Sunday October 27, 2013

We spent the weekend gathered with the O'Hara clan to celebrate the patriarch's birthday.  Ed O. will turn 90 on Tuesday.

All nine kids gathered along with most of the spouses and some of the grandchildren.  You think turning ninety is a challenge, you should try to organize this crew for a group picture!  After many directions were given and several opinions were voiced, we managed this:

So, another event, another milestone, another marker of time passing.  We laughed plenty this weekend, but we had our solemn moments as well.

We went to mass as a whole family this morning at Christ the King in Minneapolis.  There, we got a chance to see the memorial brick that Ed and Tess purchased in Shannon's memory.  There it is at the front entrance:

Shannon O'Hara
small but wise
7/29/1998 - 1/6/2012

We have written about our pain and our angst often over these past few weeks.  In some ways it's comforting to know people are still following our journey via this blog.  So many kind words have been sent our way recently.  

I think it's just hard to put into words all the things we are feeling.  It's the forever thing that's weighing so heavily on us.  We made it through our first holiday season without Shannon, but now another one is approaching.  And then they'll be another, and another, and another...

Acceptance continues to be our goal.  Acceptance that this is who we are now.  Life is still good, although not exactly as we imagined it would be.  There is some freedom in realizing we don't really have control and so it's not worth worrying.  What will be will be.  We have learned that lesson.

We also recognize that new pains, new hurts, new tragedies come every day in this world.  We want to be of help to those who are traveling a similar path.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been a part of a planning committee for a Brain Tumor Patient Symposium, and also been taking part in a bereavement group for families who lost their children to cancer.  We continue with our work on the foundation and the book.  In the next two weeks, we will be visiting with the high schoolers who are eligible to apply for the Shannon O'Hara Memorial Scholarship this year.  We continue to try and make Shannon's life matter.

Life continues to be very busy for Dan and Erin, and I continue to want to figure out what's next for me.  

So many people have been asking me how my writing class is going.  I don't exactly know how to answer this question... My hope was that I would be prompted by this class to expand my writing chops and begin to write about other things.  I don't want to be a one-trick pony.  

But, in class, the prompts we are given and the assignments we have seem to always lead me back to my favorite subject.  

The exercises we did in class two weeks ago illustrates my struggle.  The first prompt was to close your eyes and find the first image that comes to your mind, then go to the page and write about it for five straight minutes straight without stopping.  Guess who paid my mind's eye a visit.

The next exercise was to use color as a prompt.  Our instructor pulled out a giant box of crayons and said, "when the box gets to you, pick the first color that catches your eye, then color with it, write with it, write about it, dive into that color."  Yep.  Lime green.

So, there I am, trying to expand my world, and I keep coming back to the same place.  I have been frustrated by this, but I have also received some sound advice:  if this is what comes, then let it flow.   I guess it just means I still have things to say about my favorite subject... 

My new strategy is to just let the assignments take me where I need to go.  

For our homework last week, we carried the color idea further, paying attention to a time during the week when color affected us and writing from that experience.  Here's my piece:

This morning at 1:17 am, my dog woke me for a trip outside.  She was unsettled last night.  I have been unsettled for days.  

In the darkness of the middle of the night, snow was falling.  The first white flakes of the season for us.  White, almost translucent snow.  It’s beautiful and pure and always a shock when it happens again.  You think I’d be used to it after 44 years of living in Minnesota.  But, year after year, it catches me by surprise.

So there, in my pj’s, at 1:17am, I watched the white, white snow fall to the ground.  Even snow reminds me of Shannon.  Everything leads me back to her.

We used to make a giant sledding run in our backyard.  It had twists and turns and we even needed to create a berm to keep the sleds on the track.  Shannon was fearless, younger sister Erin a little more cautious.

Over and over they would come down the hill, fast enough to make mom nervous.  Adjustments would be made to the track - holes patched, snow added - all in the hopes of speeding it up.  This was Shannon and her dad’s specialty:  push it to the limit.  

We haven’t had the sledding run for a couple of years now.  Two years ago, Shannon was too sick to sled.  Last year, our first winter without her, we tried.  Erin and Dan went out and worked on the run and attempted to get it going.  They didn’t succeed.  They got too sad.  It was too lonely without her.

So, this is how my day has started - 1:17am, the white snow, and Shannon...