She looks at me through blue eyes matching his—intent, searching, knowing eyes.
“Grandma,” she says. “Will you be happy again when Uncle Dood comes home?”
“I’ll try to be happy before that,” I tell her.
And in the next moment, she places both hands on her heart, those blue eyes watching carefully. She drops one hand open, toward me, like a flower extending snow-white petals. “Right now, your heart is like this, Grandma. In half.”
Such an amazing demonstration of love and understanding, from a child who has barely turned five. And I think, how? How can she know this much already?
But I know the answer. It’s the closeness, the love surrounding each of us in this family.
When one has a year to prepare for a disaster, there’s enough opportunity to do so. Yet we knew it would be near-impossible to bear.
I can’t cry all day, I can’t impose the burden of grief on the rest of your world. So I learn there’s an astonishing strength to love—humor, as well. They carry you.
Looking back is tempting, feeling pain, regrets, anger. But there has been enough of that, and love survives them all. In her fictional story of the artist Emily Carr’s life, Susan Vreeland said, “When you love, you’ve got to love through and through,” meaning that you accept them through thick and thin, failure and success.
Words like Vreeland’s jump out at me these days. That has always been the way God has worked in my life—images, words, voices that magically pertain to the need inside.
My son’s face is like a reminder from God. I hear his voice and see his grin, willing me to go forward, not look back at what’s already finished. He becomes pure motivation. I swim ten laps in the pool, saying his name as I tire, knowing how much of a cheerleader he’ll be for my workout. I meet a writing deadline, knowing that he would, no matter what—we are both driven to express what we see, what we feel or know to be true.
He is already planning his future, taking the steps. If he can be so courageous, so can I.
So now I have my own little fat-cheeked Buddha in my head—his face, smiling; his blue eyes, beaming, his cheeks pumpkin-like with the carbs he loaded on to prepare for prison diets. Set against feeling sorry for himself, sad only because he leaves family and friends for so long, he inspires me to do my best every day, and to move ahead with life. His last words to me, on that awful dark-suited day, were “Write a new book, Mama.”
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