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I wanted to sit down today and write a lighthearted post about anything that isn’t what is on everyone’s mind. But as I sit here, I realize I’m not ready to do that yet. Maybe tomorrow.

I wrote about it yesterday over at Pooping Rainbows. (Check them out; lots of good writing over there.) I will share it here today.

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Everything is different

My husband has a dangerous job. I’ve become quite skilled over the years at pushing the fear and worry of whether or not he will come home each day far into the back of my mind because I have to. To spend each day in fear of the unknown would destroy me. And so, I choose to believe it will all be OK and he will return each evening to kiss his children.

Like so many others, the tragedy that occurred on Friday has changed me. There is a chink in my armor, a crack in my foundation. I suppose this is my Kennedy assassination — a world event changing me to the very core. I’ve been walking around in a fog with a pit in my stomach I just can’t shake. I’m crying at random moments and having a lot of trouble watching the news. I’ve sobbed through first-hand accounts and stared at the pictures of those tiny faces for far too long. Since Friday I’ve hardly done more than hold my children. My oldest — two and half — told me I was squeezing him too tight. If only he knew it wasn’t tight enough.

I alternate between wanting to watch, read and talk about anything that isn’t this, and not understanding how anyone could think of anything but. I carry guilt as I wrap Christmas presents because my children will have the chance to open them.

As I write this, parents across the country are putting their babies on the school bus for the first time since Friday and I just don’t know how they are doing it. How are they letting go of their little hands and watching them drive away? When will that simple routine feel normal again?

The fears I keep at bay are threatening so very hard to bubble to the surface. Hell, they’re at the surface. They’re threatening to spill over. I know that at some point I will have to let go and send those I love out into the world without fear, I’m just not sure how to do that anymore.

Throughout college, Michael worked as a volunteer fireman. The people he met there became more than friends, more than groomsmen. These guys became his brothers. At the center of this brotherhood there was P — the patriarch of the department, a member for something like 50 years. He was a grumpy old man, a curmudgeon — but that didn’t stop Michael from showing him respect and sitting at the table with him often to drink some coffee and shoot the breeze.

Yesterday, P lost his life from a freak accident at that very fire station. What followed was something I will never forget.

Word spread like wildfire that by the time he reached the hospital, his time was limited. Men of all ages — from college to mid-life — left work, left home, left their vacations, got military leave and even got on a plane from Afghanistan…to say their goodbyes. Over the years, P had touched so many lives — so many classes of men that walked through those department doors.

I was not at the hospital to witness this, but Michael said he had never seen anything like it. More than sixty men — many still in their work uniforms (varieties of police and fire) converged on the hospital. So many came to pay tribute to P, that the hospital gave them their very own conference room. Michael said there was not a dry eye in the house.

The sudden accident left everyone reeling. And put into perspective how precious life really is. I didn’t know P very well. We’ve said hello over the years and attended the same functions. While I mourn for his life, I hurt more for the wife and son he left behind. The ones that said goodbye as he walked out the door in the morning without a clue it would be the last time.

I cried yesterday. I cried for P and his family, I cried because I am so lucky to  have my husband come home to me.

I can only hope one day I will be so lucky to have so many people celebrate my life.

“…for life is short, but sweet for certain.”

Y’all (I never say “Y’all”, by the way. I don’t know why I said it now. Ignore.), I’ve climbed out of hiding and have reemerged into the world. Yesterday? Was a bad day. Well, another bad day in the week and it was only Wednesday.

As far as bad days go, each individual day wasn’t all that bad. I mean, there were lunches with friends. And freelance assignments. And cupcakes. Beautiful, delicious cupcakes. But when you added up the bad stuff that happened at the same time, I just got overwhelmed.

There were fights. One with a good friend and another with a family member. Both which stung on impact and left bruises. For those of you who don’t know me in real life (and those of you who haven’t been reading for that long), it’s important that you understand that I’m very sensitive and emotional. Maybe more so than I should be. But it’s a fact. The bad stuff has never rolled over my shoulders. It sticks around and burrows into my brain, sets up a recliner and cracks a beer. Bad stuff kicks off its shoes and gets comfortable.

I was just really sad.

While the emotional stuff was doing what it does, my phone decided to stop working. But not in any normal way. No, it stopped working in a way that meant I had bars indicating service, yet could not make or receive any calls or texts.

But only in my town.

Not in the neighboring town.

Huh.

We don’t have a land line so in order to call tech support, I had to drive to my friend’s parent’s house and use theirs. Their house is four minutes from me. My phone worked at their house.

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to “Chris”, the nice Indian man who met my wrath when I called tech support. I probably didn’t have to be quite so forceful when I told him no, I could not give him the last four digits of my husband’s social security number because I WAS NOT AT HOME BECAUSE MY PHONE WILL NOT WORK IN MY TOWN AHHHHHH.

I was thisclose to telling poor “Chris” why I went from zero to bitch in the time in took him to read his intro, but something tells me he would not be interested.

The solution? There was none. No tower was down. No updates needed to be done to my phone. It was just a big old head scratcher.

Four hours later, my phone decided to work again, pummeling me with an onslaught of text messages and voicemails that came all at the same time, effectively freezing my screen.

I turned it off and took a nap.

When I woke up, everything was normal. The phone worked. My feelings, while still tender, weren’t quite so sore.

And so the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week hopefully came to an end.

I think it’s time to go sit in the sunshine.

I’m not good with death. Alright, no one is good with death. I guess some people just handle it better than others. Most of the death I’ve had to deal with in my life came early. My paternal grandmother died while I was in elementary school. I remember being sad, but I also remember playing tag in the parking lot of the cemetery. Maybe I was too young to really understand then.

Later it was my maternal grandmother. I was old enough then — high school — to be devastated. I still miss her, all these years later. When I smell peaches I think of her. Her dining room always smelled like peaches.

My maternal grandfather and my mom’s sister followed. Sudden. Unexpected. And I felt numb. I was sad, of course, but the tears that I thought should come never did. Until later, alone in my bed in the dark, when the reality of it hit.

Since then there’s been deaths in families of friends. People passed that I never knew, but I attended the wakes to show my respect for my friends. Those are always so hard and I can never keep it together.

A father, who went to sleep on the couch and never woke up, leaving a family behind him. I silently cried from the balcony of the church, trying to keep it together in front of the men in uniform. The brother of my boss. I held it together through the line until I hugged my boss. And sobbed on his shoulder.

Michael’s father. A man taken from this world years beyond his time. A man I met once, yet mourned for weeks.

Mostly I find myself feeling helpless. Like I should be able to do more — comfort those who have lost.

A friend of mine has lost more loved ones in the past year than anyone should have to in two decades. As she finds herself on the cusp of losing another, I feel helpless. I want to scoop her into a hug and make the pain go away.

But I can’t.

So instead, I will run her errands, show up on her doorstep and give her the best I can.

My heart, my ears and my arms.

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