I walk past the bike rack and into the familiar place with different eyes today. I push through the first set of wide metal doors into the entryway, past the water fountain and the “park scooters here” sign. Once in the main lobby, I notice a father to the right helping his son pick out a movie. As I rush to the left, groups read quietly and study at various wooden tables. I know just where to go to find the book I want. I have been to this aisle many times—the travel section where I dream about my own adventures. I scan the shelves and find my country of choice. I feel a sense of relief. Perhaps I can escape this pain. I return to the broad checkout counter, and the courteous librarian scans my card and hands me my diversion. When I delve into this one, I can think about something else.

I exit the familiar doors and pass a young mother with her two pigtailed girls on little pink bikes. I push back tears as I wait for them to cross before me, even though I could rush ahead. My thoughts transport me to another place and time when, “Let’s hurry up!” and “We have things to do,” were phrases in my daily vocabulary.

Today, I have little to do, and what I need to do, I don’t want to do. Today my youngest child heads overseas for a gap year that will change her life and my life too.

This morning the minutes move slowly. I have been awake for hours trying to find something to fill my thoughts. Reflections of former days sneak up on me like bad dreams. They attempt to save me from reality. “Remember When” haunts me.

I make my way home with my book, and I notice the pit in my stomach. It reminds me of significant moments in my past. I try to put my finger on the familiar feeling. I remember, it’s the same feeling I felt many years ago when my mom passed. After she was gone, I went out to try and get some business done. Life was moving on for everyone else, the world kept spinning, and for me it had just stopped. Didn’t anyone notice what was happening? Didn’t anyone understand a death had just happened in my midst and life as I knew it would never be the same? I wanted to scream that day.

Today felt so similar.

Didn’t anyone know? Did anyone know that we used to park a bike at the library before we would pick out books together, and I used to carefully tend the crosswalk as my young ones crossed safely?

Where would I go with this ache and loneliness? What would I do with this death? Would I suffocate the sorrow with adventure and travel? Would I busy my days with work and relationships, shopping and exercising? Would I organize, clean and binge-watch TV?

Yes, I will probably do some of all of that.

But to come out alive, I also have to “remember when” and grieve.

Dan B. Allender, professor of counseling psychology and former president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology proposes, “Without death, there can be no resurrection.” I agree.

A few hours later we stand in line. We are surrounded by people of all sizes, shapes and colors. Languages, commotion and clamoring announcements fill the air. The minutes are fleeting. We take a few pictures and push back tears. Everything inside of me grasps for the perfectly profound and powerful thing to say that will sum up my love for her and give her strong legs to stand upon. But, instead we stand silently avoiding the death that looms so large. Nothing can be said to sum up this moment.

We move ahead in line closer to her departure. She turns for a hug and the tears begin to flow. She pulls away, grabs her suitcase and turns toward the security line. I turn to walk the other way, and begin looking for a resurrection.


Maryhelen Martens is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. She finds life in authentic conversation, walking alongside others and ultimately Jesus – who has been so kind. Each day, she draws from a larger bowl of grace for herself and others. A mom of three,she currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her youngest daughter who is about to leave the nest, and Keith, her husband and co-laborer of 28 years.