I don’t get personal very often, if ever, on the blog, other than quick updates on why I haven’t blogged. However, this is a bad anniversary. I wanted to reflect on an awful day and how I’ve coped for the past two years… primarily, through fiction. Warning: Harry Potter references abundant.
This week in July is awful. I cannot remember the date in 2003 my Grampa Bob died, but I remember it was this week because we made an effort to give my cousin a birthday gift after the memorial, nervous it would get forgotten in the fuss of death. He died of cancer, and we were all surrounding him and doing the family together at the time of death. When I was a toddler and I babbled at him, he smiled and nodded, and when I finally admitted clearly, “I don’t know WHAT I’m talking about!” he replied, “It’s okay, I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about!” In fact, he convinced my grandma that he COULD understand my incoherent chatter. He was the calm in the storm.
The 24th will mark the third anniversary of my Granny Annie passing. It was also not sudden, as she had been going downhill for a long time. She babysat my nephew when I was in middle school; therefore, we hung out a lot when I got home an hour earlier than the rest of my family. She also drove me to my disastrous field hockey practices for a couple weeks, which was totally out of her way. (I puked the first day when we ran around the building three times, if that tells you anything about my field hockey career.) She was a hilarious woman, and I appreciated her a great deal.
July 25, 2010 was possibly the worst day of my life. It didn’t start that way: My mom and grandma had just visited us for my graduation, and they left before I went to church. I played with my kiddos in my class, I took a nap, Pete went on a long bike ride. We ordered pizza, and we were eating it while watching some awful Lost-esque show (The Event?) when I got a freaked out call from my neighbor, who couldn’t get in touch with my mom, and my stepdad had collapsed in the yard. Then she handed me off to the EMT, who asked me some questions. Then my neighbor basically said, “Call your mom, get her home, and… don’t tell her it doesn’t look good.” Not long after, we pretty much all found out in awful ways that he didn’t make it. I found out from the same neighbor, which wasn’t awful, but knowing before everyone else was kind of frightening. My mom and younger sister were stopped on the way into the neighborhood. My younger sister called my older sister in hysterics while big sis was driving. Bad all around.
I’ve never detailed that day before in a format that people might read. I still tear up when I talk about it. It hasn’t been easy, and I feel like most of my family members have struggled with sadness, if not depression, over the loss.
I had a hard time with my “home” church’s staff after that. One of the associate ministers harassed my mom about what he could do, and then when she said something he could do for the memorial service, “Oh… we don’t normally do that.” Then, STFU and leave us alone. <– I kid you not, my mom AND my sister almost said the uncensored version to a MINISTER in two separate instances that week. (My aunt works side-by-side with this guy. Makes you wonder how he treats “unconnected” people. ) Anyway, it also didn’t help that we had about four deaths in our church that week (two from large families), and the music minister put “Blessed be your Name” and other cheesy, “healing” songs in the worship service. I don’t know about the other families who lost loved ones, but I know our spirits soared after we heard that! (<– where I need a sarcasm font.) Our actual minister was a blessing, and when I got back to Tennessee, our preacher was a fantastic comfort in that he didn’t feel like he had to say anything except, “I’m sorry, it’s like a bubble that can burst at any moment, isn’t it?” So, church was a mixed blessing at that time. A lot of well-meaning people who had faith that all would be well, but didn’t know how to show it… and I probably didn’t want to accept it.
That week and shortly after, I summarized two books, Kristy and Mr. Mom and Smiles to Go. Needless to say, Spinelli was a better comfort to me than a BSC story, but only slightly. Funny that I say that since my stepdad wormed his way into my heart by giving me the whole set of BSC Videos.
What has truly comforted me the past two years is a group of good friends and a strong dose of fiction. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter after her mother died, and it’s strongly influenced by that death. I feel like JKR did what my preacher Aaron did– commiserate, and remind me that there was still good in the world.
I’ve always had a soft heart. I cry whenever someone else is sad. I’m sensitive to other people’s pain, almost to a ridiculous amount, so fiction is just an extension of that. It’s really no surprise that I still let the grief bubble pop on occasion, especially in July.
But it comforts me to know that even when the bubble bursts, I can delve into any number of books for comfort– to know I’m not alone, to know others have made it and I will too. To know, as Dumbledore tells Harry, “You think the dead we love ever leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of trouble? Your father is alive in you, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.” To know that Luna hears the voices lurking behind the veil as well. To know, as Mr. Potter knew, that loved ones will be with him/us until the very end, always.
I will laugh heartily. I will celebrate life. I will love deeply. These are things my Papa taught me. I will keep going, because that’s something my Mama showed me.
And, as I need no encouragement or reason to do this, I will keep reading. I will read joyful stories like Anne of Green Gables ; I will read heartbreaking stories like Walk Two Moons. I will go on adventures with Harry and Percy Jackson; I will fall in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy. I will shine like Stargirl.
I’ll escape for a while outside of myself, but I’ll be back. When I’m back … I’ll have lived and died a million ways, and that can only make me stronger.