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The Spider's Web

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Joy is like the fine silk threads of a spider’s web. Each moment of joy is interwoven with another stolen moment. Together, these fragile strands weave the days of my life. Just like the spider’s web, joy can be blown apart by a strong wind, but it does not stay down. Joy comes in the morning; a new web heavy laden with sparkling drops of dew has been rebuilt.

It’s early, so early the sun is just rising over the trees in my front yard. It’s my quiet time, before the kids wake and before the day goes into overdrive with school, work, and a million errands. I’m still in my pajamas with my favorite coffee mug (the one the kids painted for me) filled to the brim with my version of high octane fuel. As I sip and draw strength from its nectar, I usually write in my journal, but today I don’t really feel like writing. I have been keeping a journal since I was child; it is an old friend. As I open this treasure trove, a glimmer of light catches my eye. I look up and am in awe of the architecture which hangs between the white-washed columns on my front porch. Every strand of this marvel reminds me of the tapestry of my own life. I watch as the yellow flash of a garden spider pushes off one column and leaps through the air stretching towards its goal on the opposite side. It is not unlike the leap of faith I was forced to take, just a few short years ago.
My delicate web has stood through countless storms always to return in the morning, but two years ago a hurricane I never saw coming blew my fragile web to shards. The last not-so neatly written page in my journal reads:

February 5, 2009:
My sweet husband was killed by a drunk driver. O God, why? Why him? Why did you have to take away my strength, my heart, my soul? I want him back! I need him here! The grief of losing Ben is almost too much to bear. I am trying to cling to the last shreds of my life, but I’m afraid I might not ever get up again, never love again, nor live and laugh again. My soul has died; the best part of me was taken away in an instant. I know I will never be the same again. My mind is swirling at the thought of him not being in bed next to me in the morning. I have not really slept in last four days. I have been sleepwalking through this torment. Everything is a blur. Did we really just bury my first love? I have cried more tears in the last few days than I have in my entire life. They smudge the page as I try to write; I feel as if I might not ever stop crying!

I realized how fragile my web was as it shattered and blew into the night on winds stronger than anything my soul had ever withstood. I was so very lost! Lost to the world that stood before me; I wanted to run away, to chase after the web. Reinforced by the thought of our three children, just like my garden spider, with blind faith, I leapt into the great unknown hoping my faithful, steady thread would hold me fast as I stretched to the other side of grief to find my healing.

I caught sight of the spider’s web, glistening on the porch. I knew my joy had returned, just like the spider’s web after the rain. It stirred inside of me, the still, small voice calling out my strength, my hope for…”joy comes in the morning.” I smiled to myself as I began to name each thread in my own precious web…Grace, Will, Eli, and Ben. Today, unlike so many other times, there are no tears for Ben, only peace and acceptance.
I thought of the first time I saw him. I flipped to the beginning of my journal, my very first memory, my first silk strand…

I was only six years old when my mother gave me this journal for my birthday. She hoped it would encourage me to start writing my letters, but the first few pages are filled with crayon drawings. The first page is stick figures with water running under their feet and a red heart where the sun should have been drawn.

March 10, 1975:
I was jumping in the puddles by the curb in front of my new house when I saw him. Ben was floating GI Joes down the river that ran along the curb on his side of the street. He was chasing down a stray soldier and heard giggling. He looked up to see me grinning from ear to ear as I tried to splash the water higher and higher, just far enough to splash the brown-headed little boy wearing the Kermit t-shirt.

As I think back on it now, it was at that very moment playing in the rain, I fell in love. The spider casts her heart on the wind and leaps to form the foundation of her masterpiece, by which she will hold fast to for her food, her comfort, her love, and her home.
Ben and I went to the same grade school, had the same teachers, the same friends, even our parents were close friends. I used to love to play with Ben. He always wanted to play cops and robbers, superheroes, and army. I was always the perfect sidekick. I prided myself in knowing all the superheroes and their powers, though to Ben’s dismay, I always choose to be Wonder Woman with her bullet-stopping pink sweatbands of death. It took him years to convince me to not wear my favorite pink tutu when we were playing with the neighborhood boys. I laughed to myself, remembering the day I gave Ben mouth-to mouth resuscitation, otherwise known as a kiss.

June 27, 1977:
I kissed a boy today, but it was just Ben. I don’t think I will kiss anymore boys for awhile. Mom was mad at me. I am not allowed to date or kiss boys until I’m 25. That’s what Daddy said. I hope he was just joking.

We were eight years old and had been in a water balloon war with the two brothers, who lived on the next street. Ben’s army was struggling to break through the enemy lines. General Ben sent himself out on a top secret mission to find the enemies’ hideout, when he was ambushed by a dozen overfilled red balloons. I was horrified to find my commander-in-chief sprawled helplessly across the ground, drenched to the bone. I rushed to his side and kissed him on the mouth, blowing hard enough to make his cheeks jiggle; just like I had seen the doctors do on ‘M.A.S.H.’ Ben was mortified and tormented by the boys for weeks about kissing a girl, but needless to say our friendship survived.
We went to the same junior high and the same high school. It wasn’t until our freshman year Ben worked up the nerve to ask me out on a real date; another strand in my web flashed by in a twinkling of my memory.

July 7, 1983:
Ben took me to see ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ tonight. He held my hand through the whole movie, which sent goose bumps up and down my whole body. During the movie when Han kissed Princess Lea, he put his arm around my shoulders and leaned in close to give me a quick peck on the cheek. It was not the greatest kiss of all time, but later, when he walked me home, he tried again. He hugged me first and didn’t let go, instead he touched my face (which made me giggle), ran his finger down my cheek (which only made me giggle harder), tipped my chin up to him and softly kissed me, and then he kissed me again until I lost my breath. Where did he learn to kiss like that! It was better than when Rhett kissed Scarlet, I swear! It was the best night of my life.

For the next four years, we were inseparable. We went to the prom together, graduated together, and went to college together. Just after graduating, we were married; two lives forever intertwined.
I thought back on our wedding day. I wasn’t nervous or anxious like so many of my friend’s had been when they got married. I was completely peaceful; I was marrying my best friend. I had dreamed of the day since I was six years old.

May 26, 1990:
Ben and I were married in our church today. The same one we have attended since we were little. Our wedding was not ostentatious, but simple and elegant; most of all, I hope it was a reflection of the deep and abiding love we have for each other. I wore my grandmother’s wedding dress, which made my mother cry. Daddy said I looked like an old Hollywood movie star in the simple white silk gown. It made him cry too. However, his reaction paled in comparison to the look on Ben’s face when my father presented me to him. It takes my breath away to think of the way he smiled at me and held me tenderly as we promised to love each other for better or worse. I had goose bumps again (just like the first time) when he kissed me as man and wife. Our pastor spoke about how life is an empty box we fill with our memories and stolen moments of joy, laughter, and love. We are about to board the plane to Mexico for our honeymoon, so I better put this away. I can’t wait to fill up our box! I love you Ben!! Mrs. Ben Williams, I sure like the sound of that!

As throughout the life of a spider’s web, storms, innocent bystanders, strong winds, and sometimes crazy women yielding brooms come to knock down her web, but only for a moment.

September 16, 1990:
I took a test today. You should have seen Ben’s face when I walked out of the bathroom holding up the test with a pink plus sign. I called my doctor and we have an appointment for next week. A baby…we are going to have a baby!

September 30, 1990:
I started bleeding yesterday. I called the doctor, then Ben. By the time, we got to her office, you were gone! How can you be gone? I was just getting used to the idea of being a mother and now… there is nothing. Nothing, that’s all we saw on the ultrasound, no heartbeat, nothing.

We were broken hearted, but decided to try again. In the years that proceeded, I had two more miscarriages. The doctors all said we should adopt because we would never have children of our own. It’s funny how doctors know just how to swing a broom to rip out the foundations of us delicate creations. We were ready to give up when to our surprise, I was pregnant again. For months, we held our breath and didn’t tell a soul, but as soon as the chance of miscarriage had passed, we called our families.

Joy became a tangible thing for me the day our daughter Grace was born. Grace…we had waited for such a long time for her, had prayed for her, and cried for her, long before she was ever conceived. Grace was our miracle. She was born after three gut-wrenching miscarriages, born after even Ben and I had given up hope.

April 16, 1998:
Even in the sleep-deprived wee hours of the morning; joy overwhelms me! I just got the baby back to sleep, but I am wide awake. I love these quiet midnight feedings. I love to brush Gracie’s cheek as she nurses. In the silence, I whisper all my hopes and dreams for her life. It is like praying for her, pouring into her all I hope she will be. She has become our whole world. People always tell you that you don’t know what love is until you have a child of your own. Ben and I have waited for eight years to hold Gracie in our arms. The joy she brings us is indescribable. The love I feel for my daughter is bigger and deeper than any ocean on earth. I have started telling her every day I love her to the moon and back, but even that doesn’t seem great enough. Ben was watching silently from the nursery door tonight. He often helps change her, even in the middle of the night, just to be close to her.

Looking back, those were priceless moments never to be repeated or duplicated. Though, a few years after Grace’s birth, two more strands were added to strengthen my crystalline masterpiece; their names are Will and Eli. They’re the cherries on top of the sundae of my life. The boys were an unexpected surprise. I never believed I would have anymore children after having our miraculous Grace, but low and behold I was pregnant again. I will never forget how sick I was those first few months.

October 21, 2001:
Twins!! We are having twins! I had an ultrasound today. Instead of gallstones, they found twins! They turned the screen away from me when they checked the baby, which really scared me. I will never forget the radiologist’s next words…”There they are.” On the screen in front of me were two tiny heads lying side by side. That crazy doctor looked at me and asked if I knew I was having twins. Ben is speechless! He is already doing the math in his head; I can see the wheels turning. I know what he is thinking; we are going to need a bigger car, a bigger house. In one instant, we have outgrown everything, just like I have outgrown my old maternity clothes.

As a mother, every smile, every laugh, every milestone adds another precious moment to your tapestry. Every minute of worry is replaced with thousands of snapshots of abundant joy. The first time my children called me ‘Momma,’ when they crawled, when they walked, when they climbed to the top of the slide, when they learned how to dance, skip rope, tie their shoes, made their first friend, and how could I forget the first day they went off to kindergarten; each one a priceless strand in the web.

As I flipped through the pages of my journal; there are countless entries. Every holiday, every birthday, every anniversary, every milestone has been witnessed and written down in its pages; I realize this was my box of memories our pastor had spoke of, so long ago. I am grateful for the time to look back on each one. The morning sun warms me to my very core as I swing back and forth, watching as the spider continues to weave her home. I can’t help but think of all the mornings spent on the porch with Ben.

He hung the very swing I now sit in; it was his gift to me after the twin’s birth. Every Saturday morning, Ben woke up early and put on a pot of strong coffee before waking me. We would sit together on this swing enjoying each other’s company. This morning, his absence beside me is still a noticeable ache in the depths of my soul. He was my best friend, my confidante, my home, and he’s gone. I can’t fight back the tears, which are spilling into my coffee mug, as I look upward. My garden spider continues to spin her web; she continues to persevere against all the odds. I watch as the tiny creature, stretches out one strand, and then another, and another. From one strand to hundreds…’though weeping may last through the night, joy comes in the morning.’ I can name the strands one by one…Grace, Will, Eli, and Ben. He is still here woven into my web. I can not lose him; he is a part of me. I pick up my journal and flip to an empty page, deciding to write after all.

August 18, 2011:
I miss you Ben, but I feel you all around me. I know you are with us. We are getting stronger every day. Well, I am getting stronger every day. The kids are far more resilient than I could have ever imagined. They seem to have grown up so much in these last few years. I wish you could see them. Grace is beautiful. She is not awkward like I was at thirteen. Don’t laugh… I know you remember me all too well at thirteen. Will and Eli are still all boy (just like you were at their age), but they have gotten a lot better about helping out around the house. I call them my little right-hand men and they love it. You would be so proud of me; I was hired as the music teacher for the kids’ elementary school last week. I am so nervous about going back to work. I really hope I don’t fall on my face. The kids think I should start dating, but I’m not ready yet. I’m not sure I will ever be. You were my first love and no one will be able to fill your shoes. I love you! I miss you so much, but it is getting a little easier each and every day. I wake up and put one foot in front of the other; breathe in, breathe out, and go on, just like I know you would want me to…’ for joy comes in the morning.’

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