A Grief Continued

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Confession: I skipped my last Policy Process class to spend time with my sister. But in my defense my life as a graduate student is a constant struggle of juggling school, work, life, and mental health.

Family trumps education. At least for me.

My sister has this adorable child who is developing every day. And for fear that I might miss his entire childhood I recognized my need for some “auntie time” with him. Plus, I’m vying for his love, attention, and admiration in the face of his eight other aunts and uncles, not to mention eight or so more on his dad’s side. So, as you can see, I couldn’t pass up an evening with them even if it meant missing class.

John’s niece and baby cousin were at my sister’s house. Our families grew up together so I feel like they are my nieces and nephews as well. We shared a meal in the warm house, on a freezing December night, and the toddlers and babies played happily on the floor. Well not entirely, but their interactions were entertaining, to say the least.

As autumn frosted into winter this year I thought December would bring depression as it did last Christmas. But for some reason my foreknowledge of the potential to slip back into it has kept my head above waters.

But on this night, before I even arrived at my sister’s house, I knew the gathering would create remorseful nostalgia. And as expected it caused me to remember John. It was the sort of dinner he would have come to, with his sister and cousin.

Well, maybe.

I’m sure he would have been invited, but he’d find an excuse not to come, and then two hours in, he’d appear in the doorway with a cup of coffee and a mischievous smile.

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The snow was falling as I drove home from my sister’s. Christmas music hummed from my car speakers as the seat warmer heated my bum. The quiet streets glistened from the neighborhood Christmas lights. Halfway home I started to think about John, not John when he was alive, but John today.

Because it’s difficult to fathom life after death, in vain I try to imagine what he’s doing up there. But the longer we spend without him, the more difficult this becomes. Is he making a new life? Is he outside of time, so far removed from the earth, that life before death is just a dream to him?

These late night ponderings always make me cry. For all that death is, the shock, the denial, the graveyard visits, and the PTSD, I can honestly say the hardest part of losing a friend is their absence. I sometimes wonder why I reacted so dramatically the night he died. Was it the unexpectedness, or the disbelief, or the fear? And then I sit there wondering why I revisit those thoughts so often, dissecting each moment to make sense of what happened.

One year, two months, and four days since John died. I’ve grown use to this reality in a sense. But the small things still trigger that painful remembrance. For some reason, dinner with my sister and John’s family caused me to cry. Holding his niece in my lap, her soft hair brushing against my chin. He would have laughed with me when I told him I’d skipped class. But in vain I resign to imagine what it would have been rather than accepting how it is? Just continued grief.

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Airport Ramblings

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“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”  ― Charlotte Brontë

The weight of loneliness seems heavier when you travel. But this isn’t a blog post about loneliness. Originally I intended to write about my trip to Vegas and Denver. Yet, for some reason all I could cover was the nine hour delay I spent in the airport. Read More

A Word on Faith

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My classmate and I stood outside the War Memorial building. We squinted from the misty air blowing in our faces and I could tell he wanted to stick around and talk—despite my obvious efforts to escape to my car. He and I had just attended the Festival of Faiths for a grad school assignment.

“Can I ask you a question?” he said, his words masked in a thick west African accent.

“Sure,” I replied with a shiver.

“What is the purpose of God?” Read More

He Died in October

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My friend John was a silly guy. He liked to pull pranks and make us laugh. I remember him pouring water down my back one summer at a family barn party. I screamed as the icy drink soaked my shirt. My voice echoed through the barn up to the loft where kids were jumping from the rope swing. It was pretty embarrassing for a middle school girl. I still remember him laughing at me as he ran off with my brothers.

But he could also be serious and extremely competitive. In speech class we were put on different teams and somehow he lost the pro-life v. pro-choice argument. Later he confronted me on the issue asking how I could really support the apposing argument. To which I replied, “Come on John, it was just a debate.” But he was adamant about winning and we often argued about any and everything; movies, religion, whether or not girls should play football. Often it went on until I was in tears and he breathed a quiet apology for making me upset.

Today marks one year since his death. I remember when it happened, it was so hard to believe. It’s painful coming to terms with never seeing a loved one again, on this side of heaven. But somehow I’ve grown use to the idea that he’s up in heaven relaxing to the sound of his coffeemaker and watching the Colts game. I often wish he was here so I could tell him how big his niece is getting and how cute she’s become. “Being an uncle is the best,” he once told me. I jealously listened wondering if my siblings would ever have kids.

Shortly before he died we talked about growing up and how hard it was to be adults. Our close friend had found a significant other and we realized life was changing quickly.

“I sometimes wish I was Peter Pan,” he texted me one night, in jest. I laugh at it now, though sad he didn’t live the life we expected, I feel he was granted the relief of a short life.

Over the last year I’ve felt pains of adulting to the utter worst. Many times I just wanted to call John and tell him how annoying life was: my car accident in January, my final exams for graduate school, the long hot days of summer where I sorely needed a vacation. He was a good listener and had a high sense of empathy. “I totally get that,” he’d say whenever I complained to him, his eyebrows knit together in genuine concern.

He died last October in a sudden turn of events. I’d never guess it would be this way, but life never is—so they tell me. I feel a peace in all the love my friends and family have rendered. There is comfort in community, especially in times of hardship.

 

New Beginnings: Music & Mental Health

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On Sunday I stood in church and played my violin.

Perhaps you haven’t heard my story and this appears to be a small feat. But, emerging from years of chronic pain as a result of a music-related injury, for me is kind of a big deal.

It was a warm summer morning and I pulled my violin from beneath my bed to carefully wipe off the sticky rosin. I yanked and turned the pegs, drawing the strings into place and tightening the hairs on my bow. At church I joined the worship team on stage, looked out at the congregation and up at the microphone looming above me.

“Dear God,” I whispered up to heaven, “please let this sound good.”

Read More

Wednesday Wisdom

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

– Lamentation 3:31-33