Saturday, September 10, 2016

Into these last nine beers, I have cried a million tears

It has been two years.

So much has changed. Life proceeds apace - children get older, we pursue happiness and lightness and love.  Even so, tragedy has continued to strike in surreal, unfathomable ways. But Emma's death is the epicenter of it, with waves and tremors flowing from that one horrible, heart-breaking event.

Grief is such a bizarre, fluid thing.  It doesn't proceed in a measured, predictable way. On a graph it wouldn't be a straight line, ebbing with the passage time. It comes in waves with the unpredictability of a tsunami triggered by unseen forces at the bottom of the ocean.  Some of the roughest edges of the initial shock and trauma wear off, but the feeling of loss never goes away. It just becomes more familiar.

Obviously, the "milestones" are difficult - the anniversary, her birthday. Other times as well - I recently saw a Facebook post by the UVA alumni association welcoming students back to school, and I started thinking about the fact that she would be 19 now and a sophomore in college.  I sometimes feel like she lives on in my head and I follow her imagined progression through life.

It's a miserably poor substitute for celebrating the real thing, but better than nothing, I guess.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us.  We were in the Outer Banks on our annual beach trip. I think she was two, and she was this delightful, hilarious, bubbly little girl. I don't remember what we were talking about as we played with Play-doh, but I love the conspiratorial looks on our faces, like we were up to something that no one else was in on. I have this picture in a frame in my room and it makes me smile every time I look at it.

My brother continues to be a model of grace and strength. Tonight he and some of his friends will gather at his house and hang out around a fire in front of Emma's tree in their back yard.  He's referring to it as a "tears and beers" event, which I love.

I will try to celebrate her life similarly. I've shed tears, I've looked at pictures of her and smiled and cried, and tonight I will raise a glass to her memory, which lives on in my family, and always will.

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