Some things in life you'll never forget. There are moments in our core memory that we hang on closely to because we don't want to forget. The ones that make me smile are the best. I close my eyes at night and see my tree lined street I grew up on, the Catholic School I spent most of my childhood in and faces of many people who helped me grow up.
There are also moment that stand still in my mind. Etched into my mind like words on a tombstone. There aren't many. But frames as if I'm watching a movie. The last time I saw my Dad. The moment my Mom hung up the phone with Hospice. The downstairs couch where she told my little sister and I our Dad didn't make it through the night. The exact place in my old church where I saw all my classmates sitting for my Dad's funeral. The birthday party that I went to after the funeral was over. All in this order. And then the movie stops.
I recently have had a flood of memories come back as I heard the news about a neighborhood friend passing. I wish I could say we were closer but life is life. We saw each other at neighborhood markets, events, our children's elementary school. Smiles and hellos! Hugs and waves that it was good to see each other. We would catch up a little here and there. But now she's gone.
And left here on this Earth, are her two children, and her husband. The kids are around the same ages as my sister and I were when our Dad passed. I was 10. She was 7.
I feel as if I'm watching my childhood through the eyes of all the friends of my parents. Did they help my Mom like our school is helping this family? Are teachers and parents talking about those 'poor babies' because they just feel so bad about them loosing a parent? Are they thinking of ways to help? Are the kids in their classes as supportive as my friends were to me and my sister? Do the kids know that so many people are thinking about them and praying for them?
It was 27 years ago, and I can't thank the people and my friends, who surrounded me with love, prayers, thoughts and sorrow, enough. I am just now seeing how much support a tight knit community lends to any one in need during a difficult time. It's a blessing to have such a community and be a part of it.
To the children who were left behind...I wish I could with certainty say that everything will be alright. They will remember the before and the after. The feelings of loss don't go away. They do get tucked away until they are ready to come out. Everyone is different.
Fo me, the emotions are as raw as they were 27 years ago, but those scars have helped me become who I am today. I can easily say that it is true that children process grief so differently than adults. All I wanted to do was go to a friends birthday party after the funeral. I just wanted to be normal again. Not the girl who lost her Dad.
It's the memories etched in my mind that bring me back. I was in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico this past winter and a Mariachi band was playing table side. I hadn't heard those songs since my Dad sang them to me as a child. Those are the memories that are tucked away, but gently remind me of what fond memories I have of when my Dad was still with us.
Losing a parent early in life isn't easy. But it's the strength of the family, the community the safety net of good friends that will keep those kids feeling normal.
The hole in my heart will never close. The memories are forever etched in my mind. I would gather to say they are among my most prized possessions. My heart hurts for those babies who lost their Mother. But she'll continue to watch over them for the rest of their lives. I know my Papi still does.