30 April 2011

Grandpa Visiting My Class

Ever since my grandfather passed away, my grandma has been the fairy godmother of good mail. I have arrived home from various a day to find packages of sundry on my porch.

She has sent pictures from my childhood --
grandpa holding all of us as babies;
all of us dressed up in New Year's garb in the middle of summer,
tooting horns and wearing sparkly this and that;
me at two or three clad in grandma's boots.

She has some of grandpa's hats, some sweatshirts and sweaters that I have recently belted and worn to work.  One day I could still smell my grandfather in a red polo. One of my students, who lost his dad not long ago, told me not to worry, the smell would stay a while, even if I wanted to wash it.

Newspaper articles,
letters that she wrote him while they were dating,
memorabilia from Grandpa's days working at United Airlines,
one of his coffee mugs and other little things that she thought I would appreciate.
And I did.

She also sent a little IQ game, the kind you play at Cracker Barrel while you are waiting to eat. I took it to school and it is the biggest hit, especially with all of the boys. Of course, they are not reading Gatsby while they play, but they are at least quietly intrigued with something. I bet this makes my Jack smile. Maybe he is offereing me some advice for the classroom -- get some distractions for those kids.

I miss you, Grandpa.
Here I am, today, in one of your hats at the Arts Festival with our little light, Lucia; I know you loved her so much too. Thank you for the mail, Grandma. I love you.

28 April 2011

Shane: God is Gracious

We have had a quiet week.
While I have wanted to be strong for my husband,
it seems like he has been having to comfort me more often than I have him.
I want to talk; he goes within himself. How very introspective he is.
I want to cry and figure out why; he wants to sit silently in a pensive state.
I want to pluck the thoughts from his mind, piece by piece.

He strongly relies on his faith
and encourages me to do the same.
In my efforts, I have been seeking joy;
I want to hear it in every whisper and see it in every smile.
I believe that Shane would have wanted good to come from all of this.

And I found something today: something good, something joyful.
This something would make Shane smile,
this something made me smile,
and this something made my husband smile when I shared it with him.

Having wanted to write Shane's sister for days upon days, I finally reached through my dread and let my fingers roll. I have been tongue-tied and aprehensive for fear of saying the wrong words.
In her response she helped quiet my heart.
For a moment I could stop looking for the joy because I found it,
God answered my need through her.

In her little note she relayed her wish to keep the bond of Shane's friends and family alive.
I heard her.
And then I started to listen.
God was trying to tell me something.

Here I am forging a friendship with his sister, 
perhaps meeting for dinner and drinks with our husbands very soon.

Here I am exchanging texts and pictures with Alison, 
while I have always quietly relied on Matt and Shane to bridge the two of us together.

And here is my husband,
sharing friendship with another of Shane's friends, Lance. 
All week they have been exchanging messages,
 their best friend tying them together.

Do we have Shane?
No, but we do have the gift of his people.  
We have his family; we have his friends;
and, I am confident that he is orchestrating these arrangements.

From the single friendship between two boys
comes a web of connections, tight bonds and true love.

After all, the meaning of Shane is  
God is Gracious.

25 April 2011

Sunshine in the Rain

And my bright yellow uniform sweater.
Love this little girl.
Thanks for capturing the good stuff, Matt.

Early Morning

The Easter Bunny brought Lucia a princess watch; she will not take let us take it off of her wrist.

Yesterday I do not know if she had much of anything healthy to eat. I finally had to hide the candy and tell her "ENOUGH!"

I was awake and shaking my anxiety-ridden foot this morning; in Matt's sleep he rolled over and kicked my leg -- his not-so-subtle way of telling me to stop.

The night before last, Lucia made it to our bed in the middle of the night, like she has been doing very often recently. At about three in the morning, I was wide awake between my baby and husband. I decided to crawl out from the covers and occupy my restless mind in the other room. Not even a few minutes had passed and I hear a faint cry and Matt saying, "Lucia, Lucia?"

She fell out of the bed and he woke to darkness, emptiness beside him and a crying that he could not reach. I heard him recover her from the fortunately-pillow-covered-floor and they quickly fell back asleep.

The next day he was joking and said, "she would not have fallen if you would not have gotten up; it was your fault." Mostly he was just teasing me -- he knows I am a sucker for guilt, plus he hates me getting out of bed in the middle of the night; it is like I am betraying him for the couch.

So this morning, after he kicked my foot and clearly needed me to be still, I got up again; even despite his need for me to lay there next to him. Of course, let me not fail to mention, that once again, I was between husband and child.

This time, just so he knew, I whispered, "I cannot sleep; Lucia is right here beside you."

He replies in question,"Is she going to fall out again?"

"I don't think so. I just wanted you to be aware."

"So you can't sleep and decide you wake me up?"

I cannot win.

Briar and Lucia, an Easter morning photo exchange between Alison and my husband. The girls, so sweet. 900 miles apart or more, but lots of love as they stand side by side. They have no idea yet. Shane's baby Briar.

My thoughts are with Alison and the rest of the Keim family. I think about Shane's sister and mother and feel fortunate that they have their spouses to lean on, like I have mine. But I also know that little can ease their pain. Then, I think about Alison and her heartache and wish that I could do something, say something to sooth her. I only want to mend her broken heart and put Shane right back beside her. I do not understand and I want to have an answer. This is so much bigger than I.
"Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror,
but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know is partial and incomplete,
but then I will know everything completely,
just as God knows me now."
1 Corinthians 13:12

I am mad that I counted on Matt to keep in touch with Shane and Alison throughout the years and that I never reached out before now. It is true, I was always there and loyal to our friends, listening to stories of them, meeting them on holidays and enjoying their company when Matt and Shane made plans. They were our people -- our life long friends and I took that for granted.

But now, but now, I want to sit with Alison, flood her with phone calls to check on her. I love her more now than I did before, though the love was already great and our friendship already existed. We were their wives. I realize she needs us now more than before and we need her now more than before...
"A friend is always loyal, 
and a brother is born to help in time of need." 
Proverbs 17:17

24 April 2011


This is Matt and I on Saturday morning;
bed-headed, teary-eyed and missing Shane, thinking of Alison, wanting things to be different.
I made Matt put on our matching kimono tops that my grandmother sent us;
they belonged to her and my grandpa.
I wanted to try to make my husband smile, if only for a minute.
And it worked, for just a minute, at least.

I thought Shane would surely get a kick out of this photo,
as would my grandpa;
they are both smiling from heaven....
Well, let's be honest here, Shane is making fun of Matt and Grandpa is smiling.

Oh, dear...

I never knew that Shane was such a big deal in my life.

Everyday my husband would come home from work, walk through the door with is head set on, saying "alright man, alright, well I will talk to you later.... I just got home...."

Everyday of my life.

Every evening of my life.

I knew what Alison was doing, what Briar was saying and what jokes Shane thought were funny.

Tonight Tanner brought Matt a really expensive bottle of Scotch. It sits on the counter about a fourth of the way broken.

I ask Tanner how it is done because he has done it all before when he lost Trevor. How do you let a loved one go? How will this pain ever cease? He says it does not; he does not know, ebb and flow. He is supposed to have wisdom; he is supposed to come over and wipe the pain away.

We have been crying all day. Matt told me to stop talking about it earlier. I tried. But it keeps spilling out of my mouth.

I called Alison. I cried some more.

She cried.

I want to carry her burden for her, just collect the pain from her mind and heart and stitch her back up and make her whole again.

Why does she have to bear this pain? Why?

I wish I were a drinker, a smoker, a something that could numb the pain; I need a band aid for the moment, but the pain would just creep up again. It would come back and probably with more vengeance.

Why a life so short?

Solider on? It is not me that I am so worried about, but those that loved him so much that their hearts are on the floor in a million pieces. I know Shane is okay; I know Shane is in heaven and is experiencing music and happiness and no pain. I know someday he will meet Alison and Briar again and it will not feel like a lifetime has passed, but until then, they have a lifetime to live.

Best Friends

I never had the best friend that Matt did.

I secretly envied their relationship.

I moved; we moved a lot and I never lived in a place long enough to forge from-the-beginning-to-the-end-of-time-relationships. I had other gifts from my parents, but I never had the life long friend. Yes, good, good friends, I have had, but not the diaper-wearing-together, brace-faced-experiencing, best man in my wedding kind of friendships.

They were lucky.

I want to walk backwards, tell Shane to never go to sleep because he is going to die, tell his parents, tell his wife. I want to tell them it will happen and let them fix it. I want to go all the way back to the Friday before last and never see that Saturday again.

I want to hold my husband like it never happened, like he just spoke to Shane a few hours ago and everything was well in Spearfish, the little place that Shane loved.

I want to talk to Matt like we would see Shane, Alison and baby B in a few months, just like we were planning on doing. I want to continue begging them to move back to Oklahoma, somehow convince them that our neighborhood is perfect for them, and if not this one, then to at least get one with a pool!

And I want Briar and Lucia to be best friends because their dads were, because Matt and Shane will still take them on them on camping trips like their dads took them.

I want to hear Shane hound Matt about having a second child, telling him that we have to keep all of our kids close at age.  I want to hear him laughing and telling Matt to stop spending so much money on vinyl and I want to hear it all in his one-of-a-kind voice. I want to hear Jack Johnson and not be sad because it reminds my husband of Shane.

Why did this happen?
I want you back and you were never even mine,
but you were Alison's love and my husband's best friend and Briar's daddy and Danielle's brother, and Josh's brother-in-law and your mom and dad's little boy -- even if you were thirty.

And I loved you too.
I wandered lonely as a Cloud

That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: --
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

--William Wordsworth

20 April 2011

Words from Others

I do not have a whole lot to give right now. I feel so sad and lost. I am clinging to faith and the idea that this recent death is greater than me; that even though I do not understand it, it is not meant for me to understand. It is God's wisdom and God's way.

Words of others keep helping me too. I spoke with my mother-in-law for a long while yesterday; we talked about heaven and death and friendship and grief.

I spent the evening with my friend, Katy; she grew up with Shane and Matt; we laughed and cried and played with Lucia.

Lucia... she helps so much; one of life's great joys and distractions - a child. I almost wish Matt had her with him because she is great comfort. My friend, Nina, who has the daughter, Ayla, of the same age as Lucia, gave good advice when she wrote to me:
"Hang in there and do lots of smelling your Lucia's hair
and soft toddler foot rubbing.
Ayla's have gotten me through many a rough moment..."
So true. God knew what he was doing when he gave us the gift of babies. I keep thinking of Alison and am so glad that she at least has her little Briar. Everything would be better if she had Shane, but the bone-chilling truth is that she does not.

Another of my dear friends wrote me a message yesterday that made me feel

better. Right now words bite but are also what I am clinging to.... and love.

hey sarah,

i read on your blog that you are going through a hard time, with death having visited your life twice in just a few weeks. i'm very sorry for your losses, especially that this last one was so unexpected and seemingly so unfair. i wanted to write you because i related to all the questions you had in your post because they were all questions i once had as well many years ago when I went through a sudden death of a loved one. strangely enough, i had been thinking about that event on my bus ride home today, before i even read your blog and i haven't thought about it in a very long time. very peculiar.
there is rarely anything to say, in times of grief, and too many words can be annoying. grief is strange and has a timetable all of its own. but i will say that i think that there are probably few things that challenge our outlook on life and our beliefs about life as much as the experience of a truly random (and yes, absurd) death. nothing can explain it, it makes no rational sense, and you just wonder why, why, why. i think that then one arrives at a great philosophical dilemma, a kind of fork in the road. you can forsake your belief in the good in life or the sense in life and dive deep into the nothingness of meaninglessness and the absurdity of randomness....or you start or deepen the belief that there is simply so much meaning and order in the universe, that it is simply so huge and awesome that we cannot understand it with our limited human brains. i think there is truth in both explorations, and perhaps one has to explore both directions first. of course, we will never really know which is true for sure. but eventually, someday, it doesn't hurt quite as much and you find yourself cradled in a mysteriously peaceful understanding that though you still don't know why, you, strangely, also don't need to know why anymore. and you befriend this not-knowing. which is faith. and you accept all that is and was and will be. no life without death. god is either everything or god is nothing. this is the kind of experience where i think you make that choice. everything or nothing.

i know you guys will pull through this. if you get lost in the darkness, turn around and face towards the light. it will be there.

I love her.

18 April 2011

Teary Mess

On heartache and loss and a blank mind and mouth. Words that cannot come out from my finger tips because typing them would make them more real; the real hurt and pain that nobody wants to feel. How can someone be in heaven and be happy if the loves of their life are on earth? Are they his heaven? How can God take someone so young and sound? So full of life and breath and fresh air? Why does my husband have to feel this pain? Why does his wife? Why do his parents? His sister?

Why is the only thing I keep thinking is that it is just not fucking fair. Soap cannot wash that dirty word from my mind because it is not fucking fair. There is no antibacterial strong enough -- nothing to take ninety-nine percent of the pain away. There is nothing lady like about death. There is nothing clever about the repitition of this "f" sound -- screw you, alliteration. The gurgling and gulping of life in one full swallow; Matt says not to slirp; I say death should not steal.

 It is the kind of pain that robs you blind in the middle of the night and leaves you carved out and hallow.

My husband lost his best friend Saturday night; he fell asleep and did not wake in the morning.

Shane and Matt: a friendship that I have always envied now devastates and breaks my heart; it must forever  be celebrated and cherished.

Behind Shane, still here on earth, are his daughter and his wife and his family and my husband and holes and memories and heartache and happiness and laughter and grief and confusion and questions.

How can this be?

How can grief fill a person up so much?
I, on the outside looking in, how can I feel this pain?
I feel guilty for my grief, while their pain is immeasurable, limitless.

Where will the grief go? Is the void always there?
Do we acclimate to the hollow feeling that is his absence?

If death is an act of love, why is this pain being felt by so many?

Will tears forever flood the faces of those he loved?

Will "why, why, why" ever not be asked?

Will there be peace in the hearts of those that miss him?

This is true agony. True pain. True love.

Why do I feel like shaking my fist at God?

Too young? Not enough time? Who am I to say?

But why? And how, how can this joy be taken from them all?
I love you, Matt.
Matt loved you Shane...
 and because he did, so did I.
Best friends.

14 April 2011

Thankfulness and Heartache

So thankful for little pig tails
and my darling that sports them.
So thankful that Matt cleaned the kitchen tonight,
even though he had a really long day.
Wish I could find my green cowboy boots,
have you seen them?
Thought a lot about Jack today;
thought about he met my little Loo-chee-a twice.
There is a shot of him holding her and grinning the biggest size grandpa smile ever.
I need to recover that photo from the box that it somewhere hides; I need it out with me.
Someday I imagine telling Lucia about my Grandpa,
her great-grandpa,
much like my grandmother tells me about my great-grandma.

Why is it we spend so much of our lives taking
for granted the presence of someone so special?
I always knew Grandpa was there,
out there on his hill or
 down there by the sea at Myrtle Beach.
Why is it that I feel so robbed that he is gone?
Is it because I knew he was there and thoughts of him
were always in the back of my mind?

He was always there
and I knew it.

I think of the last day that I saw him.
It was almost a year before his death.
Lucia and I came to visit around St. Patrick's Day.
He insisted that grandma take us out and get that child a green dress;
she had to have a green dress, period.
He would always be waiting for me to get arrive from the airport,
sitting in his sun room listening to the radio.
He would ask me about my flight;
he would fix me a drink,
but not to "contribute to my delinquency."

Is he waiting for me now,
on the other side?
Is he relaxed and enjoying himself?
Free of pain and sorrow.
Happy with is music and radios and memories?
He is waiting, I know it.
He waited years at a time for me to visit West Virginia;
he will wait years for me to find him in his new home.
I remember him often picking up the other phone
and saying hello when I called from Oklahoma.
"Well hello there Sar-ie."

I can still hear his voice. 
I do not want to forget it.
I asked Matt if can still hear is grandfather's voice?
He hesitates,
 wanting to tell me what I wanted to hear,
 and responds with a "yes, yes I can."

It is like he has been ripped from my chest.
I bleed smiling memories for him.

How is it that people face death everyday?
Loved ones?
I do not know.

I just know that I miss my Grandpa.
See you again, Jack.
Until we meet again.


13 April 2011

The Morning Winds Spread...

The morning wind spreads
its fresh smell.
We must get up and
take that in,
that wind that lets
us live.
Breathe before it is gone.

12 April 2011

On a Tuesday

On this particular Tuesday,
I came home to a nice big fat envelope in my mailbox;
it was stuffed to the brim with photos.

My grandmother collected an assortment of pictures
from the very pages of her albums, sealed them up,
 and sent them to me to sift through with love. 
She said she could tell I was hurting for Grandpa when I called her last week;
and as soon as she got off the phone with me, 
she sealed up some memories
 and drove down to the post office.

I know she is hurting for Grandpa too,
her husband for more than thirty years.
I wish I could do something to lift her spirits.

And how insightful she is,
right about both things:
I was sad last week when I called her
and the photos did make me feel joy today -- so happy.
 I smiled through the entire batch and probably looked at them a dozen times each.

And even though I miss my Grandpa, 
I love looking into his past
and sensing his happiness.
He looks so cool.
Grandma looks like he is lucky to have her - stylish and beautiful.
They look like the couple that everyone wants to be friends with...
 that couple, you know them.
Lucia checked out the photos over my shoulder
and held her cup of tea (sand).
Scarlett at my other side, covered my shirt in hair.



Yesterday's work day was rough --
to sound cliche as hell, it was a roller coaster ride.
Major blow.

I came home and told my husband the story,
showed him a chain of emails that retold the events and I had his full support. 
I already felt better to have him in my corner.
Something about your husband saying,
"You did the right thing," makes everything better.

Then, Lucia said the word neighborhood and it tickled me to no measure.
"Go walk around the neighborhood?"
She demanded she ride her tricycle
and not in her stroller. 
So, I pushed her around her neighborhood
in one of those mommy operated trikes.
She did not say a word the entire time.

We got home,
I made dinner while listening to records
and Matt and Lucia played.
We ate together as a family.

Bath time.
Night, night, baby.

Matt and I watched some shows on the couch.
I emailed my grandma to check on her.

What could have been a dreadful evening
because of my very long day,
turned out to be quite calm and nice.

Thanks hubs and L.

*Loving this photo sketch by my husband.
Heart swoon!

11 April 2011


To entirely different views of our daughter. 
One sweet and quiet, the other demanding and fierce.
Today after work, she asked me to "take walk around neighborhood."
She never ceases to amaze me.
Amaze, I tell you, amaze.

06 April 2011

Grandpa George, my Jack.

Today I kept one his driver's licenses in my pocket;
it was issued in 1997, expired in 2003.

I kept pulling out the card and studying his picture,
mulling over the details printed on a four by three.

Charleston, West Virginia, a place he spoke of with much pride. I can hear him singing "The hills, oh the hills, oh those beautiful West Virginia hills" as he saunters through the kitchen to stir something on the hot stove. Or maybe he is perking coffee for me?

He loved to play chef,
though play is the wrong verb because he was a talented culinarian.
One of the last things he made me was Waldorf salad.
I have his Julia Child cookbook.

Sometimes in exchange for song, he would whistle while he strolled.

His whistling,
the creaking floor below his feet,
the yellow kitchen chairs -- is it those I hear creaking and cracking and not the floor?
Or is it both?

Green Blinko tumblers -- the ice rattles, then clings as it hits the bottom.

More whistling.
The low roar of the radio in the other room.

I kept looking at his birthdate and reminding myself that he had a long, good life.
My grandfather was born in 1928.

I came along in 1981. He lived a lifetime before I ever even cried.

He had three boys that he loved dearly.
I was his girl.

I only lived in West Virginia until I was five-years-old. I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents -- pictures, stories and memories fill my heart. My parents always took us "home," at least once, if not twice a year. As I grew older, I would sometimes stay for weeks at a time with G and Jack. Sometimes they would take me to their "udder house" --the name dubbed by my child-self -- in Myrtle Beach.

I did not see him daily or as often as I would have liked
and right now that very fact is killing me.
I always knew that he was there though.
And I knew that he loved me more than those damn hills.

And now there is an ache, and emptiness that I cannot fill.

I think of his room, his empty chair;
I think of his radio untouched;
His glasses where he left them;
His pillow where he last slept at home,
I want to bury my head in it.

I like that I am reading his social security number
and it starts with the same digits as my own.

He signed his name GW Jackson Jr.
He was six-two.
He always smelled of fresh after shave,
one of my favorite scents.

When I feel this hollowness,
this aching that I do now --
this aching that I have never known,
I then imagine my grandmother's sorrow
and it hurts even more.

Grandpa, I am missing you tonight,
I hope you know.
And I love you.

05 April 2011

Lucia & Matt//Spinning Records

This evening Matt and Lucia had the house to themselves.
 When I arrived home, I found the duo sweetly eating pizza and watching Horton. 
Then, the best moment of my day slapped a smile upon my face, 
as I discovered a Facebook message thread that my hubs posted while I was gone.
A record of their moments together...
Musical selections laced with his commentary:

Lucia and I are spinning records. 

Now playing "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)" by George Harrison. Next up, "You Don't Know Me" by Ray Charles.

Musicologist in training; we will get into some Parliament later.

Avey Tare: Ghost of Books

Lucia is dancing in circles.

Flying Lotus and Thom Yorke: ...And the World Laughs With You

"Baby wanna dance" she says as she swings her doll around

Queens of the Stone Age: You Can't Quit Me Baby

"You gotta red record"

Os Mutantes: A Minha Menina

We are getting into the groove now!

 Pixies: Where is my Mind

"bye dada", Lucia is now hiding in the book case cabinet

My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow

"I like the music, dada"

Parliament: Supergroovalistic-Prosifunkstication

"Daddy dancin'; you funny"

LCD Soundsystem: Us v Them

"I shakin' my bootie"

TV on the Radio: Dancing Choose

Non stop dancing!!! Coolest kiddo ever

Finishing out Lucia Fest with The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Shrodinger's Cat

I have sufficiently worn her out; now for my next trick... pizza then bedtime!

I hope my little girl will always love listening to music with me.

My perfect pair.
So cute.
So musical.

Monday Merriment: A few links for Swimsuit Season

Lovely swim suits a la J. Crew.

Oh gosh, this Thursday, I finally get some of this again.

Love this cardigan; I guess I am into J. Crew today.

Urban Outfitters never disappoints.

Buy me these pants, I will wear them to work with some big fat wedges.
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