Friday, December 21, 2012
Great is Relative
Two days ago marked the fourth anniversary of the death of my friend Jean. I am constantly shocked by the impact of her death on me. Maybe it was because she and I were so tightly connected for our teenage years. Maybe because we'd just had lunch together, and had plans for another right after the holidays. Maybe because her life was cut so short. Likely, it's because a brutal murder is something you never see coming.
On the anniversary of her death, I woke determined to make the day good. Not to wallow or be depressed or think about he murder, but think about her life, about taking advantage of the time and relationships I have right now. I ignored the chores calling me and spent the day baking cookies and singing with the radio turned up, making crafts with my kids and teaching my youngest new piano songs. I made it to the end of the day feeling pretty good.
But while the 19th is the anniversary of her death, she didn't die on a Wednesday. She died on a Friday, on the last day of school before the winter break. Her son came home from college and fell asleep on the couch as she set off to the school to take pictures of the choir kids at their holiday concert. It was, in every way, a day before Christmas break.
And today, as I woke the kids, armed them with gifts for their teachers and told my youngest I'd see her at school for her holiday sing-a-long, I tried not to focus on the fact that this was exactly how Jean's day began four years ago.
I turned on music. I made dog treats for my neighbor, packed a few special gifts for special friends, patted my dog on the head and said, out loud in the empty kitchen, "Today is going to be a great day."
And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than I remembered those were the last words Jean spoke to her husband before he left for work, and I wanted to call the words back. To not have a great day. To not feel like the day was full of possibility in the way Jean did, with all the horrid irony it contained.
I texted my son to let him know he'd have to let himself in if the sing-a-long ran late, and remembered that Jean left the house that morning with her son home alone, asleep on the couch. He was the first killed. I wondered if I should stay home, as if my being home or him being home alone would influence what our own day would hold.
Today, it turned out, was the harder day of this week.
Christmas Day is not wrapped up in mourning for me, but the day before Christmas break is... the sweeping of cheer and anticipation and joy and relief pulled by a vague sense that it's all a fragile hope easily popped, that the worst of the worst can happen right when joy is at its height.
We are not meant to live in fear, but God knows sometimes we get stuck there.
Tomorrow, though, it will be Saturday, and this day of "last day before break" will be over and for me, the imminent fear of evil will fade to something more akin to a small ache. Today I am thankful for a dear friend who listened to me tell the story, who didn't tell me I was crazy for clutching my mouth the minute I said it was going to be a great day, who allowed me to feel like maybe it could be great, could be full of joy, free from something crushing that.
For that, I think I'll turn the music up a little more, and sing, even if only to my dog.