Lists of reasons to not write are long, most of them written by people on deadline. This past week, in order to avoid doing my work (writing) I cleaned out folders on my computer and finally (this is really digging deep) the supply closet in my office. Stuck in here and there among the dusty old floppy discs and transparencies were pictures of Stephie, pictures hastily filed in the closet when new ones arrived. There was always an endless supply. I didn’t intend to invest hours grieving this week. I intended to work. Pictures are loose boards on the bridge of intentions.
Cleaning up computer files is less dusty work. Move. Delete. Make New Folder. Delete. Delete. That’s the easy part. The time consuming part is looking through the pictures. It’s like trying to walk holding hands with a toddler — you want to go one way but you’re getting tugged in a million directions. What I relish in these family photos are the smiles, the open eyed, pure happy, sometimes toothless, sometimes covered in frosting, smiles.
A friend wrote a bit ago to express belated condolences and I told him the problem with losing a child in the family is that we love them with such reckless abandon, holding nothing back. Kissing their toes, sniffing their necks while we hug them until they almost pop. (Exactly the same parent/grandparent behavior that drives kids crazy). An investment that is guaranteed not to bottom out.
Until one day, the missing board. The water rushing beneath. The sharp intake of breath as you catch yourself and try to not fall into that hole. And you remind yourself that others have suffered worse losses, whole families have been sucked into nothingness. You remind yourself of all that is good and hang onto the railing, stepping very carefully.
Our family photos taken this past summer still show us smiling for the camera — at the pool, at the birthday party. But something has seriously changed about everyone’s eyes. Each and every pair of them. Less giddy. More watchful.