Every day I sit in my daughter’s high school parking lot and wait for her school to release. School lets out at 3:15 and once that bell rings there’s a wave of kids that come hurrying out to their cars to try and get out as soon as they can so they can avoid the inevitable flood of impatient high school drivers who still haven’t learned the concept of “right of way.”
I attempt to park in the same approximate spot each day for consistency sake. That way, when Lydia comes out of school, she’ll immediately know where I am and we can get out as soon as possible. I arrive a little early each day to make sure I get this spot. I often turn the radio on to NPR and catch up on the news, listening to updates about the pandemic or where we are at with vaccines. Some days I’m not in the mood for the news, so I listen to some music on Spotify or maybe a podcast.
As I sit and wait and watch kids come running out to their cars, one of the kids in that first wave is a tall boy, maybe seventeen or so. He’s got straight sandy blonde hair, bangs just long enough that the hair gets in his eyes as he walks to his car. He often has to jolt his head to the left to get the hair out of his face. He’s tall and skinny, what most people would probably consider “lanky.” His head maybe seems a little small for his body, and he’s got a pointy chin along with some typical teenage acne. He usually wears a thin sweatshirt and shorts with athletic shoes. Even though he clearly is intending to get to his car before most people, his unhurried leisurely pace says otherwise.
This kid is the spitting image of my brother at that age.
He looks so much like my brother that it sends chills down my spine sometimes when I see him. My brain grasps, lunging, trying to make that kid into a reincarnated version of my brother, some sort of time traveling anomaly. Sometimes a memory swiftly comes to mind. It’s sudden and sharp, often causing my eyes to well up. I feel it in my chest. My heart literally aches.
“He’s really gone. He’s really not here. It’s actually real…damn it.”
I know everyone experiences grief differently. I’m told that everyone also grieves differently, but it seems that a common experience within the grieving process is a sense of disbelief, tempered by waves that hit unexpectedly, triggered by a smell, a sound, a memory of some sort, that shakes you violently to remind you that it is indeed real. It’s oh so very real.
My day to day life is busy enough that I am not constantly burdened by my grief. It’s true that it is hard to experience this grief in a year where anxiety and depression seem comfortably a part of current society and culture due to this godforsaken pandemic. But my life is deeply invested and intertwined on a daily basis with the now eleven children that rely on me and Sarah for their almost every need. And as draining as that truly can be, it is also an incredible blessing. An opportunity to find, and probably even more importantly, create meaning and purpose and value in the midst of a sad situation.
The pendulum swing of emotions is much more than I really had anticipated or tried to mentally prepare myself for. I do think I am managing better and better. The warmer weather helps; the hope of Spring I find comforting, people posting their photos getting vaccinated.
It’s been two months now. I will be unpacking all of this for a long time, maybe a lifetime. Thanks to those people who have stuck with me throughout all this. I’ve gotten texts from people simply asking, “How are you?” I’ve received thoughtful letters. A friend sends me videos of her and her children praying for me and my family. People have bought me coffee beans (my love language, haha). Others have reached out and purchased me, Sarah, and our kids dinner. I’m extremely grateful for these little, and sometimes not so little, acts of kindness. It’s amazing how much a letter or message or prayer can make me feel appreciated, loved, cared for, seen.
I’ve not been good at responding or reaching back out to those who have done any number of these things for me or our family, but thank you to all of you, truly. Thank you from the deepest parts of my often aching heart.