defined by the disease that plagued her. At times cystic fibrosis ruled her body but she staunchly refused to allow it to break her spirit. Her husband Pete once told me that rather than allowing CF to define her, Sheri defined CF. Cystic Fibrosis on Sheri’s terms.

As the lyrics of the hymn scrolled through my mind that evening on the beach, I began to think that the words contained some of the answers she might give me, answers to the questions of how to weather the losses and disappointments, how to face my fears, how to resist bitterness and choose thankfulness and joy even when I feel battered and bruised. “Be still my soul” is a good start.

“Be Still, My Soul”
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1752
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1855

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

I love you so much, Sheri. Thanks for loving me. Thank you for being a great example, leaving for us a legacy that continues to guide and inspire our journeys of life and faith. I’m so grateful for the 26 years I had with you, and that I’ll see you again, when the vale of tears is lifted and love’s purest joys are restored. Until then, you will remain forever part of the fabric of my being, my dear and beloved big sister.

Sheri

Sheri Leigh VanBruggen, September 26, 1968 – September 4, 2004