Sunday, April 2, 2017


To my son Tommy,

Each person processes death and grief in their own manner. The professionals can't even concur how many stages of grief there are with some listing five...denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance...and others further separating categories to include shock and guilt each as their own stage. They can't even tell us how long each stage will last or which order they will come. Some move directly through the list in order and quickly while others hop around the list in varying levels often returning to a stage they thought they already managed. I don't know if even classifying the stages help; it almost seems dehumanizing and all too clinical.

One stage your Grandpa would not want you, or any of us for that matter, to feel is guilt. He would not want us mad at ourselves for carrying on. He would not want every smile on our face or laugh in our voice to be questioned. He would not want us wondering if we deserve happiness again or if we gave a proper amount of time to being sad. He would delight in each of us living our life in the fullest and ask us to continue to search among friends and families for those moments that seem to thumb their nose at stages and categories and other such classifications. He would remind us life is messy so get out there and live the mess. For me, it is easier said than done. I have to compartmentalize and separate my sorrow from my fun as I try to move on without my father. For you however, you have an uncanny way to manage your sadness and your joy, the past and the present, our loved ones gone with our loved ones here, in some type of homogeneous existence and celebration of life as you soldier on through it.

Last night, life continued on for you. Your mom and you had won four tickets on the radio contest called "The College of Knowledge" on 101.9. The tickets were for the ballet "Excalibur: The Sword and the Stone" put on by the Ballet Theater of Maryland at the Lyric. Well you only know one young lady extremely into dance, so you invited Rhiannon to attend. Chaperoned by your mom and your Aunt Kelly, off you guys went while your dad and Uncle Eric vegged out at the house with Wyatt and Garrett. We all joked that it was your first official date.

The ballet went off without a hitch. You had good seats that were in row O (that is the letter O and not row zero like your mom originally read). I think your mom learned to appreciate musicals that have speaking, more words, less interpretation, as she questioned her appreciation for ballet in general during the show. Your Aunt Kelly, who has learned a thing or two behind the scenes with Rhiannon's dance productions, said the show was great! You described it as a wonderful time and only regretted not having enough time to play with Garrett and Wyatt. Your dad and Uncle Eric talked and watched silly tv shows and tried (unsuccessfully) to limit the amount of toy chaos caused by the two boys at home.

And so life goes on. No need to feel guilty for having a wonderful time with a brand new experience. The ballet stage is a stage of grief that your Grandpa Leo would want you to experience. That is what life is about. And during each of these moments to come, your Grandpa Leo will be there in your heart. Sometimes a memory might pop up and bring you some sadness when you least expect it, but that is okay too. It doesn't mean you are wrong for enjoying life, enjoying the moment, it is just our loved ones passed trying to enjoy it with us. Our hearts are incredible machines with the ability to fit all this emotion in it and not even begin to stretch to capacity. Our hearts can handle both or all these emotions at once. We just have to learn to allow that to happen. Sometimes that can seem incredibly difficult and sometimes it even hurts, but, if we can learn this lesson, we will be better off for it. So be it by putting a colander on your head, or attending the ballet, or just soldiering on and showing up for each day, we each process things in our own way. This one thing is for certain, life does carry on.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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