I can’t write a letter to the editor, as folks do, so this is it: the editor’s letter to all of you who have reached out to us this week in our time of loss and sorrow.
My week has been studded with random quotes from “Gone With the Wind.” On Tuesday and Wednesday, as we pushed through the initial shock of our son’s death to get the paper out, it was “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” (Thank you, Scarlett O’Hara, for forever marking my gray matter. You aren’t even my favorite character.)
As Wednesday rolled into Thursday and Friday, my thoughts moved more toward survival, with a faint twinge of hope, again thanks to Scarlett.
“As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this…”
Where did the hope come from? I found myself surrounded by the love and understanding of far too many other parents who’ve lost a child, from people who took time out of their lives to prepare food and deliver it to my house and to my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren, and the love and prayers and hugs of friends and family and acquaintances. Flowers and food and cards and messages and emails were received from people I’ve known for years, people I barely know but who know me through the paper, and people I’ve never met who knew and loved my son. And for once social media proved its value—connecting people for good, providing solace and succor in a time of pain and horror. If only it accomplished that task more often.
As the work week rolled around again, fatigued beyond belief, with aches and pains and foggy brain, I found myself back in front of my computer. We’ve had a few folks ask us why we’re back at work. We had multiple offers of help, which were much appreciated, but the logistics were harder than just doing the work ourselves. Plus, work serves as a distraction when I’m talking to the coroner about my son’s personal effects, and hearing from the state patrol about the details of the accident, and looking at the box of his cremains in my living room. It’s perversely comforting to have his ashes here where I can keep an eye on “him,” something he actively resisted during his entire adult life.
So, to all of you who have shared—and keep sharing—your love and hugs and prayers and food and wisdom and friendship and camaraderie, thank you. As I’ve told a number of people: if horrible (I may have used a more colorful word) things have to happen, and they do, there is no better place to be than Meeker, Colo., where friends become instant family and acquaintances become sudden friends, connected by a common bond that makes us stronger than we could ever be on our own.
Most of us spend vast swaths of our lives avoiding grief. We’re as afraid of grief as we are of hunger. But grief serves its own purpose, like hunger does. Hunger makes food taste better, makes us appreciate it more. Grief makes love, and light, and hope that much sweeter and more precious. I’ve feared it for years. Now it’s part of my repertoire, and it will make me better and stronger and a more compassionate and mindful human in the future.
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org