Tag Archives: dealing with death

We Will Find Goodness In All This Sadness

No matter how many presents I wrap this holiday season, there ain’t nothing pretty and tied up nice about this December. Because when the grief rolls in and my legs get heavy, the honesty is the only thing tucked underneath my Christmas tree.

Right now, my life feels like two ends of a frayed string of lights. In one hand, the past. In the other, the future.

All because some story never got its pretty-with-a-bow ending. All because I’ll be spending this Sunday in God’s waiting room, trying not to let my voice shake when I tell these strangers and friends that some endings don’t get to look sparkly. Some endings don’t get to shine. Some endings look a little worse for the wear, a little impromptu, a little hard to swallow.

It’s what happens when somebody dies in the middle of a big ole brawl. The screaming only stops long enough to turn to silence. The searing anger only subsides so we can sob and tuck sorrow into the pockets of our black lace dresses.

I have a love-hate relationship with the month of December. It’s pretty darn pathetic the way I turn to a 13-year-old girl every year, willing myself to remember the wise words of a man who’s been beneath the ground for almost a decade now. And I guess I never thought I’d christen my Thanksgiving eve with the news that you, you are done with this little old life, this big ole battle.

I forgot what it felt like to process tragedy in all its newness. And so I sat on my parent’s fireplace and put my head in my hands and said, mouth agape, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t wrap my head around this.”

Just can’t wrap my head around the messiness of no resolutions. Just can’t wrap my life up nice and neat when you’ve got no hellos left, only goodbyes. Just can’t wrap my fingers around paper reserved for all the words I have yet to say to you.

Tell you about my first apartment, my life fresh out of college. The way I sometimes think about that last phone call back in March, the voicemail you never returned.

It’s like opening an old scar with a fresh wound. It’s like eternally ending on bad terms. It’s the fight that never ends in an apology, the kind that leaves you tossing and turning all night long for the rest of forever.

It’s hard to deal with a loose ending that leaves us torn into two halves—before you left and after.

I never intended to let my mamma call herself an orphan the week before she turned fifty. Never intended to scrape blog posts into Word documents and speak them loud and shakily in front of people.

It is much easier to write my heart into a WordPress draft when nobody, absolutely nobody, is there to judge me. And I never thought I’d have to pull these blog posts into a story. I never thought the last thing I’d ever say on the subject of you would be crafted in an HTML document and blasted out for the Internet but never your own eyeballs. That I would write you a story and never tell you about it.

But I would like to be the kind of blogger my family turns to when things get weird, when lives get messy, when hearts get achy. That’s sort of how it happens these days. That’s sort of how it plays out.

I could’ve lived with the weight of my words so long as I never had to string them together like Christmas lights brightening up a eulogy. But I do. And I am. And we will find some goodness in all this sadness, so long as we have the choice to remember the past for what it was: glorious and short-lived, quietly content and full of the fabric of this family.

But here I am, pulling a paragraph here and a sentiment there and teaching my brain how to tie up that which will never be resolved, that which you will take to your grave.

There is no period, just comma after comma of "Are you serious, God? Another one?"

It rained all morning, all day, all evening.

I woke up to the sound of it pattering on the roof above my head and knew that, after holding out as long as He possibly could, God was bawling.

He does that sometimes, too. He is both the proud mother at a high school graduation ceremony and the lonely little sister who doesn’t understand the concept of “goodbye for four months.”

Those tears were bittersweet. I bet he watched us from his perch above, a perfect view to see the falling apart phase blend into the coming together phase.

He watched us learn the news, each in our respective houses—some in bed waking to a text message, a “just want to make sure you’re safe,” others scrawling through Twitter updates, still others depending on Google to return search results that will explain the sudden shift in Facebook status updates.

Most of us, separated by seconds or a few miles at most, knew not who it was this time. We did not know if it would be a funeral for a friend or a stranger for almost twelve hours. But we knew that we had had enough of burying our fellow Dukes.

In just ten days, the JMU community has endured four deaths. Each smacks into us only days after the last wound begins the healing process. There is no pause, just comma after comma of “Are you for real, God? Another one?”

The stories shift. Heart attack. Hit by a bus. Hitting the sheets and never waking up again.

The falling apart is easy, but it is the coming together that marks us. Fourteen thousand united souls broke out of their need to wear something perky and pink, preppy and pristine, for a different agenda. A different color.


It is as if we were taught a new-age monochromatic version of the rainbow. We threw out all the colors we didn’t need and meshed together the ones that were left: red hearts and blue skies.

We donned ourselves in light lilacs, vibrant violets and opulent orchids. We pushed past the dreary weather. Instead, the slight chill came over us when we realized that we were in this life together, that with death comes collective healing.

“Is this it?” I wonder out loud. “How many more people will die before December?”

And I pray that the number is empty like the sadness some of us are feeling. Pray that the next strike does not hit too close to home, that it is years down the road.

Funny how we alter our fears, how we beg, in times of crisis, for it all to end, just so we can recuperate. And so we throw on our purple t-shirts and wait for the clouds to run away in fear.