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That’s Our Story Now

Two years ago, I watched my husband make one of the hardest decisions of his life. Say goodbye to his best friend, in favor of giving her relief from her ailing body. It was a decision that wrecked him over a period of weeks, as he sat and waited for someone else to make it so he didn’t have to. When it finally came down to it, he knew what was right all along; it just wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

So we laid our pup to rest. We sat in the hard season of grief. We looked long and hard for the silver lining that holiday season. Weeks passed. Months passed. It didn’t show up.

Now, we’re parents to an 8-month-old baby boy, and he loves to climb the step in our family room. Like Grace, he slides on the wood floor on all fours, moving faster than he should. Like Grace, his whole face lights up when James walks in the room. He loves his dada more than anything in the world.

That’s our story now. We get to give this boy all the love in the world. I get to hold him on one hip and point at the picture of the silly little curly-haired dog licking his mama’s face. I get to show him that someone, somewhere, a long time ago, knew just how special she was to have his dada and I as parents.

These last two years have taught me a lot about love.

Love is simultaneously seeing a moment for all that it is and all that it could have been.

Love is making hard decisions when no one else can, when you are the one for the job.

Love is taking risks even after heartbreak.

Love is the small moment at the end of the long day. The tickles and giggles when it’s supposed to be bedtime. The extra forehead kiss. The one last goodnight.

Love is passing along the magic of simple pleasures. Pointing to Christmas lights on the trees. Laughing at the little ducks’ rainboots in the video. Riding on top of dada’s shoulders.

Love is rising before the sun because being awake is that much better with the other person in your life.

Love is all of that and all the things you don’t even realize you’re doing unless you step outside yourself and watch.

It’s all the things you’ll someday do without even planning on it.

It’s looking forward to everything you have yet to pass along, all the times your child doesn’t yet know they’ll come to cherish, but you do. That’s love.

Grief Comes in Many Forms

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for at least two weeks, but I kept stopping because I couldn’t find the right words to tie together all the things I’m feeling right now. But the losses in my life are mounting, so I’ll press on.

My son Jameson was born the week before the country shut down for what we thought would only be two weeks. He’s almost 4 and a half months now, and for the first time, we used his stroller for something other than a walk around the neighborhood or an empty paved path.

People in my family have suffered a lot of loss in the last month. Some of it because of COVID, some of it not. They’ve lost jobs, buried family members, said goodbye to pets, held memorials for friends—moments that are hard to face any day. But now, what feels like a never-ending sentence of social distancing and wearing masks is making it that much harder to face. No hugging. No shoulder pats. No handholding. No indoor funerals. No “let’s go to the bar and drink for an hour so we can forget about how bad it all hurts.”

It’s been in the 90s lately but I keep wearing a mask because I don’t want anyone else I care about to suffer loss, but I especially don’t want them to have to do it alone. I don’t want COVID to continue wrecking us endlessly.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grief these days. We’re all grieving right now. It takes many forms. We’re grieving lost time with the people we’re used to seeing. Big Sunday dinners with extended family. Friday night concerts on the lawn. Weekend getaways by the community pool. Annual picnics and reunions by the lake. Shopping in a store and making an actual impulse buy.

Kids are grieving proms and last days of school and graduation ceremonies. Summer camps they look forward to all year. Sleepovers with friends. Family summer nights where everyone isn’t huddled around their laptops working because they didn’t have enough time to work during the day and keep the kids occupied.

My brother-in-law’s kids are much older than Jameson. And he said something to me weeks ago about how lucky I am that my son’s too young to remember COVID. But the trauma is real no matter the age. it’s just different.

I got to spend a few months learning to be a mom, watching him grow, and then one day, we just stopped playing during the day. I stayed home, but i started spending hours at a computer, stopping every so often to look over and check on him, only to turn back to my screen or my phone or my notepad. He hated it. I hated it. It was miserable.

He’s growing up in a world where he’s barely met anyone, where he’s barely seen anything, where a mask is scary but normal. We went to the pediatrician the other week and the look on his face while I sat next to his stroller wearing my mask was so sad. He looked so scared and unsure. Was that mama? What was on her face?

Now, he gets to spend the day with a few other kids at daycare, and I get to focus on my work, but that time we spent piecing together childcare hurt my heart. He won’t remember it, but I will.

Everyone’s grieving something during this time. Whether it’s a person, a place, a memory, an expectation of what this spring and summer (and soon fall) would bring and didn’t. All our experiences are incredibly similar and yet vastly different. We’re suffering losses in all shapes and sizes. And the neighbor next to us has no idea what we’re facing. Extend some grace. Check on your people. Remember you’re not alone. Someone, somewhere, is thinking of you and itching to reach out. Pick up the phone. We may not be able to stand side by side, but we haven’t forgotten how to care about the people in our lives. I know that much is true.

Community, Genuine Happiness, and Motherhood in the Midst of a Pandemic

Someone I’ve known for a long time shared some good news with me the other day. You know the thing you do when you say, “I’m happy for you!” or “That’s awesome. Congratulations!” but it’s half-hearted? Like you’re scrolling through your phone and you don’t even look up? 

Maybe this only happens to me, but I catch myself doing that often and I hate it. Social media has made it easier to know everything about everyone and often not feel moved by any of it.

This time, that’s not at all how I felt. I felt deeply happy for the person. To the point where I catch myself thinking about what they said and my reaction here and there over the last few days. I had become so accustomed to feeling numb to what I was learning about people’s lives. I was used to feeling on the fringes of this giant community, of knowing so much about strangers and old friends alike, but never really feeling most of it.

This global pandemic we’re in is terrible. Truly. But if there’s one thing we’re getting out of it, it’s community. Which I knew. You can watch all the sappy commercials and read all the articles and hear all the people talk about how we’re alone together. But I didn’t know if I felt it in my life. I didn’t know if it had reached out and grabbed me. 

I’m about a month postpartum. I’m learning there’s nothing like raising a child in the middle of this pandemic. But there’s really nothing like first learning to raise a child in the middle of this pandemic. 

When babies are born, people are so excited to help. Never has community felt more present in my life than in pregnancy. I saw all these people show up for me in that season of preparing for motherhood. Friends, family, coworkers. People who gave their time, their energy, their talents, their hard-earned dollars. People who knitted or crocheted blankets. Who helped decorate for my showers. Who carried gifts out to the car and stayed around longer to pitch in. People who called to check in over the months. People who genuinely wanted to know how I was doing as the weeks ticked away.

When Jameson was born, we were fortunate to have my mom help for a week. When she left, that’s when things really hit the fan with COVID-19. States went on lockdown. Stores shut. Schools closed for not just weeks, but months. Cases went from the hundreds to the thousands to the tens of thousands to now the hundreds of thousands.

For the last few weeks, it’s been just us. No one can come by when we’re exhausted and haven’t slept and just want someone to hold him while we nap. People who wanted to come share a meal and just catch up can’t do that. Family members who wanted to take a trip to meet him for the first time can’t do that. My mother-in-law jokes that he’ll be walking by the time she can see him again, and it’s true. We’re all wondering when it’s over.

And yet. I’ve spent more time on video chats and exchanging messages with people than I can remember. Some, yes, because I have time on my hands to just be (and also no time to breathe at all, it feels like). But also because I know something big they’re going through. I know they might need a check-in. It’s hard to check in with people who you miss when you stop checking in. You run out of knowing what’s going on in their life so you feel like you don’t know what to talk about. But we are all having cyclical conversations here about how life as we know it is different. And it’s never been easier, in some ways, to just show up for people.

I’m really glad to feel like that. I’m really glad to see people showing up—albeit virtually—for the people in their lives who they may or may not have talked to much in recent years. Maybe this is a reset for genuine community. Not just tapping the like button on Instagram and scrolling past. But sending the message. Having the conversation. Making plans. I’m hopeful it continues.

A locker, a keeper, a carrier.

Some days I catch myself thinking of her, eighteen and at her high school graduation rehearsal, learning in a sea of classmates that her father has died. Suddenly and unexpectedly.

She must have felt like her life was just beginning. And then, not anymore.

It must have felt like nothing mattered. Like her life was ending too.

Some days I think of myself learning similar news. At 8 or 13 or 22.

How grief sneaks up on you and even though the wave has already crashed, the news already broken, it can take days for the rumble of the wake to shake your legs and pull you down.

I think about those three days of disbelief in 2003. How on Day 4, the floodgates opened. How I couldn’t close them back up. How hard it was to push push push that door closed, the water streaming in.

Those are crossroads moments. Some of us catch them and some of us point as they drive past. Some of us lock them up tight and some throw them to the wind.

I was always a locker. A keeper. A carrier.

And though it might feel heavy at times, mostly I like it. Mostly it reminds me why I do what I do. Why I am who I am.

At sixteen I was messaging this guy back and forth on AIM, and I remember him saying, “you’re a very emotional person.” I don’t remember what prompted it or if anything did at all, but it’s stuck with me.

When bad news comes and the clouds roll in, it might seem harder. But then it’s the reason we feel so much for the people and things we lose.

All those moments that add up to a life well worth it. Because they mattered to someone like me. Or you. Or him or her or them.