Posts Tagged ‘grief’

In Memory

July 30, 2011

All week I have not known what to do, so I’ve collected food and funds, run to the store and made telephone calls.  I can’t bear to think about what has happened to someone I know and am fearful of it happening to me, to my son. I don’t know how Yuhong bears the pain.

James’ memorial service was today at four o’clock.  My fifteen year old son Ryan and I attended.  He helped me prepare food for the reception, then went to put on his good khaki pants, blue striped dress shirt and one of his brother’s ties, the yellow one with tiny blue diamonds.

He knocked on my bedroom door, clothes in his hands.  “Do you mind ironing the pants and shirt for me?” he asked. He’s never done that before. Usually he puts on whatever is available, wrinkled or not and argues with me about having to take it off again because it’s not presentable.

We loaded the car and arrived at the high school early. Several friends met us at the front and we carried in the food purchased with donations from people at the nursing home where Yuhong and I work.  Ryan opened packages, arranged food on silver and crystal platters and didn’t seem to notice that he was the only teenage boy amongst the women and girls helping set up.

At four o’clock we gathered with others at the auditorium door, signed our sentiments in the guest book, took the program for the service and filed to our seats. The huge room was filled with students, teachers, members of the community and friends. Photographs of James came into focus and faded away as they changed in a slide show on the screen on stage, a smiling kindergartener with ABC’s taped across the blackboard behind him, a sixth grader on his first day of middle school, a nervous smile on his face, an excited boy with his father in a stream, holding a just-caught fish, a teenager with bangs swept to the side and a determined look as he perfected a trick on his skateboard, a serious musician strumming a guitar. Fifteen years of James’ life.

A minister lead us in prayer, someone read a poem, teachers spoke of a young man’s commitment to school, kindness to others, sense of humor, his smile, and how he honored those who knew him. James’ two best friends presented a power point slide show of their favorite pictures of James as the Beatles sang Strawberry Fields Forever in the background.  The last photograph was of a laughing James with the words: Rest in Peace Friend.

Ryan and I didn’t stay for refreshments. We couldn’t eat.  We walked to the car in silence and didn’t say much on the way home. After we pulled into the driveway, Ryan went to the garage to see how his Dad was coming along on the boat repairs. I walked to the backyard toward the garden, not wanting to go into the house, but not knowing what else to do.

As I stopped at the garden gate something pink caught my eye. My grandma’s resurrection lilies were blooming at the fence near the clothesline. Every year, they rise from the earth and bloom all in a single day.  I was glad they chose today. 


July 23, 2011

A child was hit and killed by a car a half mile from our house last Friday night. He was a rising Sophomore at the high school in our community. He was riding his skateboard from his subdivision, across the highway, to the grocery store.  A pizza delivery man hit him.

The newscaster announced the accident Saturday morning.  I woke Ryan to ask him if he knew the boy. They were the same age. Ryan came into the room rubbing his eyes. When he saw the picture of the dark haired young man wearing glasses, Ryan’s eyes opened wide. Then he said,  “He’s a freshman. We ride the same bus.”

I hugged my boy every opportunity I had over the weekend.  I hovered over him until he told me to stop. I regretted ever teasing him about walking to the store when he needed a ride. I cried for the loss of a child I didn’t know. Ryan was patient with me. His statement of “That’s enough, Mom,” came  late Sunday evening when he was trying to watch the sports highlights on television and I had my arms wrapped around him from behind as he sat in his video gaming chair.  

Monday morning I went to work. It was there that I was told that James, the teenager killed, was the son of one of our nursing assistants, Yuhong. Every day, this gentle woman goes about her work quietly, her eyes lowered. Her presence is felt, but not heard. She cares for the elders in her charge with a rare kindness not often seen, and she is the mother of James. He was her only child.

We took up a collection at work for Yuhong and her husband, gathered money, food, drink, a potted plant, and we all signed a card. We didn’t know what else to do. A friend and I stopped by Yuhong’s house Tuesday afternoon to pay our respects and deliver the items we collected. We didn’t know what to say. We just stood in her doorway with our arms wrapped around her and her husband, crying with them. They were gracious, inviting us in, allowing us to share in their grief.

I sat at Yuhong’s kitchen table, looking at the photo album of her son from the time he was born until now.  She sat, tears running, unable to speak. Her husband, a very strong man, sat telling us stories of James, how he loved playing the saxophone and wanted to join the jazz band this fall, how tennis was such a passion that he played every day in the summer,  how James had made them so proud by getting all A’s in his honors classes at school.  The brave man choked back tears as he said, “I still go to my son’s room in the morning to wake him for breakfast. This does not feel real.”

 This couple is from China. They have lived in America for ten years. Their extended family lives in China. They sat together, there at the table, alone.

 We turned pages in the photo album. I remembered my own boys at each stage of development, my joy, and such a strong feeling of love as I held them or stood beside them.  I realized today that I’ve never contemplated a time when there would be no more photographs taken of my children. I still can’t.