Sunday Post 154: Feeling Again

The other day Michelle and Stephanie decided they were going to organize the cabinet in the living room where I’d crammed our hundreds of CDs. Their work gave me motivation to pull out some of the old tunes –

A little Chicago:

Everybody needs a little time away, I heard her say, from each other… even lovers need a holiday, far away from the one that I love…

As I was heading out for a three-hour drive to Charlotte last week I grabbed a handful of nostalgia and began listening – and singing – hadn’t forgotten a single word.

I do well with my grief now. I’m not wallowing in it. I seldom cry about my loss. I’ve done a pretty good job, nearing the four-year anniversary, of putting my life back together.  My counselor told me it would take that long.

But sometimes, I just need to miss her.

As I cruised down I-85, one song socked me in the gut. It was about desperately loving someone.

I could tell from the onset that listening to it was going to be emotional. I knew if I listened to it I was going to fall apart. Not slightly tear up, no, this was going to be significant.

Oddly, I played the song all the way through. And I cried. And I missed her. And I played it through again, and again, and again.

When, on occasion, I go to that place, I generally swallow hard – fight it back. But on that day, something inside me said go ahead… miss her. It’s OK. Get it out.

It didn’t ruin my day, nor my week. I didn’t get stuck there. I’m still moving on. I’m still really happy.

I just temporarily needed to feel, to feel that sad again.

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Sunday Post 8: What’s Your Problem Tanner?

Posted by Danny

My high school PE teacher was Miss Cherry.  To a 16-year-old, she seemed 113 years old. 

She was slight with short brown hair and glasses.  She wore gray work pants most days with a zip up navy jacket.  She referred to each student by their last name.

“What’s your problem Tanner?  Why aren’t you dressed out today?” she asked in her low raspy voice.

“Forgot my uniform Miss Cherry.”  Truth be told I knew I was going to fall off the balance beam in front of the entire class so I selectively decided to give myself a deserved break from PE hell.

“Let’s go check your locker.”


“Open it Tanner; go on.” 

I obeyed.

“Look.  There it is right under your science book.”

“Oh, I must have overlooked it.”  How humiliating.

“I’ll see you at the balance beam in two minutes.”

“Can’t wait.”  Errrr.

Looking back on it, the thing I admired most about Miss Cherry was not her ability to sniff out a liar, it was her willingness to role model what she expected from us.  Each day when we entered the gym, we would spread out and start our arm rolls.  We’d hold our arms out to the side, like we were on a cross, and rotate them forward for what seemed like 27 minutes and then backwards for an equal amount of time.  She didn’t walk around the class patrolling our form.  She stood up front and rolled her arms with us – the entire “54” minutes.

I actually enjoyed PE during track season, running was my thing.  I had a friend, however, who suffered from asthma so that was a difficult few weeks for her.  I remember Ann struggling one day and asking Miss Cherry for a break. 

“I’ve got a little asthma myself McNeil.  I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do.  Let’s go.” 

And together they jogged around the track, both with a slight wheeze, for the remainder of the class period.

There have been times in my life, and especially this past year, that I’ve just wanted to stop running.  I’ve wanted to crawl in the bed, pull up the covers and stay there for an indefinite period of time.  But there are a lot of people out there who are in situations that are much more horrible than mine.  And somehow, they run.  They run while experiencing the loss of a loved one, or illness, or divorce, or job loss and financial crisis.  They run with mental illness or with children who aren’t exactly what they’d dreamed they would be.  I see them every day.  What incredible role models they are for me.  They are my present-day Miss Cherrys.

To all of you who have set the example for me on how to face adversity with strength and courage, I thank you.  You don’t realize how much your actions mean to those of us watching from the sidelines.

Memorial Day, A Few Months Early


I promise you, this is a blog about two well-meaning but often clueless guys trying to raise three wide-eyed girls in the wake of their mother passing away at too young an age. It is not a blog about a grief-stricken family. The latter, though meaningful and heartfelt, does not seem like a blog I would be interested in following for very long. The former is full of funny tales and moments that make you think, and, hopefully, would be a blog folks would find to be an interesting read.

But it’s “remembering week”, so that’s what we’re doing.

I speak for myself here, but yesterday (yes, February 24th was the date she died) was really not a difficult day for me. Maybe it’s because we were always on the go, flying up to Boston and running around town most of the day. Maybe it’s because we’re away from the house. Maybe it’s because–due to the approaching anniversary and some other stuff–I had a miserable week last week and didn’t have enough left in me to stay sufficiently glum.

But whatever the reason, I did not feel the harrowing sadness I did a year ago, and that I have felt at times this past year, and feared I might experience yesterday. Whereas I appreciated every single word, note, comment, and letter I received a year ago (even the ones I was never diligent enough to respond to) and read and re-read most of them multiple times, yesterday I kind of got annoyed as the texts, emails, calls, and facebook messages rolled in–like I was getting reminders that I should be feeling worse than I was. (note to friends: yes, I just irreverantly dismissed all of your good intentions. I am that jerk. But what can I do? That’s how I felt. I still advocate friends reaching out to friends, I promise!)

Which brings me to the multiple rememberances that have gone up to honor Lisa. Much like the generous gifts that were given in her memory to First Presbyterian Church and St. Timothy’s (and the $20,000+ that was given to cancer research through St. Timothy’s Spring Sprint), the physical memorials are a beatiful tribute to her legacy. But after yesterday, I wonder: will I look at these memorials and be happy and nostalgic? Or sad and annoyed? Will they bring joy in rememberance of a life well lived or anger at a life cut short? Of course, the memorials are not FOR me. They are for her, and Danny, and their girls, and my family, and all those who knew and have heard and will hear about Lisa. So I can get over myself. But I do wonder.

Regardless, they are beautiful and touching and despite my terrible introduction, I hope you enjoy seeing them. I hope I do, as well.

At St. Timothy’s, the front playground was dedicated to Lisa’s memory, marked by a plaque and a statue of two children on a bench reading (the picture at the top of the post is the writing on the bench). At DJ’s urging, Danny and the girls tied a balloon to one of the children in the statue before we left for Boston. Someone was also thoughtful enough to attach one on St. Timothy’s famous “Balloon Day”, one of Lisa’s favorite days of the year.


At First Presbyterian, an incredibly constructed, hand-made wooden music stand was dedicated to Lisa’s memory. The story, I believe, is that well before Lisa died the maker was moved to build the music stand, but wasn’t quite sure why. Then Lisa, a long-time director of the Children’s Choirs, passed away, and he realized (and I don’t want to speak for anyone here, but this is how it has been told to me) that the stand had been divinely inspired, his actions and hands guided by God. It is magnificent enough in its construction that I would find it difficult to disagree.

The engraving reads:

Lisa’s commitment to First Presbyterian Church was evident through her deep level of involvement. Lisa loved music and shared that love through her service as Co-Director of the Children’s Choir.

Dedicated in Memory of Lisa by the Choirs of First Presbyterian Church.

Designed and created with loving care by Hilliard Green, Jr.


At our family vacation spot, Capon Springs, WV, they have been going through some major building improvements. Our family opted to dedicate a new fireplace in the main house to Lisa. We picked the fireplace because it is the centerpiece of what was probably Lisa’s favorite activity at Capon: sitting around the main house living room, chatting with friends, catching up (read: gossiping!), playing group games, having sing-a-longs, and generally just loving life with good friends. After some good family brainstorming, my mom came up with “Sing Songs, Share Stories” for the inscription–it’s perfect. (note to Caponaires: the stone may not look exactly like this when you arrive in August).

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