soul catch up

Two American hikers decided they would summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The hikers spent over two years planning the trip. I can relate…my parents and I spent over a year prepping to hike rim to rim of the Grand Canyon (and since my parents have been back a bunch of times, my dad doing it in a single day, YES, he’s a bad ass!!)

Anyway, back to the Kilaminjaro hikers. Part of their planning included mapping out their route and after researching ad nauseam, realized the smart thing to do would be to hire local porters to help them carry their equipment. Four men signed up for the job. The American hikers created an itinerary with a pace they felt would get them to their goal.

Meticulously planned to the hour, the two men, climbed aboard the 4:04pm flight out of Atlanta to start their trek. Several days later, the two hikers stood at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro waiting for their porters to arrive. They were easy to spot, they fit in with the surroundings, they didn’t have fancy gear, no REI products in sight. The porters walked straight up to the hikers, introduced themselves, shook hands, and said “we go.”

“But wait” the spreadsheet making hiker declared, “we have an itinerary that maps out our desired progress based on the altitude, route, and our capacity for endurance.” He passed out 4 copies of the spreadsheet and all of the men stared at it blankly, folded it, and tucked it into their pockets. With a wave of the porter’s hand, the six men set off.

A few hours in, already, the Americans felt the pace wasn’t fast enough so began pushing to go faster. The porters complied. Picking up the pace, they started making really good time. The Americans had a goal in mind for when they wanted to reach the top, there were three levels — a contentment goal, a dream goal and then a “this would be a miracle if we pull it off” goal.

With their steady pace, on their first day, they surpassed the dream goal and the “miracle” goal was in sight. Aching backs, black and blue toes from their boots, none of the challenges mattered, they had a goal, a “let’s beat this record other people had set” goal, they wanted to pull off.

In the morning, the hikers woke up sluggish and struggled to get moving. Their physical bodies were sending out warning signs. Slow down, take it easy, maybe we should rest. Rest? NO WAY! Neither one of the hikers were going to let a silly thing like physical pain slow them down. They brewed some coffee, popped some strong ibuprofen, and went to pass off their packed gear to the porters. Making their way to where the porters had set up camp, the hikers saw none of the porters were ready for the hike.

“Is everything okay? We are ready to go. The schedule has us leaving at 6am this morning,” the spreadsheet making hiker spoke to the porters.

“We are not going any further today.”

“Oh no! Is someone hurt? What’s wrong?” the other hiker responded.

“No one is hurt. We are physically well, but we traveled at too swift a pace yesterday and must wait here for our souls to catch up.”


So I made up most of that story (at least about the hikers, me and my parents REALLY did hike 22 miles rim to rim across the Grand Canyon!). It’s apparently some kind of African folklore but I couldn’t find an original source and that always irks me to repeat something possibly inaccurate, so I put my own spin on it. I’m guessing you get the point. I’ve been taught:

I can do anything I want!
Pain is weakness leaving the body!
Don’t let anything stop me!
Turn the pain into power!

All this is good advice, and it’s how I’ve been able to achieve a lot of success in my life with multiple college degrees, corporate career success, becoming a published author, or dating a guy completely long distance. Or then there’s the other stuff I’ve survived like migraine, seasons of acute grief, and postpartum depression.

There are times in my life I have to get into crisis mode, buckle down, accomplish the goal, stay in survival mode.

AND I’ve learned I cannot run at that exhaustive pace forever. My body, mind and spirit were never designed to function on adrenaline alone. I have to pause, I MUST pause, to let my soul catch up. When I say “soul”, I can also mean “spirit” or “heart”. No matter what name I call it, the idea is challengingly simple.

“Stop. Just stop, Virginia. Stop moving, stop striving, stop performing, stop hustling, stop DO-ing. Just stop. Be. Take a breath. Notice the trees and the blue sky and the development in your kids that’s flying by. Feel the feelings — the good, the bad, the ugly. Pause to reengage with relationships that matter, with friends, with family, with Lukas. Stop. Just stop. Let your soul catch up.”

It was through the great wisdom of our realtor who encouraged us to get an AirBNB for a month, instead of a week or so through this transition. That’s come in handy as we’ve had changes to close dates and other moving parts and it’s come into handy as a safe place for our souls to catch up.

The past six weeks has been full of packing and loading and moving and sorting and cleaning and unloading and planning and executing the plan and celebrating my thirty fourth birthday while running a yard sale. Last night, Lukas sent me a final video of our empty house. IT IS FINISHED. In four days we sign closing paperwork and hand over the keys to our first home. And now, we sit in our safe place, letting our souls catch up.

xoxo, va

uncle larry

No matter how “God led” our move to East Point was, it still made me a little nervous. We’d been in the area, we knew the truth (that it was an amazing place with amazing people), but the headlines (no matter how poorly misrepresenting!!) “East Point, #2 most violent city in Georgia” are the ones the enemy would whisper into my ear at night as we prepared to move.

Yes, my husband would be sleeping next to me and would protect our family at all costs. But in the dead of night, before our move, one of my neighbors also brought me a lot of peace … Larry Williams.

We bought our home from friends who already had established relationships in the neighborhood. They’d told us all about our across the street neighbor.

How he sat on his front porch day in and day out, keeping watch.

How he knew everyone on the street and around the corners.

How he watched the comings and goings of his neighbors.

How he’d lived there for 30+ years, as a constant presence for all who walked or drove by his house.

Like the mayor, or maybe, mafia boss, of Farley Street.

When we first moved in, meeting him and his beautiful bride were highest on our priority list. We sat on the porch, getting to know them, until the weather got cold. Then they welcomed us inside with our 10 month old bundle of joy.

Tabby sure did bring a lot of joy. They watched her learn to walk, learn to talk, and learn where the cookies were kept in the kitchen.

He was there. Day in and day out, he was there.

Telling me to slow my horses after being in too big of a rush and running the stop sign at the end of our street.

Hosting Lukas for so many football games we can’t even count.

Sharing roses from his rose garden with Tabby.

Gifting our little girl her first tricycle which she learned to ride at a very young age.

Celebrating Christmas when we weren’t able to be with biological family after Lukas was sick over the holidays.

Introducing Tabby to his grandkids and watching them play together on his back porch.

Hollering at me from his front porch to get into bed, when we got home from the hospital with baby James.

Uncle Larry and Aunt Marie were the first people who met little man, held him, and welcomed him to the neighborhood.

Since we’ve moved in, he’s been there. Always there. A constant presence in our lives.

Around the middle of December, Aunt Marie called to tell me Uncle Larry had been admitted to the hospital. Then, December 20th, only a week or so later, we were hearing from her lips “it’s not good…cancer…hospice…”

Are you kidding me?

Lukas and I walked around the neighborhood with the kids in shock, processing how life would never be the same, how we’d have to say goodbye, how Uncle Larry wouldn’t get to see the kids grow up on this side of heaven, my heart was already starting to break knowing we had less than 6 months with him (what I know “hospice” means).

Rounding the corner of our loop and heading back towards our houses, we saw the fire truck coming down the road. I look over at Uncle Larry’s house and their front door is open. Crap, this isn’t good.

As if in a play with the next step already written, where words weren’t required, Lukas moved towards their door and I ushered the kids inside to Tabby’s many questions. “What happened?” Looking down our driveway, I watched Lukas get to the door, Aunt Marie open it, and she fell into him with a hug that communicated more than words ever could.

Getting inside my house, needing Tabby to focus on something other than the fire truck, I shut the blinds and moved forward with dinner preparation.

Lukas texted “(his daughter) doesn’t think he’s coming home.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?

We went from “it’s not good and hospice” to “not coming home” in a two hour period.

I paused dinner making, grabbed James onto my lap and scooped Tabby up on the couch with us. I went back and forth on how to handle this with her. Do I pretend nothing is going on? How much do I tell her? Lord give me the words…

Through tears (because I couldn’t hold them back), I began to process the events going on across the street to my three-year-old little girl. In a way she could understand we talked about how Uncle Larry was sick and that he was going to the hospital again. Her first question — “can he still come to my birthday party?”

As giant tears rolled down my cheeks, she kept telling me “don’t worry, mommy, the doctor’s are going to make him all better so he can be at my party”. I don’t remember the whole convo but I remember it was God breathed between the two of us, as heaven met Earth and we got ready to usher Uncle Larry Home.

I snapped a picture. Maybe that’s morbid. Some may even think it’s disrespectful. But my heart needs visual reminders of moments in time I will never forget. Sitting there, my babies in my lap, with red lights bouncing all over my living room, I knew, life was never going to be the same.

Lukas sat in their living room while Uncle Larry’s kids and wife were with the paramedics in the bedroom. When they wheeled him out on a stretcher, Lukas was able to say “I’m here, friend.”

As we watched them make their way down the porch steps and towards the waiting ambulance, my soul pulled me towards my front door. I needed to see him. Babies in my arms, I watched them load Uncle Larry up, knowing it would probably be the last time I saw him on this side of heaven.

Grief was so heavy as they shut the doors and drove down the street.

Lukas wandered back over eventually, we held each other and cried and then ate dinner while watching our iPads. Together, but coping, in the best way we knew how in the moment.

That night I was a wreck. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly even breathe. I spent most of the night going back and forth between trying to force myself to sleep in my bed to a crumpled mess of tears and anxiety on the bathroom floor.

Drifting my eyes towards the shower window, where his spot lights shown bright, protecting the front yard of my home…Uncle Larry isn’t there.

I could count on one hand, maybe even on two fingers, the number of nights of the 600+ I’ve slept on Farley Street, that I’ve been here and he hasn’t. That was all changing and that reality, that truth, unnerved me.

Through all the many sleepless nights through pregnancy, or newborn life, or Tabby’s illnesses, I’ve stood in my home, in that bathroom, and found comfort knowing he was there. Sometimes it was a conscious comfort, like when I’d stand on the side of the tub and peer out the window knowing all was quiet on the street and if it wasn’t, he was watching. Or the unconscious comfort I recognized as a steady river flowing through me, only made conscious when he got sick and the flow stopped.

Uncle Larry did, in fact, come home from the hospital, only to run ahead of us to heaven less than two days later. His wife was with him, alone, in the house they’d called home for almost thirty four years. We saw her a few hours before he took his last breath. The hospice nurse said it wouldn’t be long and it wasn’t. For all who love Uncle Larry, December 24th will forever carry the joy of Christmas Eve and the sadness of his final day on this planet.

I could insert all the cliche quotes about not knowing what you have until it’s gone. Google searching for who said that was fruitless since a million people have, but in my hunting for a quotation author, I came across another, similar quote, that feels even more accurate for my heartache with Larry.

“People say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had, you just thought you’d never lose it.”

We knew we would leave Farley street eventually, but I never, in a million years, ever, thought Uncle Larry would leave first. Even typing this, a month and a half later, it just doesn’t feel real.

I took Aunt Marie to our new house yesterday and I loved her being there (she’ll be at the new house many, many more times in the future!!) but my heart was sad knowing Uncle Larry would never step foot in it, himself. Sure, he’s there, we teach Tabby that heaven isn’t a far away place, it’s very real, very near, and “all around us, we just can’t see it” place. I also believe he would love our new house and would be proud of the home we’ll build in it.

Tabby will randomly tell me she misses Uncle Larry. And I miss him so much too. Sitting here, finishing this post, I fully expect to head towards my front door, open it, and have my half naked three-year-old run around behind me to wave to him across the street.

I post publicly on Tuesdays, which means this post has hit your inbox on March 1st. February 28th, yesterday, we officially moved out of our East Point home. We are living in an AirBNB, in our new neighborhood, for the next month as we wait with expectant excitement for our house to be finished. That’s a huge milestone in our lives, a milestone that will change me.

Today marks another huge milestone for me as a writer. It’s my hundredth post on this married woman blog, having written for years prior on my “single lady” one. I couldn’t imagine a better post to write, about a man I admire and respect, and who wove his way so deeply into my family and our hearts, he’ll be there forever. Living on Farley street has changed me, knowing him as changed me. Change I see and celebrate as I continue to grow into who God needs me to be in this world before I follow Uncle Larry on to heaven.

And oh, will that be a sweet reunion. I have no idea what heaven is really like but I know Uncle Larry will be there and I fully expect him to have a cookie box in hand, waiting to welcome us in with a smile and his laugh that’s impossible to forget.

Farley Street, you’ve been good to us. Good to us on a level I could never put into words. Thank you for what you gave us. A list impossibly long to write, but at the top, in big bold letters, reads, “A relationship with Larry and Marie Williams.” ❤️

xoxo, va