The Gift of an Open Door
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** This post is part of a 14 day series. To read more of my “The Gift of…” posts, scroll to the bottom of this post for links.
“Close the door!”
I can’t tell you how many times I say this when the temps are dropping outside.
My sons bound into the house after digging forts into enormous hills of snow made by the tractor. They drop ice caked gloves and balaclavas and snowmobile suits dripping wet in a trail from the open back door of the laundry room to the bathroom or the stairs or kitchen—wherever they reach when everything is finally peeled off. They are deep in conversation about future plans for the fort or what video game to play next or whether or not they have time to make a mug of hot cocoa.
“You guys, pick up your stuff! And close the door!”
Without taking pause in their conversation, they rewind their steps to scoop up the pieces they dropped, and disappear back into the laundry room to hang their things up to dry. They come out again, now rambling to each other about a friend who made a YouTube video and how he’s up to 43 subscribers now and is practically famous.
Invariably, because they are lost in conversation, they forget to close the door.
I realize this only after I carry a hamper of dirty clothes into a chilly laundry room fifteen minutes later. I exhale dramatically, even though there is no around to hear it, and I push the door closed.
Sure. Let me get that door for you.
In the midst of the frustration of keeping a door closed in the winter, or open in the spring, we forget to be thankful for the fact it has opened and closed at all.
The door opening, with someone you love coming through it, is a gift.
Even if they drop wet snowsuits and mittens from their outdoor adventure along the way.
It’s one of those things we overlook. We just assume it’s going to happen because that door has always opened and presented us with the people we’re expecting. It might be ten minutes later after chores are done. It might be three hours later after playing with the neighbor. It might be 6 am tomorrow morning after a night shift. It might be 6 pm after a meeting at church.
We go on with our days and nights, assuming our doors will continue to open every day at every time we subconsciously expect them to.
And the doors almost always open.
But sometimes they don’t.
Waiting for the door to open
My husband works in law enforcement. I learned early on in our marriage that schedules mean nothing and the door will usually be late opening. I have come to understand that no news is good news. You become an old hat at waiting and trusting that he’s still coming home. Even when he’s been at work since noon and it’s now 3am and he was supposed to be off 6 hours earlier. Your normal becomes knowing that he won’t be home on time but trusting that he will be home eventually.
And so you wait.
For the door.
Sometimes the door doesn’t open
Tragic death in the law enforcement family is never easy to hear but it seems to sting more deeply when it’s only 30 miles away from where you sleep. And even though officers will tell you there is no such thing as a routine call, a death feels somehow less expected when it wasn’t caused by a high speed chase or a SWAT operation, and was “just” a welfare check gone wrong.
Shots fired and the officer was dead. And instead of his wife receiving the blessing of no news is good news, officers arrived on her doorstep to deliver the worst. She was expecting him to come through the door after his shift. But he didn’t.
And he won’t.
And never will again.
I sit numbly at the funeral with hundreds of other spouses and officers who have come to pay their last respects and only seconds pass before I struggle to keep from imagining my husband as the dead officer and my kids as those kids and me as the mourning wife.
I set my jaw.
I focus on the pew in front of me.
If this is what happens after the door doesn’t open, why don’t we care more when the door does open?
The next night my husband puts on his Kevlar vest and hooks his duty belt and as he laces his boots, I squeeze him and say, “Come home to me in the morning.”
And we both know it’s a promise he can’t really promise, and can only hope to fulfill. So life goes on and we assume he will once again come through the door every morning like he has the last thousands of mornings since we started this game.
Sometimes they don’t come through the door again
The tragedy of losing someone you love can happen to anyone, in any profession, at any time. Sometimes the people you love just don’t get the chance to walk through your front door again.
And you’re left with nothing to hold on to but the card game you were going to finish. The conversation you were going to continue. That thing you were going to remember to tell them the next time you saw them.
So much hinges on that door opening again, but it’s lost in the bustling, restlessness of our day to day life.
Sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. We plow forward in our day with little thought because it’s easier than being paralyzed by every possibility and random what if. We’re shushed under a blanket of belief that life goes on the same, as expected, as planned.
And so the door opens, and closes.
And opens, and closes.
And we’re left numb to the rub of the wood on the jamb, the way the sound from outside swells to fill the entry space. We’re apathetic to the click of the bolt as it latches. We don’t even glance up from our computer screen because we’re immune to the exhilaration that is someone you love returning safely to the home you’ve built together. It quite literally is a daily miracle.
The tragedy is that we fail to see the miracle in it.
There are many reasons the door doesn’t open.
There are lots of reasons the door no longer opens with the person we love behind it. Some reasons we know are coming but we’re still unprepared when they become our new reality.
I went in and out the door of my childhood home so many times it became a sort of music; a rhythmic expectation. And when I stopped, it wasn’t because I’d died. It was because I’d married and moved to a house of my own with a new door to pass through.
Sometimes the door doesn’t open—not because of tragedy, but because life has simply moved on. It’s the son who moves away to college and only returns home twice a year. The daughter who leaves the country to work in the mission fields. It doesn’t open because people grow and change and become new.
We’re human, and forget in the dailyness of noise and stress and chaos that someday it will be gone.
Be thankful every time that door opens.
I think of my own sons and hope I’m never greeted by someone delivering bad news about their absence. But I also know the day will come when they’re not coming through my door except for a visit. We will no longer share an address. They will have homes with doors of their own to open and close.
And so I walk to the door which is once again hanging open, letting cold air seep into the laundry room. I bump it closed with my hip and listen for the click of the latch.
My sons have come through the door.
This post is part of a 14 day series, written across both sites that I run.
Gift #1 — The Gift of an Open Door
Gift #2 — The Gift of One of Those Days
Gift #3 —The Gift of a Dog’s Friendship
Gift #4 — The Gift of Mess
Gift #5 — The Gift of Our Silence
Gift #6 — The Gift of Routine
Gift #7 — The Gift of Community
Gift #8 — The Gift of Three Things Unsaid
Gift #9 — The Gift of Perspective
Gift #10 — The Gift of Being Real
Gift #11 — The Gift of a Bowl of Corn
Gift #12 — The Gift of Encouragement
Gift #13 — The Gift of Unanswered Prayers
Gift #14 — The Gift of Actually Listening