Today, you would have been 23 earth years old.
There is so much I want to remember about you, so today I pull out old snapshots and try to place myself back in each scene, willing the weather, words, wisdom, and wonder to bring me back to that time when you were here and whole.
Baby-you and college-you, silly-you and sober-you, you in tubs and ties and T’s and teams, in costumes and cowboy hats, surrounded and alone.
It’s an ache-y pursuit.
I’ve been trying to throw away your old dorm fridge, the one with the Holderness stickers and the magnet that says life-is-not-measured-by-the-number-of-breaths-we-take-but-by-the-moments-that-take-our-breath-away.
Charley used it last year, and you know your brother. It came back dented and done, but still I cannot will myself to drive it to the dumpster and bid it adieu. So it rides around with me, round and round and round, until we end up where we began.
It’s crazy, I know that. It’s just a fridge, and a broken one at that.
I’ve just read C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, and the great man has me a bit unsettled.
Granted, I only understand about half of his words, but some of the things he confesses are darker than I thought him capable of.
Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any new bend may reveal a totally new landscape….sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley is a circular trench.
Or a fridge that follows you around.
But it isn’t, Lewis writes. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat.
The sequence doesn’t repeat.
That I understand.
Some days I gaze at a picture of your face and I can manage. I can pick up my bag and my mug of coffee and march into that rowdy room of middle school boys and smile and laugh and almost forget that tenuous place in my heart.
Other days, though – like today – like when Coach Sink reaches out to give me a hug in the dining hall and I choke it all back, chokechokechoke back the grief, hold it in until I can scurry to the closed-door-behind-me of my apartment and give that grief my full attention until it almost breaks me.
People are nice to us, Love, since you left. They are just so, so nice.
What good is it then to think of your cold hand?
What good to remember the phone calls from police or the sound of your brother collapsed on the floor, your sister’s sobs?
Grief could so easily become the dry that wastes me, but I am not interested in its insistent, vice-y grip.
I want to remember well.
So I gather myself, meet our friends for dinner – Aggie, Zach, Ralph, Sue – and talk about heaven, of constellations and Jesus and an eternity of guilt-free gluten.
We remember you, son.
You were lovely and kind and courageous and strong, and you propped me up when I couldn’t do much more than slump through the day. You’d be so proud, now, of your brothers and sister and momma and friends.
We are remembering.
Thank you for the feather that blew across my path on the way to class this morning. The lone widening contrail pinking the sky when I woke. That fat robin singing on a dew sparkled branch.
It’s your birthday and I remember you.
How could I ever forget?
8 thoughts on “On Remembering Well”
Cheryl I’m sure it was a tough day, Year, month, minute, hour and moment. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of this great kid, nephew, friend, brother, I think of all kids what they’re thinking, wondering, I know for sure he’s in our presence, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get a visit from a red cardinal, they say it’s a showing of friend or a family member in this case, although I’ve lost lots of friends, I know this visitor, this visitor is consistent, you can count on family to be consistent, good or bad we’re at least that. I really didn’t know how today would go, I do know that my visitor has been here rain or shine, slept, snow, he’s consistent, and yes I do know the difference between a male or female, my visitor is male. I just want you to know, you’re in my thoughts and prayers, the same for the kids always in my prayers and thoughts, you’ve shown me absolute strength God Bless You, I truly believe we’ve gotten the pleasure of meeting one of gods many leaders, you’re a very special mother, friend, sister, teacher and individual thank you for being the one person I can look up too, thank you for being as special as you really are!
God Bless You, Maddy, Charlie, and Owen, my prayers and hopes are with you all, families, friends, and others you help randomly, thank you
Jim, What a sweet note! Thanks so much – I am blown away by the kindness you and so many others have shown since Gordie’s accident. I, too, believe in signs. I saw many, many cardinals in the immediate aftermath. Pennies where they had no business being. Feathers at just the right time. I do think God, in his infinite goodness, has an infinite number of ways to communicate with us if we are alert and receptive, and for that, I am grateful. Yesterday was tough, but made lighter by the notes, emails, cards, texts, and FB messages I received from friends and family. God bless!! xxoo
oh dear Cheryl…tears stream down my face…so beautiful, so eloquent and powerful. Happy Birthday to you, Gordie!
A funeral yesterday—a church member’s son died; stage 4 lymphoma. He was so sure our Father was going to heal Aaron. so young. if Deb is interested (his Mom) could I fwd this someday…if it seems right.
Hope to see you soon, my brave and courageous sister! I love you.
Miss you! So sorry to hear about Aaron. Of course you can forward…I would like to think there can be purpose behind Gordie’s death…God knows.
Prayers and hugs! So thankful that we have a God in heaven that who understands all our pain and all our needs. May He bless you with peace! You are precious to Him and he knows your suffering “He gathers our tears in a bottle” Ps 56:8
Thanks so much, Brenda – He does indeed understand, and His comfort is what gets us through. I love that verse – so intimate. Thanks for your kind words 🙂
Cheryl, thank you for sharing your eloquent, powerful writing. I too think that others struggling with their grief would find your words so helpful and healing, and will share when I can. You are giving such a gift! xoxoxo
Thank you, Sarah – been thinking of you…listening to a book on tape about the PCT…and think of you kicking butt on those Pacific Northwest roads and trails…hope you are well. Miss you xoxo