Red Light

In our family, shouting "red light!" is the ultimate STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING RIGHT NOW. And I'm not proud to admit it, but it's equally effective on me, when Charlotte yells, "Mommy, RED LIGHT!" Usually, she wants me to wait for her to come down the stairs or something. And I obey--because, really, why shouldn't I wait for her?

The red light metaphor will come full circle. Wait for it . . . .

One weekend ago, our small, sweet church held a memorial service for one of its matriarchs. Pancreatic cancer took her quickly, leaving behind an entire congregation--and town, really--reeling with loss.

She was beloved, which became immediately apparent when her memorial service had to be held at the (much larger) Methodist church across the street from our little Civil War-era brick sanctuary, with its modest six or seven rows of pews.

Chris's mom happened to be in town at the time, so we were able to take a few hours to hit "pause" and attend the service. In true small-town fashion, as we entered the church and paid our respects to the good lady's husband, we ran into the local hairdresser who cuts (and POSSIBLY colors) the hair of Chris, Charlotte, and me.

We said hello, and she sadly declared, "I cut her hair for years." Say no more. We got it. She sat next to us, and we discussed our big plans for chopping off Charlotte's hair the following week, and heck, Chris had gotten his hair cut just that morning. Small town charm and chit-chat, even at a funeral, and I couldn't help but think, this never would never happen back where I come from. (And as someone never fully wooed by the East Coast, I'm thrilled when it scores its points.)

For some reason, the Methodist church initially threw me, and I had briefly forgotten that it was really the wee Presbyterian church propelling the service. And oh, what a sweet, love-filled service it was, packed beyond standing room. Men, some of whom I've never seen wear anything but an NFL jersey or jeans to church, wore formal suits--such was the respect this woman commanded. The choir sang its heart out, noticeably short an alto. It was all very sweet.

In noting that we didn't have to hire a babysitter, Chris and I thought a bit and realized that the last time we hired one was for the memorial for our good and oh so tragically young friend, Josh, who had passed away a year and a half before.

"It literally takes death for us to stop what we're doing and take a time-out," I told Chris. "We won't bother to deal with the logistics or expense of babysitters or time away unless--literally--someone has died. What does that mean? What does that say about us? That we take time away from work, child-rearing, and household-running only when forced? By death?"

I don't remember exactly what Chris said, but he agreed.

Throughout the service, I was struck by how one becomes a sort of distilled version of herself when she leaves this earth, such as the lullabies sung to now-grown kids. This woman's grown daughter beginning the eulogy of her mother by singing a lullaby made this poignantly, beautifully clear.

That night, I sang lullabies to Charlotte--something I hadn't done in a long time. I've sung to her every night since.

And each of those nights, I should add, have closed out horrible, awful, very bad days. Days so misery-filled, one after another, that they are affecting my health and my sanity.

What to do? Compartmentalize, I decided. On Friday, I had to take a hard line. RED LIGHT, I told myself (and others).


I suspect there will be consequences, but physically and mentally, I could not miss 3 uninterrupted days with my girls and guy. I could not afford to squeeze in my REAL life into the tiny crevices work might allow for it. It's no way to live, and it's no way to mother. The memory of the memorial service replayed in my mind throughout this past week. Lullabies. Children who know they are deeply loved. A wife a husband wants to be around because they're BFFs.

Honestly, it may not be the best thing to try to put your entire life--lived and to-be-lived--into perspective when work is trying to own your soul.

Or, maybe it is.

Now, as the weekend comes to an end and I face this next week, I have that anxious, unsettled feeling, as I fear the ramifications of having mentally--and, um, maybe verbally--shouted RED LIGHT.

RED LIGHTS are not without consequences. But the trade-off this weekend was, I believe, worth it.

We took a very necessary RED LIGHT to attend the service last weekend. To pause, sit, remember, ponder. To realize: You've got a set number of days.


Popular Posts