Memorial Day, A Few Months Early

POSTED BY JESSE

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).

Notes From The Beach…

POSTED BY JESSE

The girls are at the beach with friends so Danny and I, through the kindness of a good friend who lent us his house for a couple days, decided we did not want to wait out the anniversary week of Lisa’s passing (does that need a catchier name? Lisa Week? Eh, that would be more fitting on her birthday. Death Week? Seems a bit morbid. We’ll work on it…) at home in a quiet, familiar, childless house. Instead we came to a quiet, unfamiliar, childless house, so it’s not like we’re having a party or anything. I think the thought was to get away, let ourselves mope a little bit, and then return with fresh faces to see the girls and face the 24th. It’s gray and windy here at the beach, and if I didn’t know any better I might think that we were creating the male version of the tear-inducing “Beaches”, and that one of us was the one with a terminal illness. But, no, we’re just a bit melancholy, missing a wife and sister. Here are a couple other things I’m thinking about:

What day was that again? I’ve found it interesting the way people consider dates, especially for something in recent history. Lisa passed away in the early morning hours of February 24th, but as we’ve been playing things back in our heads, we typically run off the weekly schedule of life. For example, we remember things like, “Friday so-and-so came to visit her, Saturday was the day we were told this, Monday was the day we had the family meeting…” etc.

 I have always worked better under this system, mostly because I’m terrible with dates, but also because it’s easier to use other events for context. I can’t tell you the date I started going out with a girl, but I can tell you the first time we kissed was the night of the UNC-Georgia Tech game that year. Danny joked he’s got enough emotion to “celebrate” both the day of the week and the actual date Lisa passed away, so we don’t need to worry about picking which one is the date we’re choosing to remember her passing.

“How’s Lisa?” That is not intended to be funny–Danny and I were talking on the drive down here about still coming across folks who don’t know. Recently, my Mom emailed with a family for whom Lisa had nannied for multiple summers. She loved the job, the family, and really enjoyed her time in Marblehead, Massachusetts. We were thinking about visiting since we’re headed to Boston this week to visit Sallie and Matt and their kids (Danny and I have godparenting to do!), but everyone feared that when we reached out to Lisa’s summer family, we’d also have to let them know she had passed away. We were right.

I also recently bumped into a guy who had worked at the Y with Lisa and Danny for a number of years. We greeted each other, and he quickly stated how he and his wife had just been talking about Lisa the other day and all the good times and stories they remembered of her. I assumed he was bringing this up because she had passed away and he was letting me know how much he thought of her. Then he caught me off-guard, “How is she doing?” Uh…

On the drive down, Danny relayed that DJ had a similar incident, only she had no clue who the person was. A lady, almost certainly a friend of Lisa’s, approached DJ, showered her with praise, told her she looked like her mom, and then promptly asked “How’s your mother doing?” I think Danny fears that such a question will send his daughters into a tailspin (since, admittedly, there have been times when someone will ask about her, or Danny, or the kids, or anything and the only answer that comes to mind is overwhelming sadness, and tears come before words), and that they might stuggle to answer. He asked her what she told the woman. DJ correctly pointed out, “Well, I couldn’t just say ‘she’s fine’, could I?!”

It sounds like DJ politely and unawkwardly told the woman that her Mom had passed away about a year ago. I think I need to take lessons from her. I still get terribly befuddled when people ask me how many siblings I have. Two? One? Had two, have one? How do you draw the line between being uninformative and avoiding a conversation that neither party is looking for?

This blog is a DOWNER Danny asked me on the drive down if he thought the blog was getting too depressing. I answered that I thought, yes, it had recently taken on more of a somber tone, but I thought it was more reflective of our current mood and what’s on our minds than anything. I told him I didn’t think it was a big deal and would not drive loyal readers away in droves if we had a week or two (or month?) of more thoughtful, somtimes even sad posts. However, f it’s still this way in April then we probably need to examine things, or not be surprised if people look for a more cheery place to visit on-line.

So stick with us, readers. This should be the blog at its most despondent. Things are getting better all the time🙂

How are the girls doing? Nothing makes me feel like a more inadequate guardian than not having a good answer to this one. With the temporary exception of one of the them seeming not her normal self for a stretch last summer, I feel like I have not noticed any major changes in the girls. In fact, people are always telling ME the things they have seen in the girls that are different, and I wonder if I’m too aloof to notice things or if I’m right and everyone else is just looking too hard. The girls are….girls! DJ is figuring out which high school to go to and probably more stressed out about the adults around her talking about it than she is by making the decision. Stephanie wants to sleep in on Saturdays and has a birthday party at Embassy Suites every other week. Michelle got a lot of Valentine’s Day candy and wants a later bed time. I have not been a parent, but all of this comes across as fairly normal to me.

I am not suggesting losing their mother will have no effect on them. I must admit, when 8-year old Michelle was filling out her “Letter to My Summer Counselor” for camp, and she wanted to describe herself as “sarcastic”, I worried a little bit that the influence of having two knucklehead adults in the house and no tough-love mom was probably taking its toll. (but I was still tickled to death. We convinced her to just go with “funny”).

Stephanie may prefer an extra hug this week, and DJ, true to form, is hunting for new traditions she can start to commemorate the 24th. But the girls are great, and I promise my lack of a better answer isn’t because I haven’t been paying attention. And that definitely mean don’t ask–like I said, I just feel silly when I don’t have much more of an answer than “great!”

Sunday Post 1: It’s Not Fair

Posted by Danny

Thursday night as I was putting Stephanie to bed, big tears came to her eyes and she said “It’s just not fair.” 

“What’s not fair baby?” 

 “It’s not fair that mommy died.”

She’s right.  It’s not fair.  It’s also not fair that we have a warm house to live in and some people live on the street.  It’s also not fair that we live in the United States and there are those who live in Haiti – still in tents a year after a devastating earthquake tore their island apart.  It’s not fair that innocent bystanders get killed by senseless acts of violence.

We talked about how the world was unfair.  I asked Stephanie if she would rather live in a world where everything was fair – everyone having the same exact house, the same talents, the same clothes, the same amount of money, and exactly two tragedies per family.  A very fair world.  We agreed that would not be a great place to live. 

I’m not sure why God allowed Lisa to die.  And I’ve thought about it a lot. 

Maybe He knows that heaven is a better place so He doesn’t stop disease from taking a young life.  He knows she’s ok with Him. 

Or maybe He knows that something good could come of this –  What if Stephanie becomes a scientist and discovers the cure to cancer simply because the loss of her mother motivated her to pursue that career?  Selfishly, I’m not sure I’d trade my wife’s life for the cure to cancer.  But it’s something to ponder.  Maybe that’s why He didn’t step in.

I don’t think I believe that God makes horrible things happen.    What I do believe is that something greater than me has given me the strength to get through the past 10 months.   I’m just not strong enough to have made it through this alone.  If it were simply up to me, I’d be in bed feeling sorry for myself.  And I’ve seen that – it’s not pretty.

  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 11,938 other followers

  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us