This column, Barefoot & Preaching, is also published biweekly in print by The Prairie Messenger.

Do we fly to heaven or climb the stairs?  One year without you…

Do we fly to heaven or climb the stairs? One year without you…

“Do we fly to heaven, Mommy? Or do we climb the stairs?” The words have been swirling around me all week, God’s gift floating out of a chattering, restless mover at Mass. “I would like to know that, my girl,” I whispered, the hallow space in my chest aching.  Charlize is three.  Between Easter and the anniversary of her aunt’s death, she is trying to figure out all this dying and rising stuff.  Me too.

How has the earth moved a whole circle around the sun since Abbie drew breath here?  How have I survived more than half a million minutes without hearing her laugh? Somehow, I can still feel her in the strangest ways.  Almost every long drive I make, the sky is painted purple.  Sometimes, I catch her reflection in a window across the street, but she disappears when I turn to look.  I hear her speaking to me in the songs on the radio.

For the last month, the song “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac/The Dixie Chicks) keeps showing up in strange places.  The pop station and the country station are playing it when I turn on the radio in the car.  It happens to be the soundtrack to the grocery shopping.  It was even part of a wedding I attended.  It’s simultaneously breaking my heart and healing it at the same time: “I’ve been afraid of changin’/Cause I built my life around you.”

She was afraid and she had reason to be.  It’s not fair that the landslide took her out and left me here.

She’s gone and I am afraid of changing.  Before I was born my life was built around hers.  And the song keeps going, “Time makes you bolder/Children get older/I’m getting older too.”  All those half a million minutes presses the changes and her children too.  Eventually fear is not enough to keep me the same.

There is so much that feels wrong in living without her.  I still pick up the phone to call her forgetting she won’t answer.  My pantry has too much chocolate in it without her coming by to pick at it while she pulled out the spaghetti.  No one else brings ripple chips when we have hot dogs; even if someone did, she wouldn’t come with them.

When my kids whine, no one teases them like she did.  The new babies don’t have the nicknames she would have given them.  Celebrity happenings, political idiocy, and general stupidity are just as awful as they have always been but nowhere near as funny without her sarcastic commentary.  This year, there has been a hole where she should have been. This one-year mark just points toward the permanence of her absence.

Change is always coming.  It flutters around, trying to lift me out of the past and fly into the future.  Her boldness let her to fly to heaven and left me climbing the stairs.  Figures.  I have an impressive ability to fall up the stairs.  Abbie always laughed at my klutziness.  She got the coordination, the agility, the physical grace.  She walked first and took my books and ran away.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised she got the wings too.

“Where is heaven, Mommy? In the sky?”
“In the sky and above the sky and beneath it too.  Heaven is where God is, Charlize.”

Abbie’s loss is a mountain I keep falling down.  But maybe I can fall up the stairs to heaven too.  Maybe her wings will wipe away the tears as I climb back to my feet.  Maybe she and God are at the bottom of the well of tears I have cried as much as at the gates of heaven, whenever I make it up the damn stairs.  I bet her pants will still be four sizes smaller than mine too.  I am going to be angry for awhile yet, I think.

Whether I am climbing or falling, fly close to the stairs when you think of it, would you please, Abbie?  There are all these many routes we each take to heaven. I wish we’d been able to walk together longer on this side of things.  I will settle for gracing the same rafters if that’s the only way to climb and fall and fly at the same time.

If heaven is where God is, then I will keep crying for Him and for you at night when I need to.  I will meet you both in the pantry and unwrap the chocolate in there I have hidden from the kids.  I will dream about flying and wake up and thank God again for the gift of you.

Missing you still.

Missing you still.

Abbie Speir: September 29, 1983 – April 20, 2017

Relaxing into the rising work of God…

Rising should be the easy part, no?  After the fear, the suffering, the darkness, the hard work, and the waiting, I feel like rising should be effortless.  Despite that, I feel weighted down by resistance to rising.  This should not be a surprise; at this same time...

In pursuit of a bit more peace…

Photo Credit: Ken Thorson There was an easy peace and lots of laughter when the clocks rolled into 2018 totally unnoticed.  About three minutes past midnight, my six-year-old, staying up for the first time, asked, “When do we do the countdown, Mom?”  (Thank you,...

An Advent Prayer

A few years ago, I was looking for an Advent prayer that my small kids would find easy to memorize that we could use when we lit the Advent wreath.  Finding nothing, I wrote my own. Several family have taken the little cards we wrote it out on home with them. ...

On Being Barefoot…

Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…

…and Preaching

I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.

My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.

The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.

When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.

It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.

For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.

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