March 18, 2019.
“Let love set you free
To fly your pretty wings around.
Pretty wings, your pretty wings, your
Pretty wings around.”
The time on my computer reads 5:57 pm and since we just had daylight savings it’s still quite light outside. Our usually quiet little street is still, alight with the impending spring. The wind is gentle against the bushes; their leaves pushed, dancing ever so subtly. It’s a peaceful setting, one that I can stare out the window and feel comforted enough in to spill my feelings. I am still living off of the pleasant Sunday I enjoyed yesterday, from start to finish and I find that kind of experience is rarer for me than I care to admit. I enjoy my life, I do, but some things are special and you only notice it as it’s held up to the background of the mundane. My aunts are in town and we’ve all had more fun than we anticipated, which is a sweeter happening than the cheesecake we all shared at our family’s favorite local restaurant.
A few quick references to my late sister managed to paint a thoughtful smile and grimace on my lips. It didn’t last long and the fun was hardly halted as plans of travel, business and family fun flew through the air as we lost track of time, but today I heard something that made my smile and grimace return, but deeper. I’ll tell you what, but first, answer me this: What was the most ridiculous thing you believed as a child? Think about it, maybe even write it out— what was the single most outlandish thing you believed to be true when you were a kid? I have several as I had teasing nephews around my age. My late sister had two sons a few years before I was born so although I was their aunt, I was more like their little sister, which many of you with siblings know how tormenting being the youngest one can be. They were often the source of the wild things I believed (and feared) such as: Gum stays in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it or that vampire bats are vampires and suck real blood (they do, just not human blood, but I sure had many, many nightmares because of that!) But perhaps the craziest thing I believed as a young girl was something my nephews didn’t tell me: that in Heaven, we get wings like angels and fly around all dressed in white.
I am not sure when I left that thought behind, it tends to linger and you’ll hear people say it again as time goes on. I can still see it vividly, Michelangelo inspired wings adorning those who’ve passed on into glory, white enveloping these “angels” as they fly and play harps. In any case, that would be a boring Heaven to say the least. I am so glad that it won’t be like that, but instead loud feasting and praise, love truer than any we’ve felt on this earth, pain completely eradicated and hopefully some Gospel music, both trap and traditional. But there’s something about those wings I can’t get over… those pretty wings.
What has made grieving more complicated than I have told anyone face-to-face was the strained, barely there relationship I had with my sister. It is hard to realize someone you hardly knew and saw has passed, it doesn’t seem much different. I am not saying that I don’t have fond memories of my sister, but often they are shrouded in not-so-good ones and not only is it hard to talk about, but hard to reconcile. It’s like loving a stranger or like loving an absent father whose presence is wanted until he comes home and you realize why he should stay gone. Her absence from this world sometimes doesn’t even seem real. I knew her, but I didn’t know her, she was more distant than our 26 year age gap and that is seen in the physical fact that I don’t have one single picture with her. She passed not long after I turned 16 and I cried myself to exhaustion. I had mourned her long before that day, but I felt the finality of it then. I thought over all the memories I had with her and somewhere along I wrote her a song to help myself process my feelings. I hope one day the world will hear it, but although my song makes me think of her, there is one far superior in that feat: “Pretty Wings” by Maxwell. As a little girl, she often played R&B, neo soul and Gospel hip-hop in the car, but for some reason, “Pretty Wings” always stuck with me and now I can’t hear it without thinking of her. I feel like I’d sing it to her one day, a tribute that I would be overjoyed to perform in loving memory.
I know, I know, she probably doesn’t have wings on that side of Heaven, but it’s my best thought. The song is about letting someone go and for me that’s in more ways than one. But I can rest easy through nostalgic tears when I hear that melody…
“I could have shown you better nights, better times, better days
I miss you more and more
If I can’t have you let love set you free to fly your pretty wings around
Pretty wings, your pretty wings
Your pretty wings, your pretty wings around.”
The Hope of the Resurrection
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14