Night Crawlers

It’s strange how sometimes memories of childhood creep to the surface while walking throughout life.  Often at the most offbeat moment. Something happens and suddenly imagery and senses of recollection rise up to remind you that what is being experienced feels strangely familiar.  Oddly symbolic.

Like a silent reel to reel family movie playing inside the head. With the sounds of quiet purring as the tape winds round and round and the click, click, click of the projector as it brings to the mind’s eye a flash of recognition.  The vision bringing with it all of the sounds and the smells and sensations of what was once thought to be an ordinary experience. Suddenly flashing on the screen of memory and tangling itself up with what life is playing out before you. Helping to make sense of something hard to wrap the brain around.

One of my favorite memories as a little girl was hunting for night crawlers. How I’d love the sport of catching those fat, blood brown colored worms that come to the earth’s surface in the damp coolness of a summer evening.

As night fell after a day of steady rain, my brothers and I ventured out into the yard with flashlights in hand hoping to find a plentiful lot of worms for the catching.  If they seemed sparse and only smaller, thinner worms were visible, we’d expedite things a bit by dumping buckets of warm, sudsy water onto a staked out section of grass.  We’d then wait inside for a while. Hoping that bigger, fatter, and more rewarding worms would be forced to make their way up from the safety of dark earth packed tunnels below.

Once the waiting was enough and we had the green light to go…we’d quietly tip toe back out to yard and shine our flashlights onto the ground.

I can see them now as clear as I did then…ripply, lumpy, creepy looking worms lying there seemingly lifeless between blades of grass and bubbles of soap. Skins shining slimy in the spotlight. Laying bare as if they were safe. Clueless of their demise.

Thinking they escaped suffocation. Trying to catch their breath.

As clandestine as I could, I’d reach down with my thumb and forefinger to grab whichever looked to be the laziest and pull as it squirmed and squirmed and fought with all its strength to burrow back down into the soil. Many times, they’d slip right through my fingers. Disappear into the ground.  Lost.

I soon learned that I needed to be swift.  Nimble.  Squeeze just hard enough to get a successful grip.  Pull as my catch would sometimes stretch tight with one last attempt to burrow down. Raise it slowly, carefully (so it wouldn’t break in two).  I’d then hold my catch up in front of my eyes, assess my prize, and as it wiggled and curled and squirmed mid air, I’d place it in a tin coffee can filled with dirt.

Once I felt satisfied that I had more than enough (a dozen was usually the magic number), I’d put a plastic lid dotted with holes punched for air on my treasured worm can and head toward the house. For in the way early morning hours, we’d pierce those squirming, hard caught worms on the end of a hook. Wind them round and round the crook of it.  Cast them out into a lake and patiently wait some more.

Our earthworms would then writhe for their lives under water. No chance for them then. They were bait to catch fish.

Trauma is a powerful lure.  Ruthlessly unearthing things we’d rather leave buried.

Like the emotions we long to hide.  The ones we put in a tunnel where no one can see. Stuff them down deep and burrow them away underground.  Walk around every day as if they didn’t exist.

Only one day to be hit hard and they rise with the flood.

My son’s life was a complicated one, to say the least.  He loved deeply and spread that love around to quite a few. In the process, he broke a lot of hearts.

I know he didn’t intend for it to be that way.  Somehow he gathered love up and it got all twisted around and in not knowing how to handle all of the intensity, he left some feeling lost and stranded and hurt. Deeply hurt.

I swear I know it was never his intention.

I can tell you that with great clarity.  Because he broke my heart, too.

And oh! how all of that brokenness trickles out into something deep and wide and convoluted.  One hurt touching one heart touching another…and then another. Rippling out and taking on a life of its own.

On that very first night I set foot in TX,  I could sense it.  See it clear as the beam of a flashlight straight in front of me.  Smell it damp and earthy as the warmth of a summer night after a long and rainy day.  I could feel it slippery and slimy between my fingers. All of it desperate, so desperate to be set free.

Unfinished business.

Now doused with a bucket of warm, soapy crisis, deep hurts began to come to the surface. Skins of blood brown, squirming and throbbing hearts laid bare shining in the spotlight. Pierced by the end of trauma’s sharp, ruthless hook…winding round and round the crook of it.

I watched as they came, one after another. Over the threshold of my son’s hospital room. Crawling bare and vulnerable.

Carrying their own proverbial can of worms.

It couldn’t be helped.  No, not at all.  So much had been left unsaid…left until tomorrow. Or for another day.

Struggles for position. Disagreements and arguments.  Harsh words once spoken and longed to be taken back. Deep regret. Anger. Jealousy. Lost time. Unrequited love. Rejection.

Feelings of being ignored. Lonely. Lost. Abandoned.


Pain. Pain. Pain.

Each person handling their shock and distress so differently. Some with animosity.  Some with passive aggressive humor. Some with deep remorse. Most with great confusion.

A lot of love and devotion tangled up in those negative emotions.

Above all, they truly loved him.  They surely did.

So many came longing for just one more day…one more conversation.  One more chance.

To make things right.

There was no escaping, no burrowing down deep into those dark, safe tunnels underground. For they could all see it coming.

Night was falling.

And all of the hidden hurt…all of that earth packed pain had to rise up. Needed to. Or else they’d suffocate.

There would be no tomorrow.  Not another day.

The only chance now was to pin those night crawling, painful wounds to the end of a lifeline of hopeful Resolution and Forgiveness.

Cast them into the lake of loving Mercy.  Pray to catch some sweet relief of Grace.

And maybe, just maybe, there could be a way to change the silent memories playing on the screen of their minds. Rewrite the script. Create a new ending.

Untangle it all and set it free.

Escape the suffocation and finally…have the chance to breathe again.

I believe with all my heart, my son drew them to his side.

One by one he reeled them in.

He wanted resolution for so long. I know he did.  Above all else. He just couldn’t ask for it.

How I’d pray for them to let him go with forgiveness.  Let him go with the sweet, sweet gift of Mercy.  Grace.

If they all could give him that gift.  It would set him free.  Yes, it surely would.

Maybe he could take his last precious breath inhaling all of the love and forgiveness.

With the last flashes of his life movie playing out the way I know he so desperately longed for.  The purring of it round and round now more quiet, easing his weary mind.

Yes, with that I know he could finally let go, too.










One thought on “Night Crawlers

  1. I just dound this in my email. Oh Libby ao much thought and profound. No matter the day or the hour that baby new his mother loves him and he loved her. Love u and pray that that same peace love and forgiveness you prayed for him you have ! In Jesus Name love u sis


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