The Sting

Posted by Danny

Monday, January 24, was the eleven month anniversary of Lisa’s death and by 2 in the afternoon all I wanedt to do is climb in bed.  For me, the sting burns in a myriad of ways.  It can last a few hours.  I’ve had it last as long as two weeks.  It can come because of the anniversary – the 24th – I hate the 24th.  Who celebrates or recognizes an eleven month anniversary of anything?  We don’t celebrate our 11th month birthday, not even in the first year; and yet, in grief, we hang on to that day – it hits us – month after month after month.

The sting can hit when a holiday is heading my way.  It can hit because I found one of her feminine products in the bathroom drawer.  There is no rhyme or reason.  And I find myself unconsciously beginning the slide.  When I realize it’s coming, I can typically pin point the reason – “Crap, it’s the 24th.  I should have prepared.”  But you can’t prepare.  It’s subconscious.  Your body just realizes it’s time to grieve.

They say, “It’s normal.”

It’s NOT normal for me!

Never in my life have I felt this level of pain.

DJ was sick today.  I headed home mid day to make her lunch.  I checked email and knocked out a few work projects.  At 1:00 I had an hour and a half meeting that I phoned in to.  I laid on the couch listening to every word, trying desperately to focus.  But all I wanted, all I could think about was Lisa.  The sting can be paralyzing.  On the outside you may see me sitting in a meeting, having a conversation with my kid, checking email.  On the inside, my mind is in one place.  My mind is full.  My mind is consumed with my loss.

The sting makes me discontent with many aspects of my life: work, home, relationships.  The sting can clutter my mind with thoughts of future loneliness.  The sting robs me of my patience with my kids.  It is claustrophobic.  It’s gripping.  It doesn’t last forever.

We spend a great deal of time sharing the funny aspects of our  life – and there are many.  But it’s not all funny.  

I hear there are people out there reading this blog who are going through similar situations to mine.  My goal is for this to be helpful – to show that you can laugh during grief even as it hurts like hell.  What I’d share with those in similar situations is that it takes a tremendous amount of fight to see the good through the pain.  It’s exhausting.  And yet, without it, what’s left?  

It’s worth the fight.

Sunday Post 2: The Small Things

When Lisa and I would ride back and forth to Duke last year, often with bad news in tow, we’d hold hands.  I’d put my arm out, palm up proped on the rest in between our seats.  She’d place her hand over mine.  I can’t recount how many times this year I’ve ridden down the road with my arm in that position, imagining that her hand was still there. 

Stephanie is just now getting big enough to sit in the front seat without the airbag’s “off” signal shining in my face.  That’s sort of been our determining factor for sitting up front.  Most of her friends are already in the passenger seat.  With an uptight dad and an older sister, she hasn’t had much opportunity to upgrade from the back.

This past  weekend DJ was on a mission trip with our church youth group.  So when we hopped in the car tonight, Stephanie meandered into the front seat hoping I’d allow her to stay.  I turned the car on – the airbag’s “off” signal came on briefly and then disappeared.  I looked at her.  She smiled.  We turned the CD player on, the soundtrack from Wicked began.  We’d seen that play this summer in New York and the girls loved the music.  The song “Defying Gravity” was on cue.  As Steph and Michelle sang, I found my hand in the position it had been in so many times before.  But this time, Stephanie grabbed it. 

A rush of emotion overcame me.  How could I miss something so small as holding hands?  I’d lost so much – the person I shared everything with – and yet, at that moment, it was the touch of her hand that I missed the most.

Why do we go through life oblivious to the things that bring us the most joy?  We remember big elaborate vacations.  We have pictures of all our “important” occasions.  And we take for granted the small things – a hand to hold, the roll of an eye, an expression we learned to expect.

Stop.  Look.  Realize.  Be thankful.

Rocks Are Everywhere

Posted by Uncle Jesse

Getting ready for school is not the easiest thing for the Tanner family, though I suspect it’s not any more or less of a hassle for us than it is for others. DJ is generally pretty efficient and autonomous. Stephanie tends to drag her feet a bit, but for the most part is good-natured and usually remembers what she needs for the day’s activities (though the addition of earrings to the equation has been a bit of an adjustment). And the “wild card” of most mornings is Michelle. One morning she may traipse down the steps before the other two, singing out loud and making jokes about my outfit. The next day, she might have a meltdown over her ribbon not matching her shoes. It is impossible to guess which it will be, but not very difficult to discern once you see her morning face.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

One morning recently, Danny had an early meeting so the morning rush was a solo job for me. Our big task for the morning was having to transport Michelle’s class project, a giraffe in its habitat, to school. It happened to coincide with a Tuesday, which meant we also had to get piano books. And it was cold, so coats and gloves were a last minute addition as well. All of this was proving too much for Michelle, who in addition to being a little frazzled was also not thrilled about how the giraffe was looking. The other girls tried to help.

“It looks great!” said DJ.

“I’ll grab your piano books,” offered Stephanie, often a very helpful, selfless child.

But while minor problems could be fixed, Michelle had seemingly decided this was just not going to be a good morning.

“It’s falling apaaaart,” she whined, almost on the verge of tears.

“The giraffe is just heavy,” DJ countered. “You can re-assemble it once we’re there and it will be fine.” It was at least enough to get us out the door. But two turns into the drive to school, Michelle had found another thing wrong:

“It doesn’t have any rocks! It’s supposed to have rocks because I said in the report…” and the rest was hard to make out because the tears had started in earnest.

“We can find rocks at school, I promise,” I told her. “We’ll find some.”

“But…” She continued to cry.

Though my play here is typically to brush off seemingly major issues as minor ones, and though I knew it would not be difficult to add some rocks once we got to school, I made an astute assessment. This was not about rocks. This was about changing the direction of the morning, and it needed to be done before we arrived at school.

When we arrived at the next stop sign I braked a little harder than normal and threw my sister’s minivan into park. The crying stopped briefly and the other two paused, not sure what I was doing. Truth be told, I think they all thought I was about to turn around and tell Michelle to suck it up and quit crying (and truth be told, I had considered–it would have been justified).

Then, with an air of mystery, I got out of the car, left it running, walked the few steps to the small park we were passing and picked up a few rocks. Seconds later I was back in the car, and as I placed them gently next to the giraffe, with a smile and a tone that suggested I had no idea Michelle had even started crying I said simply, “See? Rocks are everywhere. No biggie.”

Like a prince’s kiss, the spell was broken and the evil morning mood was lifted, and Michelle and the giraffe lived happily ever after, rocks and all.

This project rocks.

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