Monday, January 14, 2013


one month ago today, 26 people were shot and killed in a Connecticut elementary school. 20 of them were children under the age of 7. the school district in the neighboring town to where my 3 cousins attend school. 3 days before that, a mall in our hometown was attacked, where 2 others died.

i have not been the same since.

something changed in me that day. i might say it's a positive change, but somehow you don't want anything positive to come from such a tragedy. or, maybe that's how people get through these events. they take something so horrific, and they find that silver lining that can somehow make sense of it. but, on that morning, when i started to see the headlines a perspective was pounded so deep within me, i see it every day. in the face of my 5 and 7 year old children. 

i can do anything as long as my children are safe. i can get through anything as long as my children are alive and healthy. nothing should seem hard so long as i'm not grieving the loss of my small child. these thoughts pour through my mind each and every day. at 11:30 at night when i'm hunched over my laptop getting some work done, or at 5 pm when i'm exhausted and parked on the freeway that hasn't moved in 5 minutes, at 8:15 at night when i think i can't possible stay awake long enough to get my kids to bed. at 2pm on a sunday, when i'm wondering how many times more I'll be able to tell my grandparents i love them.

the level at which this event has affected me cannot be explained in words. and knowing this, I cannot imagine how the deep pain the parents of those 20 small children must feel. one evening after scrolling through the names and ages of each child on the internet i fell to my knees in the middle of the kitchen with a feeling so powerful and overwhelming I could no longer stand. the story is one that's hard to believe. and even today, as i think about it my first instinct is that it is only a bad dream. i must have dreamt it. something so horrible could never happy in my lifetime. 

and then reality sets in, and when it does my body naturally goes searching for my kids. who i embrace, and squeeze, and maybe even scare a little as they wonder why mommy hugs them so hard with tears in her eyes. 

this weekend, I spent the majority of my time at fort vancouver convalescent home where my grandmother is (prayers prayers prayers) staying temporarily. both her and my grandfather have suffered some serious medical complications in the past weeks and as my family comes together to help them through this time i'm reminded of what is so important in life. it's only the people we share it with. these people are gifts to us. our family, our friends, our children. gifts. gifts that are not promised to us forever.  my family is clinging to each other during this time. hugs are longer, more words are said, closure is made on issues unimportant. 

a month ago if someone asked me, 'what's up?' I may have said. 'oh man, i'm so busy. work work work, kids kids kids, i have no food in the house and the laundry is piled in the laundry room! my moldings are half complete and some are ripped off the walls, the garage is a MESS, and the car needs servicing. i maybe have thought to myself, 'i never brought in those plants from the yard this winter', and 'crap, that water bill is still left un-paid'. but today, i could really care less about all of that. honest to god, who cares.

i sat with my grandmother at dinner last night in a dining hall full of wheel chairs. my sister, my aunt and myself squeezed our chairs around the small two person table my grandmother was sharing with leota kyle. leota, a recent heart attack victim who was having rehabilitation therapy for the coming 3 weeks. leota was busy poking at her pureed food, and trying to pour her thick buttermilk onto her tray when she said, 'every time i ask for regular milk, and all they do is bring me this crap'. we laughed and asked if we were crowding her. 'oh no!', she said, 'i welcome the company'. so we talked.

the two old ladies asked each other what they 'were in for' as if they were serving time at the county jail. they shared health stories and then deep dived into the important stuff. 'tell me about your family'. the two of them talked about their children, their grandchildren, their great grand-children. they talked about their husbands and how many years they'd been married.

it was interesting to me, that at 78 and 82 these people talked only about the people in their lives. there were was no mention of jobs, or where they lived, how successful they were or weren't. no talk of what kind of house they lived in, what kind of car they drove. it's the people at the end of the day that matter and mean anything at all. it was profound. 

i looked around the room at all the people sitting alone and felt sadness. betty lou in the corner, who we'd invited to grandma's birthday party the day prior was causing a ruckus at the dinner table. she asked, 'my family, what if they never come?' and here, my grandmother with her daughter and two granddaughters was the richest of all. 

so today, when someone said, 'how are you?' my answer was not 'tired, or busy', it was 'i'm great, yesterday i was able to spend the entire day visiting with my 82 year grandmother. today, both kids bounced out of bed with their two healthy bodies, and i came to work to a job that has supported me and my family all these years. 

i have such an amazing family that sometimes i'm overcome by it. we have so much fun together, and laugh and even in the toughest situations support each other. sometimes pulling from the depths of our beings to provide it. none of us are perfect, and we all have our individual struggles and worries. we are all tired with the stress of the last few weeks, but it's from the giving to each other. the gifts that hopefully one day, when I'm rolling myself into a dining hall of strangers i'll get to share. in the same proud and super brave way my grandmother did last night. after dinner, as we waited for the wheelchair traffic jam to clear in the hallway she looked at me and sort of laughed. after her stroke she's still struggling to string a sentence all the way together but i know what she said was this; 'i can't believe that i'm here. that i'm old enough to be here'. i said, 'it must be so surreal.' because at the young age of 34 (in her eyes) you begin to realize that although the years tick by, the person you are on the inside never changes. she looked at me with a tear in her eye and nodded, 'yes, yes it is.'

for a brief moment, i put myself in her shoes (or, her slippers) and was given a gift, such a gift of perspective. and with that I say, my new years 'motto' which is to live each day just one minute at a time. let the mood of the day not be tainted by a bad moment, soak it up, hug the people you love, do for others, and always be kind as everyone is fighting a hard battle. 

1 comment:

JoAnne Nordling said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with your Grandma Cheryl. You've early discovered a truth that many of us never glimpse until we, ourselves, grow old...that although our bodies start to fall apart,and we are hopefully a bit wiser, inside, the person we are is still the same mother once told me, "Inside, I still feel about 17.." (As for me, at the age of 78,I still feel about 40.)