I married Matt about six months before Elizabeth married Adam. We had an instant friendship, and of course we were inseparable at family gatherings. Over 10 years ago, there was a family reunion in August before Jack was born the same year in November. I remember how excited, yet nervous Elizabeth was for her new baby. She was so devoted to Megan, who was still so little at the time, she told me she worried that she could never love another baby as much as she loved Megan. But of course, we know the end of this story. In her life, Elizabeth loved five babies, all with the same strong loving zeal for mothering that she first gave to Megan.
All of our hearts broke when Jack passed away such a short time after his birth. It was heartbreaking watching Adam and Elizabeth in so much pain and agony after losing their child.
When we visited them, I saw a pile of books about grief and loss (Elizabeth was a veracious reader). I asked Elizabeth what she was learning about grief. She told me, and I’m paraphrasing – “We are getting so much support right now, but I know there will be a time when everyone goes back to normal and expects me to go back to normal, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel normal again. There will be a time when the condolence cards will stop coming, and people will forget.”
I didn’t ever want to forget, so I setup repeating events in my calendar to remind me to reach out to Elizabeth. I would call or text or send notes. I’d have the kids make cards on important occasions, like Jack’s birthday. Sometimes I would just send a little gift to Elizabeth to let her know I hadn’t forgotten Jack. I wanted her to know she was never alone in her grief.
Now, after Elizabeth and Adam and Jane’s tragic passing, those reminders are still popping up on my phone. I should probably turn them into something useful, but I haven’t yet.
After Elizabeth lost Jack, she taught those around her a master class on grief. I’m so lucky to have learned from her for so long. I want so badly to teach my children about grief and love and testimony the way Elizabeth taught us all.
Here is what I have learned about grief so far …
I can feel grief and joy at the same time. I felt joy in being surrounded by so much family and love. I felt joy celebrating Brian’s 6th birthday in the midst of it all. And through everything, I felt grief.
The ugly side of grief, the deep sadness and tears, can pop up anytime. Like, when I was shopping for Easter basket surprises for my kids and remembered that Elizabeth can’t do this for her three living children anymore. I ugly cried right there in the middle of shopping in public.
And sometimes the sadness pops up while I am laying down and trying to sleep, when I feel my chest rising and falling. I think about Jane’s little body sitting in the casket – it was too still.
Sometimes I buy myself flowers because they remind me of Jane’s flowers at the funeral.
It is always okay to talk to me about Adam, Elizabeth, Jane, Jack, my grandma… and anyone I have lost. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to bring it up and make you sad.” Trust me, the people I’ve loved and lost are always close to the surface of my mind. I think about them all the time, in between other thoughts – while I’m doing dishes, while I’m putting away laundry, while I grocery shop, while I write blog posts, while I help my kids with homework, while I’m laughing at a funny joke. Sometimes I dwell on it, and sometimes the thoughts are just quick little reminders. I lost my grandma over 3 years ago, but I still can’t see a banana without the quick passing thought “grandma really loved bananas.” Please, talk to me about the people I love. It won’t add to my burden, it lightens it.