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.
From my home to yours,
Beautiful post, Mary. You Grandma was the sweetest true southern lady I’ve ever met. So grateful for powerful love of family inour lives, even when it is hard.
Thank you, Brooke!
You have such amazing courage and love! Thank you for sharing your joy and your grief. It always helps to know we are not alone.
Beautifully said Mary <3
Continued HUGS <3 PRAYERS
Thank you, Diane!!
Phyllis Stearnes says
Mary thank you for all you do. I live in Ok and my sister is in Amarillo. I had told her about your site when she was visiting at Christmas. A few days later you posted about the accident and we talked on the phone and I told her about it. She called later to tell me she had heard about it on the news. I want you to know your family has been in both of our thoughts and prayers.
Thank you so much.
Sandra Cooper says
I understand completely. Closing in on one year for me since Madeline’s passing. Never once has a day gone by that I haven’t thought of her and I suspect that will always be the case, and that is okay for she is a great person to think about. My pain has gone from shock, hurt, deep sadness, and now it is a peaceful pain. I anticipate that joyful day when she will be back in my arms and it is that vision that keeps me going. I tell people not to feel bad when I cry, the tears I shed are an outward manifestation of my love for my daughter. Maybe it is the same with you. In those tears there is sadness, but there is love for people who meant so much to you.
Madeline was so amazing. I love how you openly talk and share about her. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m still in the deep sadness part, but I look forward to the peaceful pain. 🙂
Jenny B. says
Thank you for sharing this. We are getting ready to go to Texas for my husband’s grandmother’s funeral. She wasn’t ill or injured, and just passed in her sleep last night. We are so sad to lose her, but so thankful for her long, full, healthy life and for her peaceful passing. Grief and Joy. These are good things to be thinking about as we spend time with our children and extended family over the next few days.
I’ll pray for you that your travels are smooth and that it will be a weekend full of joy (and of course grief) being around so much family and remembering her life.
Mary, Elizabeth told me about your incredible talents in organizing, cleaning, decluttering, etc and that is when I signed up for your e-mails. She was my daughters freshman year at BYU roommate and I have been her Facebook friend ever since. When she lost jack, I totally related to her since I too had lost a
New baby. My daughter Melissa and I are hoping to keep tabs on how both families are doing and especially how the kids are doing as they grow. So thank you for not stopping in talking about your grief. We were all so affected by this tragedy.
Thank you for letting me know that. I’m still in shock at how many people were affected by their loss.
Elizabeth was always one of my biggest supporters. She said the nicest things to me. Thanks for that sweet reminder.
I’m not sure what I’m going to share about her kids as time goes on, because I’m concerned for their privacy. But, we’ll see as time goes on and the kids have had more time to heal.
Morning Mary~ A well written piece to long live in our hearts. Hugs and thoughts/prayers are with you all.