I don't know why but lately I've been thinking about a terrible event in our family's history. It was the day my son Danny died in a car accident coming home from school in the rain. He wasn't speeding. He had a seatbelt on. It was a freak occurrence. When these kinds of things happen to you....they change you forever. You are not the same person. Everybody who's been through the wretched pain of it will attest to how the wound gets partially healed, somewhat, with time. You are kinda ruined in a way, though, and you just somehow put a bandaid on it and try to move ahead as a wounded soldier.
Remembrances or experiences reminding you of how special that person was to you, kind of rip off a portion of the bandaid you have hidden the wound under, and you are laid bare again....tears streaming down your face....no control in place. But people along the road stop and help you. And you never forget it. You still appreciate everything. Even now I do. Life sucks sometimes, but it can be joyful still.
Maybe it's because there's a new 9 11 movie out with Tom Hanks that looks painfully sad. Maybe it's because my kid's friends are all coming home from their missions now and getting engaged, married, having a kid. It's hard to be there to celebrate for them, somehow, although I am happy for them, and I do love them. It's just hard. It rips the bandaid off for a minute. Stuff he will miss out on....stuff I'll never see. But people's words still help me. One of those returned missionaries gave me a few words of wisdom that helped me feel better today. It reminded me, years later now, of the people that said things to me and did simple, random, acts of kindness that I will never forget.
I think people fear they have to be grand in their gestures when they want to help in a tragedy. But the simple truth is....every single gesture helps....and is noted. Words of comfort were so varied and mostly welcomed. Lots of questions were not....still aren't. Nobody wants to relive the details of the other-worldly pain. Lots of questions are not good and comforting. I guess I would figure that out. Some people don't. Only 1 note hurt me. It mentioned one time he saw Danny perform something good. It made me think "you didn't know him at all, did you?" School and seminary teachers' notes I reread occasionally, usually at Christmas as I keep them in my card file. Such sweet teachers I'll never forget.
Small, heartfelt gifts were so comforting to me. One good friend named Pat gave me a small 5 x 5 book of lighthouses and poems on the light leading us home. I loved that probably more than any other gift. I kept it in my purse and grabbed it out like spinach for Popeye, making me feel strong when I was losing it. She had lost her husband the previous year. Another guy came and mowed our lawn for a month. He'd lost his wife a few years back.
Another one I remember was a small Christmas ornament given to me by a young girl, a very quiet girl, who came to my home all by herself. It was a statuary mother with a child in her arms. I loved that figurine. I still do whenever I look at it. One very good friend of mine came over late at night with her husband and 2 bags of groceries, and stayed listening to my husband after I went to bed exhausted. Another friend came as soon as she heard, left work to be with me, ran in the house calling for me. Several couples came over, sat and talked. These comforting people were not all super close friends. They just cared. And they came and did what they could. They all just said simply, "I'm so sorry".
That helped me get through it, that others cared about our pain, and wanted to somehow make it better. It felt like a warm, hand knitted shawl, being wrapped around me.
Some came days later when I needed a friend to talk to. Several brought cross stitched and embroidered messages that I treasure. One sent a picture book of the Savior, and another group send a large painting of the Savior. Another sent hymns of comfort in a cd. I had so many small gestures and gifts that I treasure. Some sent sunflowers. Others sent roses. I remember most of the flowers and some of the plants. But there were so many.
One sent bread. I remember there were a lot of loaves of bread, but I only remember 1 person's bread because she apologized saying "I didn't know what to bring, so I brought some bread....I'm so sorry". We had like 10 or 12 loaves in our freezer. I remember many casseroles which I did taste but never finished a serving of. No appetite. You forget, even, to eat. You are damaged. But you don't forget who sent you food. I remember even a bottle of horseradish sauce and roast beef sandwiches from my next door neighbor I didn't know very well. She did what she could with 2 little girls in tow. Another neighbor did a floral arrangement of silks because I told her I needed a few for the table of pictures I was putting together. It was beautiful with all the fall colors, and sunflowers, one of my favorite flowers still.
Another was a neighbor that didn't say much. She just took a few of my photo album pictures and made a scrapbook of Danny. Her name was Holly. It was such a dear act. When others heard about it they came over and took 3 or 4 more pictures from our pile laying out on the living room floor in a 3 x 3 foot grid for days, and they made up a page for the Danny scrapbook. It was finished to overflowing.
So many kids did such comforting things....coming to visit.....singing at the funeral.....leading the singing....carrying the casket... Organizing a Festival of Trees Tree at Christmas a few months later..sitting in groups at the funeral......Alta High hockey kids united together.....that was all so comforting to me. Their coach who had Danny's number 44 embroidered on everybody's team jersey. The coach died suddenly the next year. We sent a heartfelt note to his widow with money for the funeral expenses. I loved that coach. Danny loved him too. I'm sure Danny and he did a fist bump when they met in heaven.
A dear neighbor named Laurie, her son was one of Danny's best friends, framed Dan's hockey shirt with his number 44 in a big, black frame. Maybe that's why I was weepy. I found the shirt yesterday when cleaning. it's been stored. We set it up next to his casket at the funeral. Another one of his best friend's family anonymously paid for the funeral plot. His home teaching companion and our home teachers each sent huge amounts of money to virtually pay half of his funeral expenses. Like I said, people do what they can....it's all good....it's all appreciated...it helps to bear one another's burdens.
I loved the service my kids gave to their brother. My kids and their spouses put together a powerpoint of pictures of Dan to music for a display at the funeral. I still can't listen to the song without being sad. Associations to music are strong. My son played an original piano solo, another son spoke about his brother playing video games with him, using the "healer" role playing, wishing he could have "healed" his brother like they did in the video game together. And my daughter who had to travel far to come, prayed at his funeral. And did many things to support me. It was all meaningful to me. They had always said Danny was my favorite kid. For years I heard that. I don't know if that is true, but he was very special to me, being my youngest, my baby. It all comforted me. It was all given in love.
I think I have forgotten that when others are in pain, it's so important not to think about it...not to worry that you have nothing to say or to add. Or that you don't know what to do. Just go and do.....whatever you can....It's like the Little Drummer Boy. Just play your drum if that's all you can think of to do. It will make it better.... It is all helpful. It is all memorable and loving and comforting. I know. And I'm grateful years later for sweet, comforting gestures of love and charity. Even now, I think back when I'm sad, and it comforts me still.