The other morning as Emma and I were driving to Red Lodge the sky was impressive: a deep, hazy pink layered with bursts of magenta clouds. I was so struck by its beauty, I sent a Marco Polo to Emily to try to capture and share the moment. This has been a hard year for so many and these moments of beauty feel few and far between. I have been recording these moments of goodness in my gratitude journal with Emily as my accountability partner. As siblings, we roll through most of our ups and downs together. I remember the day Josh was born. Emily made it from Portland to Seattle to Billings and to the hospital by midnight.
A few miles after my video message, it dawned on me that I was wearing Emma’s rose colored glasses. The day was actually quite gray. It made me wonder how many other moments I could have seen pink, but instead saw only gray. I am not ignorant to think when things get hard all I need to do is to borrow Emma’s glasses. However, there are times that seeing through her eyes brightens even the bleakest of skies. She starts each day with a courageous thirst for adventure.
Friday was Josh’s Angel day. Even though years have passed, it is a day filled with emotional flurries and a need for moments of stillness.
his laugh, his life, his light
His path, His pain, His peace
our love, our laughter, our loss
Man, I miss his smile.
On Friday morning, a group of friends met me to run on the icy roads of Laurel for a brisk 3 miler to the cemetery. The day reminded me of December 2012. As I drove I-90 from Billings to Laurel, my mind swiped through memories: testing, planning, announcing, a crash c-section, a hernia surgery, six months of innocence or ignorance, Court’s 30th, tests, more tests, an amazing pediatrician, a life flight, a diagnosis, Dad’s 60th, family adventures, a community of support, too little time, a snowstorm, a church filled with family and friends, standing together in the cemetery in below zero weather, but not wanting to go inside.
As we made our way through the familiar streets and up the hills, I didn’t have to explain myself or my emotions. The memories of training runs through those neighborhoods flooding my thoughts & causing my eyes to water. The wind chill then promptly freezing my tears to my face. Sarah had left evergreen boughs earlier that morning to place on his stone. It was a gray day, but there was beauty in the stillness of the snow, the company of friends, the vibrant red and orange plastic flowers on his grave sight and a ninja turtle – a testimony to the strength and endurance of the love of family.
Each year I set my only goal for this day to be gentle with myself and patient with those around me. It is for this reason that I take the day off of work. I shared with a coworker that it is simply a day I don’t want to have to be an adult. As I reflect on my rationalization, I realize processing grief is part of being an adult. Children understand loss on a different level.
Emma is in the stage where she understands everything in its literal interpretation. I am trying to be aware of how I phrase things. Often, I don’t notice I have used figurative language until I am trying to explain an idiom in four year old terms. During the Christmas stroll, Emma spotted a nativity scene in a shop window. We have been talking about Jesus and the meaning of Christmas so I asked her “who is that?” She looked at me as if I was asking a silly question and said, “Baby Josh. He is in heaven.” Later, sharing this story with a friend I said I didn’t want to correct Emma, but I knew one day I would need to. She suggested that often children learn without needing to be corrected. Too often, I express that Emma’s response is wrong as opposed to embracing her curiosity for learning.
Daily, Emma asks me “Will you play with me?”. She is fascinated by dolls, her toy kitchen, and all forms of water. When she watches shows, she watches videos of other kids playing. She is learning to play. I too need to learn to play. Too often my response is “in just a minute” or “as soon as I finish” instead of “sure.” Recently, she has been asking if she can have a sister. When I ask why, she says she wants someone to play with. I forget her understanding of siblings is not the same as what her father and I know of siblings. She will proudly share with anyone who asks that she has two brothers. I worry that at some point, an adult in all of their aged wisdom will correct her.
On Friday, I soaked in the sunshine and the stillness. Matthew West’s song “What if” running through my head:
“I wanna know I got no what ifs
I’m running till the road runs out
I’m lighting it up right here right now
No regrets, in the end
I wanna know I got no what ifs”
I have lots to learn when it comes to adulting. I need to stop trying to be right and instead learn to listen, play, and follow Emma’s courageous lead.