The Monday before Thanksgiving my emotions pulled a surprise attack.
The cold sunny weather provided a Texas-perfect backdrop for Thanksgiving week, with Monday marking the first official day of preparation. Dinner would be at my sister-in-law and brother’s this year. I was thankful for the contributing duties of mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, and cranberry relish. Organization brings comfort; I was working on my week’s list.
Then my heart wandered back to the Thanksgivings Before, anticipating events that had once shaped our family holiday, traditions that my mind logically knew could never be. It seemed as if I had to teach myself all over again. Sarah would not breeze in the door home from college on Wednesday night. We would not huddle up to watch Texas Tech football and the Dallas Cowboys or attend worship services. I would not make a big pot of potato soup for her homecoming, hear the excited chatter of her arriving friends or go for Mexican food the Friday after.
Sarah would be almost 35 now but I could not move my years past her 24 years of life. She was now the way I had always thought of President Kennedy after 1963, frozen solidly in time. Forever Young.
I encouraged myself. I am working to move forward, reviving my interests, creating a “new life.” I appreciate my loving friends and family and am grateful for the tremendous healing power of a struggling faith. Writing through the days helps me to focus. I have learned who to trust with my thoughts and when to lock up.
Thinking back before Sarah died, it is true that until I had experienced the loss of my own child, I was incapable of understanding the depths of such pain. I was sympathetic but not empathetic. This insight allows me to forego or lower my expectations of other people and to better control hurt, anger and disappointment.
Most importantly, I have learned that rich healing takes place when hurting people extend themselves to others who struggle in grief. Listening, sharing with honesty, encouraging. These gifts of truth and service honor the memory of our precious children and continue their legacy.
But this Monday before Thanksgiving I’m crying. I miss my girl. It’s hard to envision the years ahead having lost the most vital part of my life. I am not ashamed of my sorrow or my tears or worry that I’m not “making progress.” What parent does not think on his or her son or daughter whether they are alive or have passed on? These thoughts cannot be shut off like a water faucet. I have given myself the right to set the standards of my very personal grief, to measure my path using my own yardstick. I have mastered an essential lesson. “Do the next thing.”
I recall the words of my friend, Pat, whose daughter Stephanie passed away years ago when we were talking one day about our hopes for again experiencing life’s purest joy. “I’ll die happy with a broken heart.”
This week there are beans to snap.
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