My mom tried so hard to get my first word to be “mommy.” My father spent most of the time at work when I was little, so it made sense that I should honor the one who was taking care of my diapers, getting me bottles, and handling all of the other joyful and disgusting jobs of parenthood. But it was to no avail. Instead, little toddler Megan scooted up close to the television set, pointed to the commercial on screen and declared “doggie.” Yes, my very first word was inspired by a dog food commercial.
Cut to about 12 years later when my little brother was just about to speak. By now I had heard the story of my epic failure many times, so neither I nor my step-father were going to get in the way of my brother saying “mommy.” I had even been called “sissy” by others in the family; to provide an even harder name to say that “Meg.” But once again the toddler brain did not obey. Little brother’s word was spectacular. It was “Tigger;” the name of our cat. And not just any cat. It was the one who would hide under my parents’ bed and scratch at their feet. The cat my mom hated. My brother said Tigger hundreds of times over the following week, and I had to try avoiding laughing each and every time.
I know from the stories exactly what my first word was, and that of my brother’s. Our words are still a source of rolled eyes, shameful glances, and silent giggles in response.
On the other hand, I have no idea about the first word I say most days. I’m sure it’s usually a grunt or growl in response to an alarm that seems way too early. Other times it’s a yelp as I realize how long the alarm has been beeping away. Every once in a while it’s a word that I can’t repeat here in church.
My first thought of the day can be a similar mystery. Sometimes there are no real thoughts happening until that hot shower or cup of caffeine takes effect.
Since the recent passing of my father, the first thought I have most mornings has been about him and a re-remembering that he is gone. My father died in late November while living in Texas. I had not seen him in many years. My absent father still had a place in my heart no matter how unearned it was. During these Advent mornings, I start almost every day with the awareness that I am a fatherless woman, and that I have to keep learning every day what that means.
Some days I lean back into the pillows, and a few tears trickle down my cheeks in remembrance of him. Some days I throw the blankets off quickly and dive into the hallway, trying to run faster than the grief. And some days I take a deep, slow, long breath and give the open space in my heart to my Heavenly Father to fill. Those final days are the best ones and the ones I feel surrounded by the Holy Spirit’s embrace while sitting on the edge of the bed.
The grief of a missing piece in our lives can lead us in many directions, including back under the covers. It is only by the grace of God, shown through the love of his Spirit and his people, that gives us the chance to heal and have hope. Not hope that the pain will go away or be forgotten. Rather hope that the pain will bring us closer to being someone whose first word and thought is Adonai.