This morning finds me gathering our earthly goods as we make ready to move to our final destination for the last week before leaving The Summer of Our Great Adventure here in Nashville. I stop a few times to catch my breath as tears make their way up through my chest. The tears, though, taste sweet like gratitude that can never repay what’s been given. I look out the window where I’ve found myself so many quiet days on this trip and the movie in my mind plays itself through with the images of moments and people that have their way to my hearts’ door.
The girl and I sat in the local mall Saturday afternoon, reveling in more time to read, to absorb, to just be. My phone dinged a tiny surprise. Miss Ann was nearby, on her way home from a funeral….could she come to see us? She had known me before my parents thought of me, she and her husband friends with my parents since their college days. The last time I had seen Miss Ann or her husband, Robert (“Unk” to my kids) was eight years ago. They had come to see my father for the last time. He was fading from Alzheimer’s and Robert wanted to see his friend while he could still remember him.
Robert was my daddy’s best friend until his last breath. They died eight months apart. I still remember having a dream, so vivid, so startling. My father was on a playground sitting by the slide. I was watching him from a distance out of a window. He looked up and saw a beautiful Irish setter playing nearby and called for it to come to him. His face lit up when it sat by his side. I heard him say, “Go to Tam. She’ll help you.” I woke up in the early hours waiting to hear from Robert’s family. He was in the late stages of dementia and his family was by his bedside. “Tell him my daddy is waiting on him. Tell him it’s ok to go.” He was in heaven within a few hours.
So, this past Sunday, Ann sat beside me and the girl, having joined us at CrossCountry Cowboy Church where our hearts had planted themselves since we’d been here. We introduced her to Nellie and Orville, to Joanna and Fran and Ty and others who had taken their place in our hall of heart ties. I looked over at her bobbing her head to a familiar song being sung and smiled at her hands searching her beloved bible.
I could not believe the extravagant love of our Father to offer us this gift of a visit unexpected. As she drove out of the driveway this morning on her way back home, I let the tears fall as she waved a goodbye through her car window. I don’t know if I will ever see her again this side of heaven. But I know for sure her prayers follow me and my children past the miles between us. And I am so grateful to have seen her again.
As I turned my hand to preparing the home for the return of its people, they having gifted us permission to stay here in their absence these many weeks; laundry humming, vinegar spray spritzing away dust, plates rattling clean in the dishwasher, I flash back through the copious cups of coffee, the serendipitous moments of finding musicians on every corner, small town Fridays where everyone came out just because we could and mingled together around the center square.
Words and truths gleaned from so. many. books. from the shelves of bookstores and the home we’re in ticker tape through my head. The time granted, hard to come by in my ‘regular’ life, to start and finish books kept me fairly “drunk” on just breathing in the pages.
We sat in the Belcourt historic theatre one evening; a place where silent movies used to be shown when silent movies were the newest thing to marvel at and the theatre was the largest stage in Nashville; where the Grand Old Opry was housed for a few short years in the 1930’s and now where the girl and I sat in seats that had been there longer than either of us were alive. We watched a documentary on The Biggest Little Farm, a dream hatched and bloomed by a young couple desiring simplicity and finding it by inviting others into their dream.
We sat on the couch last night in the quiet of the early evening, the girl, Miss Ann and myself. So much life had been lived in the few weeks we’d been here. So much good soil upturned and fed. I turned to the girl. “I’m ready,” I said to her. “Me too,” she replied. In the time that we’ve been here we have planted a part of ourselves that will continue to flourish. We have walked into stories we want to continue to watch unfold. Parallel to that are the messages from back where we come from. “Come home.” “Let’s get together!” “I’d love to get to know you better.” “Coffee?” There are texts that light up my phone and my heart from those I work with. They make me laugh and remind me I have a quilt already begun back in Kentucky that everything I’ve read, heard, seen, walked out; everyone I’ve met and grown to love; every thought I’ve pondered, every sermon I’ve amended to…..all of it wrapped itself around the people in my world. No seed planted or harvested has ever done it alone. There is always water and sunshine and oxygen; till and gloved hands, baskets to gather and vases and plates to display the bounty. I am sensing that the Father of all these good gifts has granted this respite so that I can take new things home in my heart and share the bounty with those who are waiting to hear.
The girl and I…..are being prepared to come home for a spell. We won’t leave here easy or without a second and third look back over our shoulder. There will be tears. But we’re ready, those of you back home…..ya’ll come sit with us when we get there, won’t you?