I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the anniversary of Officer Friendly’s death comes just days before the anniversary of Angel’s birth. On the one hand, we get slammed with an overload of emotions in such a short time. On the other hand, we get a lot of ‘reflection’ out of the way in a short period of time. It is what it is – and I’m just grateful I didn’t have to listen to “Taps” at a national cemetery on the day when my heart called me to a different cemetery. Yikes, eh?
Goodnight’s heart knows it’s time long before her head does. It surfaces as an unease that turns to misbehavior. The moment that happens, I call her to me, hold her close and remind her that she’s not really uncharacteristically naughty, but that her heart is looking for a way to express its loss. I remind her that we’ll go out to dinner and celebrate her mother’s life because without having had her on this earth, Goodnight would not be here either. I can feel the wave of relief that runs through her body when she realizes what time of year it is and she can name what was gnawing at her unconsciously.
Then the graceful behavior comes . . . grief has its own beauty, I believe. She asks me where we will go out to eat. She asks me if she can wear one of ”mama’s’ necklaces. Then she goes to her room for a while – to put the necklace on and stare in the mirror, I think. Looking for her mother, but hopefully finding it in the features that were passed on to her. I hope she sees the differences as good too, and not defiance of any sort. Through it all, I have come to a deep appreciation of what any human soul must endure and an absolute awe and respect of what can come from so much pain . . . . not only hers or mine . . . . but anyone’s. I think her wisdom comes from that place. So does her kindness.
So what has all this to do with the title of my post?
The other half of the Goodnightgram equation is the Gram. I ponder things in my heart and decide to keep on . . . breathing. I make my visit to the cemetery in private. I take Baby’s Breath – because I was there for her first, and her last. I also take a rose in honor of that little ‘bud’ she left behind because it reminds me of my promise to raise that bud to full bloom.
The long walk isn’t long in distance – it’s long in emotion. As I approach Ange’s niche, the emotion is for what I lost. As I leave, the emotion is for all the work I have left to do. The pain passes and I just . . . breathe.
We do that, don’t we? We keep breathing. I think I exhale some more of the pain each time, and then breathe in fresh courage to go on.
At the end of these days, I dig into the closet where I’ve kept two of Officer Friendly’s turtleneck shirts. I bought them for him – because I was cold, I think. He was over a foot taller than me and a very large guy. His shirts are not my size, but I’ve kept them anyway. I slip my favorite one on and crawl into bed – remembering him, and Angel and “Taps”, and cancer, and the tri-corner flag they hand to a widow, or the empty squad car that parked outside OF’s memorial reception, with the doors open and the lights flashing their silent reminder that an officer is down. It feels like madness to handle it all in less than a week – to know the difference between the precipice of grief and the valley of despair in which we have to make our lives new again.
But . . . we do go on. We tuck the turtlenecks away for another time. We tells happy stories about OF and Angel over dinner out, we find ways to be who were with them, even though they don’t walk beside us any longer. And then we . . . keep breathing.
Goodnight will have more sleepovers and I will forget for a while that I don’t much like being a widow and will design another outrageously fun Super Scarf. For these few moments in time, however, we have turned intensely inward.
At the end of it all, I find myself walking a little taller, and stepping a little lighter for the struggle. We are nearly at the walking taller and stepping lighter part . . . . .