Tuesday, April 8, 2014

the worst memories


there are some days i will never forget for all the worst reasons. i will never forget where i stood in my classroom as a teacher on 9/11. i will never forget sitting on a soccer field as the ground started rolling during the california earthquake of 1989. my grandparents could recall in detail the news of the bombing of pearl harbor. certain moments are stamped indelibly in our minds.

for me, one more moment is forever etched in my mind. i was pregnant for the first time and my husband and i had embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. we had moved to cartagena, colombia for my husband's job and were living temporarily in the amazingly beautiful santa clara hotel. at about 3:30 in the morning of april 6th, we were woken by a phone call. i was closest to the phone and, in my sleepy stupor, did not even register that a phone call at that hour could possibly mean something horrible. as i tried to clear the sleepy fog from my brain, my father-in-law started speaking. his words were short and to the point. phil, my husband's younger brother, had been working an extra detail that night at his job as a sheriff's deputy. he was shot. he is dead. he was 25. i sat there trying to comprehend the words and then took in the weight of it all. the most distressing fact for me at that moment was that i had to pass the phone to my husband knowing the news before him and wishing with everything in me i could shield him from what he was about to hear. i looked over at him beside me, now awake in the bed and before i passed the phone to him, whispered the words, "i am so sorry." the memory of that moment still takes my breath away. 

this weekend marked eleven years since that night. eleven years of missing someone. eleven christmases. eleven birthdays. countless moments of wondering what he would be like today. i still find myself longing to pick up the telephone and call him up to chat and laugh. he was more than my brother-in-law, he was my friend and i miss him. i can't, however, even claim to know a bit of the loss my husband has suffered. so, each anniversary comes along and again, all i can ever really think to say is, "i am so sorry." it seems silly and inadequate and yet, nothing i say could ever fill the hole left by his death. 

a few years ago, we decided to work on filling up some of the holes surrounding the anniversary day with good things. we fill up the day with joy and happy moments for our family. my husband typically takes the day off of work and we fill it with activities. this weekend meant we filled it with a trip to the donut shop with the kids. a trip to build bird feeders at home depot. dinner with friends and neighbors. a movie night out. the day was filled with hugs and kisses, sunshine, conversation. we fill the day with life and family in honor of someone who is still a part of ours. somehow, bringing fun to a horrible day turns it around. i can imagine phil in all of the moments of our day, laughing with his niece and nephews, talking with his brother, enjoying it all. we had so many april 6th's in a row that were filled with so much sadness. there is something redeeming in filling years of april 6th's with something more. 

and so, we will continue to do so. we will continue to remember him and miss him while loving on our kids. we will play and laugh and hug and kiss more than we normally do. we will fill the day with life and remember him in all the greatest ways. we will remember to keep living. i think phil would love that.