Tag Archives: losing someone you love

“He would have loved you.”

We lost my grandpa suddenly, five years ago today. My husband James never met him.

“He would have loved you.”

I tell him that sometimes. When we’re watching baseball, when he’s curled up quietly reading a book, when he starts singing made-up songs, when he peels open a banana, when he falls asleep in the armchair watching something he really loves.

I tell him that because it’s easier than saying, “I wish he had had the chance. I wish he had known you. I wish he had just one shared moment with you in my mom’s dimmed kitchen after dinner, hands wrapped around mugs on the table, quietly conversing about the world.”

My husband, he doesn’t know what he missed. How can you love someone you never met? If he’d come into my life a year earlier, he would’ve maybe had the chance. Maybe.

And so I look at it with a grateful heart. Less than 9 months after my grandpa died, this blonde-haired blue-eyed Italian-Irish boy parked outside the Cheesecake Factory and walked me inside. He reminded me about the love of baseball, the agony of 9 innings, of hard years and sticking with your team. He taught me that quiet can mean thoughtful. That words can be measured.

My grandfather lived three blocks from my aunt’s house. He showed up every day. In his actions and on their doorstep. He taught me what it means to give yourself to your family. And then, something changed, and he didn’t anymore. But we don’t remember him that way. We remember how he was for most of his life, how he loved his grandkids, the simple man he was.

I remember that cold first day of December, sitting on my knees with the kids, looking up at that video playing. Photo after photo. Song after song. When you’re the first grandkid, you see yourself over and over in those eulogy videos.

I cried the loudest in that room packed with people I hadn’t seen in years. In those photos, I could see all the time I’d had with him, all the things we’d done together, and how in the end it never felt like enough. You’re never ready for it to be over.

And so my husband shows me that sometimes God knows you’re hurting and He hands you a little piece of someone else. You catch yourself looking at your husband and remembering with sweetness what you once had, aching at the same time because you know they would’ve shared something special together.

You remember that quiet small actions matter. Love matters. Family matters. Showing up matters. On your doorstep or in your phone logs. However you can. However they need.

We Are All Good Enough To Fly

gym-snow

This is not my happiest hour.

I thought about that, break lights in front of me all the way home tonight. I thought about whether that was a good thing, a bad thing, or just a true thing. This is not your happiest hour, I told myself. It just isn’t.

Friday, when the better part of the East Coast shuffles off to Happy Hour, you will be thinking about a girl in a room with a green sparkling leotard on, knees dry and cracking, palms sweaty, hair curling at the roots. You will think of her standing in a room, learning for the first time that she’s lost someone she deeply cares about, and you’ll pause. Wherever you are, at 7pm on Friday night, you will remember Friday, December 12, 2003. Friday, December 12, 2003. The perfect date – 12.12.03. 1+2 = 3. 1+2 = 3. You will be obsessed with dates and times, adding and subtracting them, and so, at thirteen, the perfect date will feel a lot less perfect.

I used to think I could only ever be angry, could only ever be sad. I had to gear myself up. I had to get real mad at God every year when I scrolled through the Facebook status updates, the photographs, all of us remembering a man who meant so much to us. To a group of girls in leotards.

Then, last summer, I met somebody who made me realize that might not be true. She had lost her daughter, decades ago, and each year, she remembered her. In the middle of her three boys, there was a girl, and I imagine she was beautiful, and full of life. I imagine it hurt like hell to lose her. It’s been years and years, and she still remembers, still makes a note to reflect, to say something about it, on her daughter’s birthday and the day she died.

For a while, I wondered if we stop. If we pause, and take a trash can, and empty our past into it, sit it out on the curb, and let our new relationships be untainted by what happened years ago. But we are who we are because a girl in a dress or a man in blue wind pants and a white polo helped us be a better person, for years and years after we lost them.

I was thirteen then. I lost my faith. I cried loud at his funeral, until my lungs ran out of breath, until my eyes ran out of tears. I cried through a full pack of tissues. Because I thought something monumental was happening – something was over. And it was, but something else would forever be beginning because of it.

My dreams continued, I pushed onward because he had always believed in me, I carried his lessons with me from team to team, from job to job, I paused on dark days and thought of him, his hope for me, his patience with me, and I knew I was blessed, for a short time in such a crucial stage of my life, to know a man who gave me wings when I didn’t believe I would ever be good enough to fly. He taught me that: we are all good enough to fly, even when we don’t see it ourselves.

And with that, I know, there is time yet for my happiest hour.

God, we need that from you.

jeeps

I lost a piece of my heart + soul in the back of that red Jeep Wrangler. It tumbled atop the stretch of I-95 along the central coast of Jersey. I don’t remember where we were headed that day, just that some cars hold hearts and some cars hold belongings and some cars hold precious precious cargo that feels like both.

That car felt like freedom for a little girl who often wore dresses on Sunday mornings and tripped up Sunday school stairs to find her mom chatting about Lent and the things we give & the things we give up.

That girl sat pretty and proper in the empty classroom while her mom chatted, and the other kids pushed through double glass doors, spilling into the sunbaked parking lot. They hoisted each other into caravan side doors. Cars revved and reversed and vroomed into the winding road away from God & his Lent, but she stayed. She stayed and they went, to find a chocolate frosted donut and greasy hash browns and steaming, milky coffee. Shoved God to the third row of seats, beneath collapsible dog crates and soccer cleats, while she patted her knees together and Mom kept chatting.

She was different, quiet. Other kids rubbed their faces with sticky sprinkled donuts and she held onto the taste of chocolate icing rimming her fingertips.

For her, God was a quiet man, a patient man, a man who looked at soccer cleats with grass & mud caked spikes, with dirtied Sunday school textbooks, and shook his head. A proper line, she thought. Walk a proper line and iron your skirts and never miss a Sunday school lesson and that is how you live. That is life.

That Jeep Wrangler felt free. It felt wild. It felt reckless.

Five years later, a red Jeep crashed on the side of a winding rural road, much like the ones she traced home after Sunday school. All infinities, she knew then, had endings. All rushes had to settle.

She curled back into that churchgoer self. She stayed quiet. She lost hope. She forgot that car crashes and Jeeps had everything to do with living a full live — not nothing, like she once thought. So instead, she quit things she loved. She set bravery aside. She apologized to herself, and others, for existing, for choosing silliness.

Ten years passed before she stopped walking with apologies. Ten years passed before she decided differently. Nobody, she said, nobody deserves to hold themselves quiet. We are rays of sun. We are stars at the end of someone’s life, especially if that someone dies too soon. We are bright and shiny and brave and important and God, we need that from you. God, we do.