Tuesday December 11, 2012

Erin and I attended the Mayo-JM girls basketball game tonight at the John Marshall gymnasium.  Some of the best times of my high school years were spent in that gym.  Can it be 25 years ago?  Back then, the JM-Mayo game was the biggest of the year. (Yes, to us it was JM-Mayo, but now I find myself calling it Mayo-JM!)  Anyway, it reminded me of a simpler time and good memories for me.

After the last couple of days, I wasn't sure we'd be going out tonight, but Erin was up for trying to socialize a bit, and she sat with her teammates and they dreamed about the future, imagining themselves out there playing one day.  Those dreams have been hard to come by lately.

The three of us are finding these days difficult, and it's taking some extra work to persevere.  Erin couldn't make it to basketball practice last night.  Just. Couldn't.  And we told her "it's ok".  She told me through her tears, "I can't be Smiley tonight."  I told her she never has to fake that for someone else's benefit, but that's her instinct.  Make others comfortable.  That's what we do.  But sometimes, we're just not up for it.  Erin is missing her sister in the worst way lately.  The first snowfall triggered so many memories of happier times spent playing together, sledding in the back yard and building snow forts.

So we are all feeling it intensely right now, and we are all needing help to get through it - from each other, from our family and friends, and from professionals.  Erin and I were joking that it's too bad Mayo Clinic Psychiatry doesn't have a buy one get one free deal.  Or a family punch card where the 10th appointment is free.  Now, this may strike some of you as sick humor, but we've got to keep laughing, even if it's at our own expense!

We are doing what we can each day, trying to look ahead and dream, and at the same time, just trying to survive these days.  These dates on the calendar remind us of where we were a year ago: Shannon in decline, and our family in crisis.

The holidays are always a reminder of the year that has passed, and this year has had so much pain in it for all of us.  And I don't mean just the three of us.  I mean all of you who have shared in this journey.  We know that Shannon not being here has left a void in many lives.

We've been debating about Christmas cards.  Should we send one?  What would it say?  What picture would we use?  How will we ever take a picture again that accurately represents our family?  Still undecided on that one.  You might get a New Year's card from us this year.  Or maybe I'll be ready by St. Patrick's Day.  Who knows...

And yet, as we get to the end of this year and we're trying to take stock of things, we can see the love we've gained, the awareness we've gained, and we know we are better people for what we've been through.  We're better people for having had Shannon in our lives, and the desire to honor her memory is the reason I know we will right our ship and carry on.  There is really no other option.

"When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing voices, when we do not see any exits, then we can find salvation in a remembered love, a love which is not simply a recollection of a bygone past but a living force which sustains us in the present.  Through memory, love transcends the limits of time and offers hope at any moment in our lives." - Henri Nouwen