Taking the first picture off the wall and gently placing it a box was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Days later I still sat looking at the bare spot on the wall, a lump in my throat and tears welling uncontrollably. Taking that picture down was acknowledging the inevitable, and I kept forgetting to breathe.
The next week, women began showing up on my doorstep with cardboard boxes and rolls of tape. The doorbell would ring, and I never knew how many kind faces would be standing there- but every day, they came as the sun. My shoulders were bowed under the weight of a life imploding, and those hands held up more than cardboard boxes that week.
Divorce ripples out and out, and changes people who thought they were far enough from the ragged epicenter to be safe. No one is safe. Divorce, while first a deeply private and painful rending surprised me in being also a communal sorrow. I did not – could not have- anticipated the families effected by, touched by, and changed by the private hell of the loss of my marriage.
The last night in the house, sleep was elusive and I paced my smooth wooden floors, navigating the labyrinth of carefully labeled boxes. I allowed the memories and plans for that life to wash over me as I wept, and then gently and quietly bid them goodbye.
At seven the next morning, there was a knock on my door.
My friend stood on my porch with two of her teenage sons, and they had brought a friend. Slowly, trucks started pulling into my court, and by 8 o’clock, there were busy people running in and out of the house with boxes and furniture. I was trying to stay out of the way, but as the rooms slowly began to empty, I felt the panic and sadness start to grow like a monster.
Standing in the foyer, utterly incapacitated, I couldn’t remember how to move my feet, as the tears rolled down my face. My friend found me, gently put her arms around me and told me very clearly and simply to just leave. I did not need to stay and see this happen, that she and the others would take care of everything, and that I could leave.
Nodding like a child, I grabbed my keys and purse and stepped outside.
I was not prepared for what I saw. Up and down the street, on both sides, were lines of trucks and trailers. Whole families had shown up to help, and were waiting their turn to pull into the driveway. There were people everywhere, and large parts of my house were already stacked and tied neatly in trucks. Young men and women rushed in and out of the house, hefting big boxes into appointed places, and people called out cheerful greetings.
Per my friend’s instructions, I drove to the new little house we were renting, perplexed by an odd mix of gratitude and awe. At Little House, I waited for the first trailers to arrive and people began pour in and to reassemble my life. By lunchtime, the kids’ beds were assembled, the washer and dryer were hooked up and running, the living room was entirely unpacked and even my piano was in-place- and being played. Someone put together my entire kitchen, the bathroom, and hooked up the TV and the Wii so when the kids came back that night, it would feel like home. Even the curtains were hung.
That afternoon, my friend came by Little House. She handed me my keys, hugged me and said it was done. Not just moved, but done-done. Everything. They had even vacuumed. The only things left belonged to my ex-husband, and they were stacked in the garage.
That night in Little House, my children tucked in and dreaming, I looked around. My whole life had been picked up, and in one fell swoop- like transplanting an orchid- had been moved to a new pot. It wasn’t as big or as fancy a pot as I had before, but it was a good pot nonetheless. And when my kids had come home, it looked like home. Their beds, their pillows, their photographs, even their books and reading lights- all in place.
There is too much to write. The acts of love and service continue. But I would have been remiss if I didn’t share this beautiful day, when I have shared so much of the sorrow of the last year. A day which overflowed with the potential for sorrow has been turned into one of the most beautiful days of my life, due to the love of my brothers and sisters.
I later found out the teenage boys who had come at dawn had cancelled a ski-trip- of their own volition- to serve my family. Who does that kind of thing? For me, that’s an easy question. I know the answer.