Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shoulder Squeezes

Today is one of my least favorite holidays, which makes me sad, because for most of my life so far I really loved Valentine's day.

It was twelve years ago today that I took Katie shopping for a Barbie doll for her friend. She'd been invited to a birthday party - her first "invitation party" at the skating rink, and was so excited! She didn't skate, but did eat lots of ice cream! I wish I could remember her little friend's name, but I don't.

Two days later, Katie died. So, you see, Valentine's Day is often the "tip of the iceberg" so to speak. This year, it definitely was.

Jonathan greeted me this morning with a beautiful red rose and a box of Russell Stover's chocolates, from both he and Warren. Later, I went to church, feeling fine and relieved at the joy in my heart. When I sat down, my friend Regina handed me a valentine and a little heart-shaped box of chocolates. How very sweet! I was touched, but that gesture of love touched off emotions inside of me that I just wasn't expecting. Even after twelve years, I never know how I'll react or respond to today.

As I allowed the tears to come (I learned years ago not to deny these bursts of emotions), my eyes drifted up towards the stained glass window of the Good Shepherd. It's beautiful, and I look at it a lot. Jesus is standing there, cuddling a little lamb while other sheep are gathered around him. Today I tried to imagine Jesus cuddling Katie in his arms ("instead of that stupid lamb," I said to myself from the pew). Well, that didn't work! Then I thought, "Well, maybe today's the day and maybe Katie is here and is going to pay me a visit right here during church!" So, I kept looking around for some sort of a sign of her. Nothing. Tears, and plenty of them.

After communion, someone behind me gave me a great big shoulder squeeze. It was either Regina, or her daughter, or her son-in-law. It doesn't matter, it's just what I needed: a silent gesture from someone who cared and didn't feel responsible for why I was sad, but wanted me to know that they cared. None of them cornered me after church to ask, "What's the matter?" And they won't know, unless I tell them.

Some people, I'm sure, think we "should be over it" by now. We'll never get over Katie's death. We will get through it, however, one minute and one day and one week and one month and one year at a time.

We are so very blessed to have our Jonathan! What would we do without him in our lives? I know he misses his sister, too. The dates don't mean much to him, and I'm happy he can live with his wonderful and fun memories of his big sister.

I'm going to teach him, however, to honor the emotions of other people. I'm going to teach him that saying nothing is often the very best thing to say to someone who is feeling sad. And, I'm going to teach him that a nice shoulder squeeze can sometimes be the best prescription for pain. He's a good boy. I think he'll be a good learner. We're so very proud of him!

But I miss my Katie.