These are not usual times
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:29AM
If I was writing a “usual” column today, I’d probably talk about the “usual” rites of spring and how hectic the end of the school year is for families. I’d shake my head and laugh with you at how overwhelmed moms are with planning graduation parties and First Communion luncheons and buying teacher gifts and moving their college kids back home and helping their out-of-college kids move to the city.
If this was a “usual” May, I might write about going to the Spirit of 67 Home Tour, observing the annual ritual of moms from the community who grab a partner or two, get decked out in their finest Capri pants and Tory Burch wedges, cover their feet in blue shoe booties and take a day’s respite from their “usual” lives to ogle over other moms’ supremely bedazzled houses.
But this sure doesn’t feel like a “usual” time in our community.
It remains anything but what spring or May or the end of the school year “usually” brings, what we normally feel or think or spend our time doing. It feels highly unusual at every level, with every ounce of our emotion and concern stretched to its limit, our understanding challenged beyond comprehension. It is a time of severe grief and confusion for all, with a seemingly endless list of those who need our prayers.
So, in the thick of nothing seeming to have reason or meaning, I have to do my “usual.” I have to find moments of calm by seeking meaningful symbolism in what might be meaningless to anyone else in the world. Since losing my own son nine years ago, I have abandoned the norm, and embraced a new normal. And it works for this bereaved mother. I’ll give you a few examples.
Recently, as I sat at a kitchen table with a mom in deepest pain over losing her child, she detailed how much he loved the color purple. I listened intently, watching her eyes flood with the simple memory, while lavender tulips in a nearby vase shed their purple petals. Coincidence?
As I recently stood in a solemn, emotion-filled line to offer support and condolences for the loss of a young person in our community, I viewed photos of his many sports accomplishments. The number he wore on his swim cap, No. 9, was the same number my son wore on his travel baseball jersey. I knew it wasn’t unusual for me to notice such a coincidence, quietly knowing there was another No. 9 in heaven.
A few months ago, as I struggled with everyone to make sense over a tragic death, I was looking for some personal clarity and calm. As usual for me, a few red cardinals crossed my path that weekend. Red cardinals appear at moments when I am especially distressed and look to my little boy for solace. And as usual, it worked.
Since losing my son, finding comforting symbolism at distressing times has become a new normal for me. In this unconscionable time for our community, perhaps it will bring a few moments of comfort for you, too.
Lake Forester columnist Maria Malin can be reached at email@example.com