July 10th marks the 22nd anniversary of the dreadful day when my three beloved children went to Heaven. Last year was the first time I worked on that day. That was the one and only time I plan to work on July 10th.
When I lived in Columbus, OH, I spent July 10th as my special day. I would wake with no alarm, enjoy a leisure morning, then visit the Columbus Zoo for a few hours. In those precious hours, I visited my favorite animals at the zoo – the manatees, leafy sea dragons, gorillas and the tigers. Watching the family dynamics of the gorillas was always entertaining and educational. But my absolute favorite was the Bengal Tigers. Most of my time was spent sitting on the benches in front of the tiger enclosure. I sat in amazement at such magnificent creatures, not really thinking but just enjoying the quiet moments. At some point during the day, I would watch a DVD of my kids and listen to their sweet voices.
Years later while living in Chicago area, I tried to spend every July 10th with my cousin, Kim. The day is so bittersweet as it is Kim’s birthday as well. Many times, we just spent the day shopping and laughing over a long lunch, but some years we would plan an out of town mini vacation. Whatever was on the agenda, Kim and I would also share stories about Sean, Jarod and Brandi which would bring both smiles and tears.
Twenty-two years. It just seems so hard to believe that it’s been that many years since I was able to hug and kiss my children. I know they are always with me, in my heart and memories. Yesterday, I watched the goldfinches eating and playing at the feeder at my house and felt my children near me. As crazy as it may sound, I frequently talk to those beautiful birds. “Hello kids. I miss you all.” Two of the birds seemed to be testing territory at the feeder yesterday. “Play nice. There is plenty of feed for you all.”
With COVID-19 still lingering around and the stay-at-home orders earlier this year, I think so many of us had a chance to realize how important family and friends are to our well-being. The company my husband, Todd, works for allowed him to work remote (and looks like he will through the fall), and I was fortunate to still work at my office since there was so few of us. Both of our jobs were deemed “essential”.
Todd and I were fortunate also to have our daughter, Courtney, living near us so we all “quarantined together” for many weeks. We would schedule bi-weekly dinners and play board games. We felt very blessed during that difficult time since we all were able to continue working (Courtney works remote normally) and see each other. I think I cooked meals more during that stay-at-home order than I have in the last decade. But it was a great teaching opportunity with my daughter.
Now that our state is near its final phase of reopening, I ponder what to do this July 10th. I am scheduled off work and only have plans for the evening with my husband. Maybe I will check out the zoo. I haven’t been to this one since we relocated back to Indiana. Maybe I will stay in the air conditioning and watch movies of my children all day. A walk along the river in the quiet may be appealing that day. The great thing is that I can decide that morning what to do based on how I am feeling.
Over the years I have realized that no matter how I am feeling, it is all part of my continued healing process. No matter how much time passes, I still experience the pain and loss, along with feeling blessed for the time I did have with my children. Emotions are fickle things…you never know when a specific emotion will kick in. All I know is that will ride that roller coaster and do the best I can daily!