Clare Saumell VanderWeele

essays on living

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The Greatness of Small Things

This blog was born out of big things. Specifically, one big giant thing that enveloped lots of smaller big things.

It’s coming up on three years since I first choked on the word “widow;” since I saw with my own eyes how grief overshadows everything.

C. S. Lewis wrote in the wake of his wife’s death, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

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What Happened When I Stopped Running Away

I was one of those lethargic teenagers who groaned when we had to run the mile once a year at school. I ran the straights and walked the curves, simultaneously intimidated and bored by that black hot track. It was torture.

But then, sometime around the beginning of college, I casually decided to go for a run. And then I kept doing it. Only ever a mile at a time. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but for some insane reason, I stuck with it.

After college, I grudgingly ran a half-marathon. I clung to the medal proudly, but training had killed my knees and I swore I’d never run another half again.

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A Desperate Mother’s Day Wish

It was 3am, every single day of my pregnancy: I would wake up sobbing, convinced I was going to be a terrible mother.

All the mistakes I’d ever made came flooding back to me, and I imagined my child making the same regretful decisions, simply because it was I who made him.

When he was first laid on my chest, tiny and slippery, I breathed his name and marveled over the fact that he was mine.

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On Becoming a Quitter

I reached 5 miles with a smile. I turned at the half way mark, a pedestrian bridge across the Fox River, and I ran back down the ramp towards the riverside path.

And then it happened.

My ankle buckled. I flew with the downhill momentum. I landed in a heap, with a bloody knee and instantly swelling ankle. And I sobbed.

I had spent 5 months in the biting cold of winter, one foot after the other pounding the icy pavement, and now I was two weeks away from the half marathon I had signed up for in an effort to hold myself accountable.

I needed the winter running to stay sane. I refused to spend months of cold gray skies huddled inside, depressed and agitated. And so I ran. And it was awesome… until it wasn’t.

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Birthday Wishes

I’ve found out over the years that I’m pretty good at killing things.

Walk in my house and you’ll see the ridiculous number of plants that thrive in my home. But in reality, they are a mere fraction of all the ones I’ve ever owned before inadvertently killing them off.

And it’s not just plants. I’ve lost count of the number of fish I ever saw floating lifelessly upside down before I decided to get rid of the fish tank.

This year, though, I’ve planted a hundred promising seeds. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, cauliflower, and more. Some are growing already, their tiny green heads poking up above the rich soil.

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The Mythical Timeline of Grief

My best friend is getting married this week. I frequently wonder how I ever got so lucky to know her like I do. I’ve known her more than half my life, and she’s the sister I never had. She’s been my lifeline in my darkest days and my laughter on the best days.

And I am unbelievably excited to see her walk down the aisle towards the man she loves.

She chose the date of her wedding at random. It happened to be a Friday in March. It happened to fit into her and her fiance’s schedule. And so she booked it. And then she told me the date. And it also happens to be the 10-year anniversary of when Chris and I started dating.

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On Being Known

Our world seems to have an obsession with being known. Perhaps it is an innate human need, I don’t know. But it lies at the heart of the insane phenomenon of celebrity culture and leaves few people unaffected by the opportunity to claim a mere 15 minutes of fame.

But is being known by many the same as really, genuinely being known?
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The Voice That Sings

A year ago, I published my first blog post. I wrote out of the desperate need to tell my story, to share my grief after the death of my husband.

I wrote about how there’s something deeply human about imagining worst case scenarios.

A year later, in this 3rd year since Chris passed, I haven’t stopped imagining. And yet, that initial grief has shifted. What once tore me apart on the inside and made it hard to breathe has since calmed itself.

It lingers like a scar.
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The Year I Learned to Listen

This year has been my year of throwing on mismatched fluffy socks and devouring Harry Potter page by page for the eighteenth time.

It’s been a year of dance parties with the three year old and dinners with the friends I love.

A year of storytelling and struggling with how to write what I need to say.

A year of admitting that I don’t know how to pray and realizing that God meets us wherever we may be.

It’s been a year of opening doors.

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The Forgotten Thank Yous

The only existing audio clip I have of Chris is from when he persuaded one of his best friends to try “Dave’s Gourmet” ghost pepper hot sauce. You can’t see him in the video, but you can hear his laughter and commentary in the background as his friend’s mouth burns – “It’s not unbearable… it’s just… it’s spicy,” says Chris.

And it makes my heart swell. To hear my husband’s voice again… There are no words.

It would have been a forgotten moment in a series of many, equally hilarious scenarios. It would have been altogether passed by, lost in the haste and spinning of our lives.

Except that death reminds us that life is composed of the small moments.

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