Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bubba Teeth

My friend's mom passed away today. My heart is breaking for her. I was thinking about our group of friends and the heartaches we have all suffered in last few years. And as I was thinking one question came to my mind: "Where is the picture of us with our Bubba Teeth?"

Before I get to the story of  the Bubba Teeth, I want to give a little background about this group of friends. We call ourselves the Polyester Sisters because one thing we have in common is the history of being incredibly embarrassed by the crazy polyester (double-knit polyester to be specific) that our mom's wore. We embraced it. Made a joke about it. Make quilts out of it. And made it our identifier. But our love of polyseter (the double-knit kind) is not the most amazing part of our group. The amazing part is that we have been friends for life. Literally. Like since birth. And more amazing than that? Our parents are friends. And some of us are relatives. It's a little complicated to explain the details of how each of us are connected to our parents. It's not really that necessary. Through the years I have learned that something I took for granted is not all that common. And while I think it is great that there are friendships that have been together since High School, or the first grade, in my head I silently think that to me that feels a little late to start a friendship and then I realize how unique, and dare I say lucky, us polyester sisters are.

We are lucky in friendship. But we haven't been lucky in all areas of our lives. And that is where the Bubba teeth come in. One of our sisters lost a baby, unexpectedly and without any good explanation, a few weeks before the baby was due to be born. Tragic. Heart breaking. We all mourned with her. At this same time one of my sisters (by blood and by polyester) was preparing to move herself and her four small children across the world to a different country AND send her husband to war all at the same time. Terrifying. Overwhelming. We empathized with her unimaginable anxiety at this situation. And these two things were on top of the other stresses and heartbreaks of everyday life. Things like jobs and unemployment. Wayward children and feuding family members. Depression in ourselves and others. Unrealized dreams. As was our style we gathered together at someone's house to just be together. For some reason that night we ended up at the store. Honestly, I can't remember why. But as we were leaving the store someone spied the candy machine full of Bubba Teeth. We wanted them. We all wanted them. Our hearts were heavy and our reflexes slow. We stood looking at them for some time and discussing our temptation to buy them but lamented the fact that we didn't have any quarters. Was it worth getting change fore? And then one sister (the one who had lost the baby) smiled and reached into her purse. She pulled out a bag of quarters that she had either because she collected them from her rental property's coin laundry or she used them to run her rental property's coin laundry, I can't remember which. But I remember the feeling of "meant to be" as we made the quick decision to put them to use. As soon as the teeth came out of the machine the entered our mouths. And the giggles started. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We made our way back to the house. We laughed more. We took pictures and laughed while we did it. And then I think we probably did some more crying. But in the middle, in the sea of sorrow and fear, we had an oasis of laughter based on those silly Bubba teeth.  I kept those Bubba teeth in my car for months after that. And now and then, when life seemed bleak or overwhelming I would put them in and smile.

I have been struggling with sorrow lately (as I stated in my previous post) and figuring out how to be happy while there is so much sorrow in the world. I have had a question, that I know I had an answer to before but I couldn't find one to now: How can I be happy when there is so much sorrow?  Isn't it insensitive to laugh when others are crying? Isn't it disrespectful to the sorrow, to laugh while we grieve? For weeks I have been struggling for an answer. And today it came to me..... in a memory of Bubba teeth. Life, without laughter, isn't life. We need the laughter with the sorrow. We need the laughter to make life worth living in spite of all the sorrow. Without the laughter (ie happiness) we would have no loss to mourn. As I pondered this concept I remembered the thoughts that my sister wrote before she died. They were her parting thoughts, things she wanted to say to us that she had loved after she was gone. I treasure these words from her. The first thing in them is "Don't cry. Yeah right, me the big cry baby. Of course you can cry. But please laugh too. I have loved laughing with all of you." There it is, from someone in the midst of the sorrow. She was experiencing it for herself and the cause of it for the rest of us. And in her wisdom, at her parting, she gave us permission to cry and laugh together. And she told us how much it meant to her that she had been able to laugh with each of us in her life. It's just like a big sister to teach you something even after they are dead. It's okay to laugh. It is more than okay, it is necessary. Life is full of tears. In my little group of polyester sisters that totals only eleven people from only six different families we have lost to death a total of four parents, four children, and four siblings. And that only accounts for the sorrows that come from death. There are so many other avenues for sorrow in addition to death.

Sorrow will never go away. And I understand now that the only thing we can do to really deal with it is to make sure that laughter and joy never go away either. The truest sorrow of all would be if we had no joy to mourn losing.

So to my friend tonight who has lost her mother to death, I mourn with you. My heart aches for you. I have cried with you today and I plan to cry with you in a few days at the funeral, and in the days between now and then, and the days that follow. And in addition to all this crying you have my word that I will also laugh with you. We laughed today. And we will probably laugh together at the funeral and in the days between now and then. And we will for sure laugh many times and for many reasons in the days that follow. As your friend I promise you this. Because sorrow is a part of life, laughter must be also. And the truest of friendships and the most resilient of lives are those where laughter and tears exist together.

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