I cleaned out our attic this week. It's only June - not even Summer yet according to the calendar - but the Atlanta area is already enduring temperatures way up in the 90s. My goal was to work in the mornings before the heat soared past unbearable. However, anyone who knows me knows that once I get started on a 'project', it's hard for me to stop. I'm like a freight train on crack.
So I climbed the stairs, took a few steps onto the plywood flooring and looked around. Wow. I think there must be something about insulation, duct-taped boxes, and intense heat that promotes reproduction. Where did all this stuff come from? I found suitcases, Christmas decorations, papers from previous school years, air filters, clothes, and toys. It seemed easy enough to begin editing. I started with broken toys (how did they end up in the attic and not the trash can?) I then moved on to parts and pieces of incomplete Christmas decorations (repeat previous question). Clothes that no one in my family will ever wear again, luggage long past its prime, and a collection of stuffed animals that would rival FAO Schwartz brought back great memories, despite the fact that I was beginning to look and feel like I was at boot camp in the desert.
Going through each box with just enough detail to make sure I wouldn't regret our Friday morning visit from the trash man, I was quickly filling the bags beside me. Then I found it. The box with Rachel's costume from her dance recital six years ago. It was an adorable bright yellow top and skirt that felt something like a cross between vinyl and plastic with black taffeta everywhere (literally). Her group danced to Rascall Flatt's Life is a Highway. I remember her practically floating down the stairs to show her Daddy after we had the whole outfit perfectly in place, complete with slicked back her hair and makeup. She was beaming and her Daddy was speechless.
Next, I came across a collection of sports cars that Alex collected when he was much younger. I remember the various Christmas and birthday celebrations when he received them and how he studied them, learned about the make and model, discovered all the parts that would open and close, and proudly displayed them in his room. His favorite by far was the truck his Granddaddy gave him, a replica of his own. Alex kept a very special place reserved just for that truck and it was very often the first one he showcased when anyone else admired his collection.
With the heat sweltering and my eyes stinging from sweat running down my face, I was about ready to call it a day. My stomach told me it was well past lunchtime but I decided to go through one more stack before descending into the comfort of the air conditioned hallway. I moved a small blue blanket that a family friend had made for Stephen's crib and opened the box underneath where I saw a stack of cards and some computer-printed sheets of paper.
And I started reading. "Dawn, we are praying for you and your family every day"; "Please know that Heaven is being bombarded with your name!"; "Our children pray for you and Baby Hood every morning before breakfast"; "So sorry to hear that you must undergo another surgery"; "Praying for you as you begin your chemotherapy treatments"; "Please let us know if we can do anything for you"; "You and Richard are a testimony of God's strength and grace"; "I love your short hair!"; "The Lord brings you to mind several times each day and I am asking Him to give you strength and courage"; "Thank you for your updates by email...it helps me pray specifically for everyone in your family"; "You look fabulous with a bald head!" More cards. More Scripture passages. More prayers. Countless emails and notes of encouragement.
I have no idea how long I sat on the floor of our attic reading those precious notes of encouragement, remembering like it was yesterday. But what really made my heart swell was the realization that nearly ten years later I remain close to almost everyone who sent those cards, notes, and letters. How it blessed me to realize that these friends and family have shared the good, the bad, the ugly, and the miracles of life with us!
I was drenched when I slowly, carefully, came down those rickety stairs and closed the 'trap door'. But my spirit felt uplifted. Encouraged. Strong.
Eight years in the attic. And still so very close to my heart.