I went to bed too late last night. I couldn’t fall asleep, my head was twirling, I was mentally writing to-do lists of things I needed to accomplish today. When I was still wide awake at one I thought about today, how I’d be sleepy, how this day would be difficult. I’d be tired.
I finally fell asleep sometime after 1 and woke up, inexplicably around 5:45 at which time I checked my phone and saw that Julie had passed away. My head has been twirling since.
I had prepared myself already for the gravity of the day – the anniversary of 9/11 always strikes me because it wasn’t until a few weeks after that awful day that I found out I was pregnant for The Princess. I must have been just days pregnant that day. I remember sitting at work in a cube farm, someone announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, and I remember all of us standing in front of the televisions in the lunchroom for most of the day, watching it all happen, right in front of our eyes.
I sat on my porch with a candle. We took change to the donation stations for the Red Cross.
And last fall, I visited the Memorial in New York City, and I walked around reading the names. I wanted to touch them all, but couldn’t. I wanted to touch and read every single one of those names that surround the Memorial. I flinched each time I read the engraved “…and unborn child” descriptor after a woman’s name. I had never, until that moment, thought of that, I guess.
I knew today would be full of remembrance and never-forgetting, and yeah, I knew that would be tough, but I still had stuff to deal with today. I still would have to call the town where I live to talk about property taxes and I’d still go to work and do my job and yeah yeah yeah, 9/11 but that was 11 years ago and it wouldn’t affect me.
And then I saw the news about Julie.
I wish I could speak eloquently about it or about Julie – I feel I owe both topics more than the words I have can offer. She was vibrant and funny and a light. She was a dedicated mom.
And she was way too young.
It’s like a sucker punch when someone dies – and worse when they die so young. And you wish you could grab this disease by the shirt and shake it loose and tell it to back off, scare it into retreating, threaten it from ever touching anyone you know, anyone ever.
But you can’t.
And so this morning, I told The Princess about Julie – we’d had Frostys for Julie the other day, to send her hope and to follow her lead and to enjoy life – so my daughter knew about Julie, that Julie was fighting this ugly disease, cancer. And tears filled my eyes and my daughter put down her breakfast, and walked across the room to give me a hug and I thought to myself, “I’m so lucky to be here with my daughter’s arms wrapped around me, to be loved, for this moment.”
I stopped for coffee on my way to work – wanting to find some separation between the news and the rest of my day.
But I still feel helpless – because all over the place today there are people who are hurting and there’s nothing anyone could do to erase it or make it better. I read some of Julie’s writing this morning, rereading something she had written months ago about the children’s story “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and how thinking of that story was one of her strategies for coping with things that came her way. She said:
“Worry and panic and dread will swallow us up if we let it, for sure. I think most problems in life are relieved when we suck it up and deal, by doing whatever that process requires for us, for however long it takes. We can’t go over it or under it. We have to go through it.”
She also said, “Life isn’t fair, but it’s still wonderful.”
And it isn’t and it is.
My heart is heavy and I’m sitting at my desk.
This morning as I was getting out of my car, my sister pulled up next to me in the parking garage to say good morning. We work in the same building and I never see her. To see her smiling face was a boost today.
I’m not sure how you even close a post like this. If you all were here, I’d like to think that I’d wrap each one of you up in a hug and give you an extra tight squeeze and let you know you mean something to me. So that’s what I’m doing.
Close your eyes tight.
Wrap your arms around yourself.
Squeeze a bit.
There’s a hug from me.
Figured we could all use one today.