One year ago today, my sister called me with words that changed our lives forever. Andy had collapsed at the gym. They had been unable to revive him. Get. There. Now. Rockville was only a 35 minute drive away for me. Ten minutes into the drive my mom called to say that Andy was gone. Thankfully, Russell was driving.
The last year has been difficult. And I make no excuses for anything I or my family has done or said. None of us were prepared. Is anyone? Thankfully, more often than not, a family does not experience the loss of a child. There are no ground rules; no book of grief etiquette for when a family loses a child. We are not “over it;” we have not “moved on.” But we are learning to live with it. The phone calls, letters, food, visits are long gone. We talk about that frequently. We understand it. Lives go on. Our lives have gone on. Different; but gone on, just the same. Most folks don’t even mention it to any of us anymore. Some people won’t even look us in the eye. We understand that, too. There was a time when we probably didn’t mention the loss of a loved one to a friend. We think we will “open old wounds.” As if it had been forgotten, for a just a moment. We don’t know what to say. My incredible brother-in-law, Al, the week of Andy’s death, said he was going to get us all tee-shirts to wear at Andy’s Celebration of Life, that read, “We know you don’t know what to say. We are just thankful that you care.” Frankly, we don’t often even know what to say to each other. We don’t have to say anything, really, I suppose.
Andy’s death has brought all of us closer together. And trust me, we were a close family before March 21. We are all huggers and smoochers. We all say, “I love you” to each other when we end a phone conversation; when we hug and part. We’ve always been that way. But Andy…he was the biggest hugger and smoocher of us all. Crazy that this grown man, hugged and kissed each of us. He always kissed his dad and Grandpa, my dad, smack dab on the lips. He was confident of our love for him and never failed to express and demonstrate his love for us.
I have actually been better off than my sister and my mom and dad and my brother-in-law. I write as an outlet. You have only been subjected to a tiny portion of my writing over the last year. I write for me. I don’t write for you to read. Some days…weeks even…my journal is silent. The date will be written in the top right hand corner, just as we were taught in elementary school to do. Some pages are completely blank after that. As if had gotten distracted and wandered away and forgotten to journal that day. But, no. I hadn’t. Some days I recognize my own handwriting in the first paragraph or two but by the middle of the page it changes and by the end of the page, it’s barely recognizable or even readable. My own handwriting. Unreadable to me. Some pages are crinkled and bumpy and smeared. Tear drops gone wild.
But writing has helped me in a way that I actually feel guilt over. My mom and my sister have grief journals. My mom has her cancer journal. I don’t know what they write in them. Just as they don’t know what I write in my journal. I can only hope it is the same release for them that it is for me. But I doubt it. And I’m sad that it is not. I’ve received messages from some of my blog readers expressing concern over this or that that I’ve written over this last year. The comments, or lack thereof, don’t bother me. In fact I hadn’t really thought of it until this moment. Again. I write for me. The expression of my grief through words. My depression over the last couple of years at the many losses in my life; in our lives. I think is totally understandable. Temporary. Yep…have had some anger, too. But never anger at God. He has been my Comfort and my Shield.
So. One year down. “They” say it is the most difficult. I don’t believe “them.” It is always going to be difficult. But it is doable. Someone emailed my sister a saying about grief shortly after Andy died. Grief consumes you for a time; and then it walks beside you like a friend. Some moments, I am completely consumed by my grief. Most often, it walks beside me silent; present; dare I say comforting.
Andy was a bright star. He had presence. When he was physically in the room…he was the center of it. We loved that about him. We miss that about him. And we always shall. But we are so thankful that we had almost 23 years with our bright star. And those 23 years will last us a lifetime.
I have a confession. Today, the day I am writing this, is actually March 10. I’m not sure, as the anniversary of Andy’s death draws closer, that I will be able to write this. Right now, today, I can.