By Jean Beere
I was 19 and newly married. My husband and I had moved to Houston and needed to buy a couch for the apartment. We tried looking in several stores, but I never saw a couch that I really liked until we stepped into a Scandinavian store and there it was — my couch. The design was streamlined off-white with burlap upholstery. That couch followed me from Houston, to Austin, to California, to Florida, and then back to San Antonio. And always, that couch has been my safe place, a place where I can sit and be with God, and God be with me, and be with my memories.
It sat in the living room along with two barrel chairs that just happened to be made of the same material. They were a set — a perfect complement to the southwest décor that the living room seemed to have evolved into. My couch has seen parties, gatherings, Bible studies; it has been used as a bed by friends, youth, and me when I needed “my space.” It has seen me through the good times and bad times of my marriage and has helped me raise my two girls. It also helped me bury the youngest of my girls, Carly, now going on nine years ago. I was on that couch at one o’clock in the morning the day after she was killed, saying to my mom, “How do I breathe?”
My couch held me. It was with me through the end of my marriage, my oldest daughter moving back home, then her engagement, wedding and, sadly for me, her moving out. Through it all, my couch has been my safe place. Countless hours have been spent sitting on the couch watching life move on inside and outside of my house. I couldn’t walk pass that friend of mine without memories filling my mind. I was positive that I would never get rid of my safe place, my couch. It kept me where I felt the safest.
For the past few months now, I have been preparing my house for my oldest daughter, Crystal, her husband, and my granddaughter to move back in with me. They want to pay off their bills, save some money to purchase some land, and build a house. The biggest draw is my granddaughter, Merrick. Who can say no to the chance of living with your granddaughter for a year or two?
I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to pack up my things to make room for the kids. I had to reorganize the kitchen, pack up some items from the living room, move myself to the guest bathroom, and move all of my stuff into the spare bedroom. I packed up Carly’s room, getting it ready for my granddaughter. All of my memories have been neatly packed, marked in boxes, and put on the shelves in the garage. My plan is that when the kids move out, I will drag out all my stuff and sit and go through it. A few days before the big move, I was looking at my garage, admiring the storage space, when I heard the Spirit speak to me. “Do you get it yet, girlfriend? This is where you have been.” Sure, I thought. But time was running short and I needed to go see what else needed to be done. I ignored the Spirit.
But He followed me into the house and continued to talk to me. As I looked at my empty bedroom, He had something else to say to me. “When the kids move out, you will make this house your own.” This time, I said, “Yes, you are right.” I had to listen this time, I was talking back. I looked at Carly’s room, soon to be Merrick’s, and envisioned what it will look like in the future. I saw all my walls painted a neutral, modern color. I saw modern accessories mixed in alongside “a few” of my past mementos.
Then I went into the living room, now only half of what it was, which included giving the barrel chairs to my nephew. I saw my couch, my safe place, and I heard the Spirit tell me to say good-bye. I cried. Sounds stupid that I would feel this way about a couch. But I realized that my safe place had stopped me from being new. My safe place had stopped me from moving into the new life God has planned for me. It was good at keeping me where I was. It was good at being patient while I moved along into my healing process. But perhaps my safe place was keeping me too safe, and now I need my life to belong to me. As long as I had my couch, I stayed where I was. I needed to start new memories, none of which would diminish the old ones. I need a new safe place.
Right now, I can’t tell you where my new safe place will be, but I know that God will provide one where I will be forced to depend on the Holy Spirit even more to help me. Maybe that’s where my safe place should really be. As long as the Holy Spirit is with me, I will be in my safe place.
By the way, my couch has now gone to my other nephew who told me he would love it and take care of it. But he is a 23-year-old single male — I’m sure he will do the best he can.
Jean Beere is a member of St. George Episcopal Church, San Antonio TX and a member of the staff of the Diocese of West Texas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.