On this day

On this day

The feeling begins to emerge right after summer ends. When school resumes, not the official end to summer weeks later, long before the temperature dips and I start thinking about bringing out the sweaters, I start thinking about this day. This was the day – October 6th – that fell on a Monday that year and would forever change the course of our lives.

It’s been six years. Oddly it has never fallen on a Monday again in all that time and won’t again until 2025. Our lives are so different now, it really doesn’t matter what day it is. The cool breezes, shorter days, and expanding colors in the landscape give notice of the approaching anniversary. I can feel it engulf me without consulting a calendar. Although we are far from that house that fills our memories; that place where he left us.

Respect for his memory, the man who will always be my daughter’s father, is part of the reason I pause now as the years create even more distance between who we were and who I am now. The sadness over the loss doesn’t need an anniversary to appear as an uninvited guest. That could happen on a Thursday in the middle of a bright sunny summer day or in the middle of a winter snow storm when a deep memory is resurrected by an unexpected trigger. 

Now I wish to honor his memory, the good times we shared, and demonstrate for our daughter the meaning of the relationship I had with her Dad. That, and the fact that it just doesn’t seem right not to pause and reflect on this day. 

The first year, the first Monday in October, the day before the first anniversary I picked up my daughter at school, so “nothing would be like last year.” On Tuesday, the first anniversary, we went to the closest point we could find to his burial in the Atlantic: the shore at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Sun setting on the first year. Sandy Hook, New Jersey. October 6, 2015.

We walked on the beach and took in a breathtaking sunset over the bay. A sign? We had a somewhat somber dinner at an Italian restaurant on the boardwalk in Long Branch where we had shared a pre-race dinner together before the New Jersey Marathon the year before. 

Without a grave to visit, we continued the tradition of visiting the water on the subsequent anniversaries.  A dinner cruise on the Hudson. The Water Club on the East River. And since coming to Chicago, Lake Michigan.  Those outings became less somber. 

This year, a year when nothing is as it’s ever been, we talked about how to acknowledge the day when making plans is a little more challenging.  A walk to the lake? A drive someplace? Takeout? I still don’t know the answer. 

It may be that on this day we just quietly reflect and continue to move forward. I have often thought that a commemorative act would be better suited on the anniversary of his birth, a more life-affirming day, anyhow.

It may be that on this day, I should look for peace and let go of how it all ended…on this day.

One of my absolute favorite photos. Independence Day. July 2004. Paramus, New Jersey.
The Best Summer Ever! – that wasn’t

The Best Summer Ever! – that wasn’t

The plans were hatched during the winter break. Summer 2020 was going to be the best summer ever. Two young women halfway through college were going to spend the summer in Chicago living on their own. The apartment belonged to one; her roommate would be moving out at the end of the semester. It was located just a few short blocks from Lake Michigan and about a mile and a half from the beach!

Her friend was from back home – New Jersey – and was at college in North Carolina, so they didn’t see each other much anymore. Unless you count all the FaceTime calls and snapchats and whatever else it is the kids are doing these days to stay in touch. This summer was going to make up for that! 

The calendar was beginning to fill up with concerts and other plans. And of course there was Lollapalooza, the four-day music festival in Grant Park they had been attending together for the last four years. Year five was going to be monumental they mused across cellular service more than 800 miles apart. 

One secured a job at a Chicago concert venue where the hours were limited, but the tips were excellent. And of course there were perks! Her friend was looking for a job in Chicago too, so there wouldn’t be too many financial limits on all they dreamed this summer could be.

I wasn’t privy to all the plans. I’m the mom of one. I had my own aspirations of what this summer could hold for my girl and her friend, and I was hoping that at times they’d let me crash the party – or at the very least, ask me to drive them somewhere. The only small piece of the puzzle was getting buy-in from the friend’s parents and I was willing to help with that. 

Everyone ignored the signs that 2020 was going to be different. I did deliver a bunch of paper goods, non-perishable food items and frozen dinners to fill her freezer at some point in February just in case this virus they’re talking about had her stuck in her apartment for two weeks.

By the week of March 8 though, COVID-19 was here. Their colleges were beginning to plan for online learning that would begin after spring break. The NCAA announced that the spring season for all sports would be suspended. She talked to her friend on Thursday evening. She played varsity lacrosse for her university and this left the team wondering how they would navigate their future as collegiate athletes.

That was the last time they would speak. In the early morning hours of March 13th, something went terribly wrong for seven college athletes. It would change their plans forever. Summer 2020, for my girl, would become something to get through. There was the weekend back in June when she imagined her friend would have arrived. There were dates of cancelled concerts; Lollapalooza weekend being especially hard. There was no job anymore. No FaceTimes. No snap chats.

Her new roommate moved in last week. I won’t be spending as much time with my girl in the city as I did all summer long. I’m usually one to hold on to summer for as long as I can. This year, I’m prepared to close the book on it now. Summer 2020 left us with a reminder that nothing is ever certain. “These uncertain times” are really all of the time. 

Still, we make plans and courageously move forward into the unknown.

One, moving forward. Navy Pier. Chicago, Illinois. July 2020.

Six ways to go on living after loss

Six ways to go on living after loss

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott

Have you ever looked so particularly sad that someone would suggest that “you look like you lost your best friend.” So a deep sadness is defined by what you would feel if you lost your best friend? What if you have?

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