Six boxes. Our family just moved to a new house this past weekend and all that’s left at our previous house is six dusty, tattered boxes of my late husband’s treasures. I donated at least a dozen boxes of books and a random smattering of home décor from my other life. I feel like I have made steady progress over these last few months. Yet I’m still paralyzed by these final boxes.
My fingers linger over his favorite sweatshirts, t-shirts, and his high school letterman jacket. I keep wondering if these are precious or pointless. Will my daughters need a hug from their daddy in the future? Will they wrap themselves in his jacket on prom night and feel him close? These are the decisions that leave me heavy and decision-fatigued. My mind swirls with a thousand questions and angles to look at each piece.
Another box is full of letters and cards given to me at his funeral. These are handwritten stories that form the tapestry of his legacy. A student who still remembers the way he made her laugh in math class. An athlete who made a choice to become a coach because of the way my husband poured into him when he was a troubled teen. A colleague who met my husband a few mornings a week to pray for students and their families.
September 9 is my husband’s four-year heaveniversary, and I can hardly believe the work God has done in my family and heart these past four years. We have learned to move forward. There were days when I never believed I could live without him. The grief was so heavy I felt like I was walking around carrying a backpack of heavy boulders. I couldn’t imagine a new life for my three daughters and me.
Then God came in gently and said,
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)
Indeed, He has. God provided a new husband and daddy for us. Shawn just happens to be one of my late husband’s best friends. He journeys with us daily through the grief and the unexpected joy. In this season, God also opened the door for my three girls to attend the Christian school where their daddy was a student and teacher for years. His character was formed in those classrooms and halls. He invested in countless people there, and now teachers will invest in my sweet daughters in much the same way.
Moving is hard at the base level. It’s exhausting to pack up your life when life is still moving forward. Whether you are single, married, have children or grandchildren, it takes time and emotional energy to categorize things and put them in boxes. Sometimes we are forced to move because of a traumatic event – the death of a spouse, the loss of a job, a divorce, some other kind of sudden need. Then grief becomes tangled in the process of moving as well.
Press in. Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s ok to stand in the garage and let your tears mingle with the dust and memories. Our human tendency is to turn away from the pain, but there’s a cleansing that can happen in that space. Embrace it. Carving out time to sit with the boxes and the memories for a moment could be your path to healing.
Moving and transition stirs up something deep inside our souls. Sometimes grief, insecurity, and even doubt creep in. We agonize about the details and wonder what the future holds. These are the times we need to lean into Jesus. We need to remind ourselves that He goes before us. He lights the path with His glory if we have courage to move with Him.
I know it’s time to release, to step forward again, not to move on and forget my husband, but to live out his legacy with love. I know it’s time to step into the abundance of this new season God has for me.
One of my favorite parts of our new house are the balconies. This morning I swung open the door to the balcony outside my bedroom and a cool breeze kissed my shoulders. I saw the outline of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance and the pastel colors of the sunrise swelling above them. God reminded me that a new day is dawning, and I’m moving forward.