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The Edge of Seventeen

It's that time of year when the blog musings center on my grief journey. Every year, it seems like we are busy with end-of-the-year school activities and the start of summer, planning vacations, and then (kablam)'s almost July 9. 

Grief is funny. Grief is weird. I remember very early after Charlotte died, I watched the movie Rabbit Hole. There's an amazingly poignant scene where Nicole Kidman's character is talking with another woman who lost a child over 10 years before (played by Dianne Wiest). She talks about grief being like a brick in your pocket. It never goes away. Sometimes you can even forget it's there. But it comes back and makes its presence known from time to time. And (she says) "it's what you have of them." 


I probably did not fully realize then what a powerful and true analogy that is. As time goes on, our grief changes. Yet, it is always there on the edge of things. It sits in that pocket and sometimes makes itself known. 

This year, many of Charlotte's peers graduated from high school. As we age, it's jarring enough to see these kids who you have known since they were babies becoming adults and reaching these large milestones. Yes, it makes you feel a bit old. However, it also reminds me that Charlotte's senior year would have started this Fall. We would be focusing on college tours and senior portraits and all those other things. She is still four years old to me. It's hard to conceptualize sometimes. 

The other thing that pushes my grief over the edge these days is feeling that pain for another family. Every week, Roger makes his meal deliveries to the hospitals on behalf of CJSTUF. It's hard to believe, but we just celebrated ten years of the Meal Fairies program. That's an amazing milestone with thousands of people fed over the years. The work Roger does, though, provides so much more than a meal. As he delivers those sandwiches and salads, he gets to know the families and sometimes hears their stories. Just like us, there are families who are frequent flyers. They show up periodically for treatments. Recently, he has seen at least two families returning to the hospital with the message "We are out of options. There's not much more we can do." 

Oh, that breaks my heart. I only need to hear (or type) those words and I just tear up. That's when the brick gets heavy. I know that feeling. I know only too well the helplessness and powerlessness that family is feeling in that moment and it breaks my heart to know someone else is feeling the same pain. 

On the eve of Charlotte's 17th birthday, I remember again that the world keeps spinning. Tomorrow we will send our other kiddo off to sleepaway camp. Roger is actually taking some time for his own retreat and I will have three days to myself. It will probably be somewhat relaxing, but schoolwork and dissertation is on the docket so we will see how that goes! 

So here I am again to say, "Happy Birthday" to my firstborn. You are always in my heart and you're the brick in my pocket. 

Charlotte Jennie


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