Monday July 30, 2012

We made it through Shannon's birthday.

There's a story about a little girl who returns home late after being at her friend's house.  When her mom asks her why she's late, the little girl explains, "I was helping Jane.  Her doll broke."  The mom says, "Did you help her fix it?"  The child replies, "No.  I helped her cry."

Let's just say, I was glad to sit next to a friend at church yesterday who recognized that she couldn't fix my doll, but she could help me cry.  That's part of grieving - letting it go some times.  I thought we were in for a really long, sad day.

But, we also found people who helped us remember Shannon in a happy way.  Family and friends sharing stories and memories with us lifted us up.  Our family who gathered to take a walk helped buoy us, too.  It's so comforting to know they will always remember.

So, with the help of friends and family, we got through the toughest "first" so far.  How lucky we are that communication is so easy today.  People showed support in so many ways - in person, on the telephone, via e-mail, via text, via Facebook posts, and even via snail mail.  Such kindness.

By the end of the night, Dan, Erin and I were smiling and laughing at the home videos of 2 year old Erin and 5 year old Shannon.  Erin, smiling and content, quietly observing things, and Shannon, jumping in front of the camera and hamming it up every chance she got!  Funny stuff.

If you had told me in the morning that I'd be laughing by the end of the night, I'd have told you you were crazy, but there we were.  

So, I awoke today feeling better, yet still thinking mostly about myself and my family.  Then the universe helped me snap out of it...

I heard from a friend whose dad had a stroke over the weekend.  And I ran into another friend whose husband is on a long road of recovery after a terrible accident. Each of these women has been kind to me on my journey this past year and, despite what was on their minds, each still took the time to ask me how Shannon's birthday went.

So I am reminded to step outside myself, and remember the bigger picture.  Everyone has struggles.  And even in the midst of our own pain, we can still choose to be kind and gentle and engaged with one another.

I had a correspondence some months back with one of my college journalism professors, discussing my book idea.  (I'm not sure if he really remembered me 20 years later, but he was kind enough to pretend he did.)  He read some of my stuff, and gave me some feedback, which stuck with me:

"The message is this: that life is sometimes painful, that we are measured by how we respond to pain and loss, and that joy is never far away."