Last Monday night my wife, myself, Lindsay’s mom and stepfather had dinner with one of the nicest young ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet. Monday night was probably the last meal we will all have together before she heads off to college to pursue a career in nursing. This young lady has, over the past several years, earned my respect through her morals, self-respect and her love and appreciation for life. She is self-confident, polite and wise beyond her years. Patrick, Cheryl and Grandma, you have done an amazing job raising this young lady and you should be so proud of her and all she has accomplished in her life. I am so happy that Ms. Heather Reynolds was Lindsay’s best friend. Lindsay had numerous friends, great friends, friends of all kinds, friends of all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I don’t think Lindsay saw color, size or religion when she looked at a person, I believe she saw their heart. Heather was her best friend and I can understand why, she has a good heart. They went together like biscuits and molasses, like handbags and high heels. I enjoyed spending time with Heather when she would come over to spend the night or the weekend with Lindsay. Her and Lindsay would lay around the house and watch TV. They would also do the normal 17 year-old things like solve all the worlds problems, gossip, and whisper real low when they were talking about boys or making fun of us. They may head to the pool or gym for a “work out.” Whatever it was, it was together.
While I sat there last Monday night talking to Heather about heading off the college, packing and what classes she was taking I could not help but think of Lindsay. It was ironic that we were eating at “On the Border,” because on the border is where you always seem to be when grief is involved. I am so happy and proud of Heather but on the other side of the border I am sad because Lindsay should have been there with us. We should have been talking about Lindsay’s classes, when we were leaving to take her to Chapel Hill, and my least favorite topic, boyfriends. Lindsay Lou and Heatherford should have been planning where they were going to meet each other if they had a free weekend while at ECU and UNC. Planning out their final week of the summer here at home to maximize their beach time, eating at the Bowl and singing Queen B to the top of their lungs. I know Heather misses her “Tall Person” but I know in my heart that Lindsay is looking out for her “Baby Hands.”
Who would have ever imagined that when Lindsay drew these roses for Heather, that one day, she would be keeping them with her forever. Thank you Heather for being my Lindsay Girl’s best friend and for hanging out with this old guy and his family every now and then.
I don’t need a holiday, birthday, a dinner or an anniversary to miss Lindsay, I don’t need a special day to remind me she is gone, and I don’t need them to remind me to grieve. There have been very few days over the past eleven plus months that I have not shed a tear for Lindsay. It could be a picture, a song, or some movie, a movie that a year ago I would have been laughing at but now watch through a whole different set of eyes. A grieving fathers eyes. I missed her yesterday, I miss her today and you can believe I will miss her tomorrow. I believe, we begin to dread these milestones because we feel we should be sadder, feel more pain, or have grief loom a little heavier in our hearts. There are days I feel the heaviness of grief a little more, but it could be next Tuesday or last Wednesday, it could be any day. These special days or significant days do hurt a little more because you are always thinking, “what if,” “why her,” and “if I had only.” As far as missing her it’s the same every day, it’s the worst feeling in the world, but grief comes in somewhat unsuspectingly and you really never know when its going to take you out at the knees. On August 28th she will be gone one year and I, we, have been through a lot of these days.
All of the significant days were hard but, Christmas was by far the worst for me. Did I miss Lindsay last Christmas, more than anyone will ever know. She was the one that always pushed me and Kelli to put the tree up and get the decorations out. She was our Christmas spirit elf. She truly loved Christmas, our tree, not so much. She said our tree was pathetic. She always loved a big, full live Christmas tree. Our tree is flat on one side so you can push it up against a wall to save floor space. I can remember her and Heather standing there looking at the tree and both of them, in harmony said “That tree is pathetic y’all” and they stood there shaking their heads. Do I miss that, yes I do. To be honest I never want to forget it. I started thinking about Christmas right after Thanksgiving last year. What am I going to do? Am I going to stay here or leave? Do I want it to be just me, Kelli and Jarrett or house full of family? Are we even going to decorate? I was also thinking of Jarrett and what he was feeling, what he may want to do. You always have people telling you what they think you should do, what they did in their time of grief, and what they think is the right decision. I thought long and hard about every one of these questions and here is what I decided to do. I stayed right here in my own home, home where I was comfortable, where I remember Lindsay opening up her first iPhone and the look of sheer surprise on her face. The Michael Korrs watch that lit up her eyes with such joy. So many good memories of Lindsay and Jarrett. That is one of the reasons I stayed home but not the main reason. The main reason for me wanting to stay at home was it did not matter where I laid my head on Christmas Eve, when I woke up on Christmas morning Lindsay would not be there. It did not matter if I was at home or in the Bahamas, Lindsay would not be there. Waking up in a strange place would have been just one more reminder that Lindsay was not there. Waking up I would have thought “Why am I here?”, and the answer would have been quite clear, because Lindsay is not here. I wanted to wake up in our home so I could walk over to that pathetic tree and tell Lindsay Merry Christmas and that I loved and missed her. I wanted to be close to our very own Christmas spirit. Home is were your heart is, home is where all your love is, home is where all your memories are, home is where Christmas is for me. I wanted to look at that chair and see her sitting there anxiously waiting for the presents to be passed out. I wanted to look at the couch and see her and Mary wrapped up watching a Christmas movie on TV or dancing all over the house to Christmas music. I want to remember her saying ” Y’all, what time are we eating?” Was it hard? Sure it was, it hurt like nothing I have ever felt before, but I was home. Home where I could smile before a tear would slide down my cheek, home where I could let my memories run free, home right where I needed to be.
I wanted the house full of family and friends for love and support, and it was. My brothers family changed their entire plans for Christmas to be there. I wanted to feel her, I wanted to see her in my minds eye and I wanted to hear Lindsay’s name spoken out loud, I wanted to know she was not forgotten. I wanted to hear stories being told of Christmas’ past and I wanted to hear laughter, I had to hear laughter. Laughter is grief’s kryptonite and I needed it to get me through the day. I needed family there to remind me what it was like to be happy, to smile, and how much we all love each other and Lindsay.
These days, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the day school starts, graduation day prom night, wedding days and so many more, are all hard on a parent that has lost a child because they will never be the same. These days you always feel like you are “on the border.”