I gathered the Ladies up and walked inside. That’s when I saw the four chairs we had set up last night, chairs to watch the 4th of July fireworks. There’s something bittersweet about those empty seats. They were filled with a family (Brian, Audra and three of their children, Ashlynn, Blane and Anna) that we love and now they are empty.
The whole house has felt cold today, empty and silent. I started making a little pile of things they forgot to pack, sweet reminders like Ashlynn’s pink rubber band next to the soap in the bathroom, Blane’s plastic parachute on the balcony, Anna’s pink glow stick in the freezer. Dale and I alternately pass the Superman card (that sort of resembles Brian) and open it to hear the theme song, smiling to ourselves as we re-read Audra’s note. Dale has collected all of Brian’s notes in the kitchen and they lie where our Wall Street Journal paper usually lies on the kitchen table. I wrote a long list of things to do on our wipe-out board but took care to not erase the large “We love you guys” scrawled on the bottom. I have a gallon of Birthday Cake ice cream and 3 Otter pops in my freezer that we will never eat, but I’m not ready to throw away. The sheets are being washed and dried of their last night’s work warming and covering a family we love. I’ve already put the fresh sheets and pillow covers back on the bed, readying them for our next guests. But the action feels a bit like a trespass. I’d rather those rooms remain theirs for awhile.
Lady Lucia feels the same way. I keep finding her hunkered down under Ashlynn’s bed and she was hardly willing to come out from under it when we wheeled Anna’s hide-a-bed back under the empty place she claimed for her stake-out.
On the lake with Dale I had time to think and pull together the memories of our 10 days together. Watching the wind ruffle the tips of Fetcher’s surface I thought alternately of Jesus walking on the water and my heart’s heaviness. We’re studying Mark 6 where Jesus walks on water and I thought of how I’d feel if Jesus were suddenly buoyed up on the waves coming in my direction. Would I be altogether thrilled or nervous by his strange water-defying gait? My mind caught hold of C.S. Lewis’ reminder in The Four Loves that God’s face will hold within it all the earthly loves we found so dear. So all that I miss in the Burbach’s, Audra’s gentle reprimands that gave me freedom, her quickness to laugh, Brian’s wit and humility, Ashlynn’s listening significant presence, Blane’s single-hearted devotion to Jane regardless of her bites and barks, Anna’s ceaseless hopeful questions proving her desire to love and belong will find their source in my Lord’s eyes as he walks toward me.
My heart feels heavy still, but I realize next to Fetcher pond that it is not just with sadness, but with fullness like it’s topped off, brim-full, like a Sunshine wheat beer at the Smokehouse. I look over at my husband who has just caught his first trout for the evening. I watch his eyes light up, his gentle handling of the flopping silvery flesh, the way I know he will rejoice that he gets to interact with a wild animal for even a moment before removing the barb-less hook, filling its gills to return to its wet and dark world below. He glances at me in proud pleasure and my cup spills over.
My heart is full. My tears flow. So many pictures of how God works, who Jesus is and who he has given me to enjoy.
It’s good to gauge my life by the these friend’s visits. Three summers of memories now. To see how I’ve grown between summers, to see how I’m slowly moving from being a woman who has to please all and entertain perfectly, to learning to rest in the midst of company. I wonder if I have become more like Jane Bennett who can enjoy more because she is good. I hope I have goodness growing like a seed in me.
I feel like Jane this evening, who said, “How will my heart contain such happiness?” The sun is setting, the Ladies are cuddling into corners and under legs ready for their fifth nap. Dale just put on an episode of The Office. It seems a propos to join him now, since it was the Burbachs who first introduced us to this sitcom last summer. We enjoy the last of our 4th of July brownies together and laughed at Michael and Dwight, Jim and Pam.