Universal Sadness

It’s funny how the universe tosses things to you in lumps, almost as if somewhere, someone is saying ‘the theme for this week is going to be…’.

Sometimes it’s things like dishwashers. You know – you make the mistake of pricing a dishwasher online and suddenly all your feeds are filled with ads for dishwashers. And every delivery truck you pass on the road is carrying boxes of dishwashers. You see them everywhere for a week or so and then they’re gone, as if people quit buying dishwashers.

It’s like that when you’ve lost someone, too. There are universe themes where, for several days, you seem to see them everywhere you look.

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This week has been like that. I went to the local grocery store and there was Sam, standing in the produce aisle.

Except it wasn’t Sam.

Then I saw him walking down the street in shorts and flip-flops, earbuds in.

Except it wasn’t Sam.

Then I got online and in a grief resource page I belong to, a person I don’t know posted about how lately they saw their child everywhere.

And then Sam’s mom said she’d seen Sam in a young firefighter she passed, and how emotionally hard that had been for her.

Obviously there’s been a lot of sadness this week. But at the same time, it’s strange how this comes in waves. Why now?

What happens in the world around us that we are all having the same sort of grieving week? Not just those of us connected to Sam, but others, too. Is it that odd sense of days shortening, seasons changing? Even though it’s only July and too early, there have been days this week that felt like fall. Is it the melancholy moment of change, of the earth turning toward sleep, of darker mornings?

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Or is it simply how grief works? That some days are good and some days are hard and some weeks there are reminders surrounding you that are bittersweet?

Or maybe it’s just our loved ones giving us a gentle nudge, reminding us that they are still with us. To not forget them.

Whatever the reason, I’m not alone this week. There are people around me seeing their loved ones, suffering through that brief second of joy when we recognize the one who is gone, before reality smacks us in the heart.

I’m with you, wherever you are. And I understand.

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The husband on the river Sam loved to kayak.

Struggles

When I started this blog a few years ago I thought it would be about writing. That I would share my journey as I learned and struggled with stories and words. Those early posts are stilted and uncomfortable when I read them now.

Slowly, other stories started filtering onto the page in spite of myself. I struggled to find the balance, to keep the focus on writing, to not turn a public forum into a personal diary. But when I gave up trying to be writerly and professional and just started chatting, my friends gathered around.

I’ve struggled for almost a year to not turn this blog into a journey of grief. I come here and chat with friends, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, some stories sink back into loss.

We near the first year anniversary of our Sam’s death and here I am, laying grief down in words again.

I struggle with wondering what he was doing a year ago today. Living his life fully, dealing with good and bad, stress and joy, friends and work, loving his family, just like we all do. And of course in his case, living fully as a river spirit. He knew what he did was dangerous but I doubt he had premonitions or hesitations or doubt in those last days.

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I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my life if I knew I had only days. We all ask ourselves that question at some point. But seriously, pause for a minute, move past the cliché of that question, and think about it.

I struggle with how to be around those who love him. Not ‘loved’ him. Their love for him didn’t end when he died. I want to dive deep into that dark well of grief with them, and yet life is all around us. We laugh and share and love each other’s company. And if in the midst of that, we fall into silence, or tears suddenly rise, it’s not awkward because we see and we know and we feel. There’s complete freedom in their company.

And so we look warily at the coming date knowing it is going to be so incredibly hard. And yet there will be a river float and once again all the kayaks will be bright flowers on the water. Afterwards there will be food and laughter, family and friends, in our mountains.

And stories.

I’ve never struggled in the safe cup of stories.

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