Loss stings a year later


A year ago today this was the last “normal” day on Earth and for the most part, nobody knew it. March 11, 2020, is widely accepted as the day the world as we know it effectively “shut down.” The COVID-19 pandemic was upon us.

Frankly, by the time that date came, our family was numb. The wholly unwelcome new normal for our world came a few days earlier. It has been 370 days. That’s 8,880 hours since that awful day when we learned our nephew had unexpectedly died.

It scarcely seems real even now. I can find myself, momentarily, forgetting. I remember anew with a sharp intake of breath and a stab to the heart. It never fails to shock me still. How can someone so young, vibrant, and full of life just be so wholly gone?

The pandemic, of course, did not help matters. One does not “distance” from grief. It surrounds us.  Our nephew was 37 years old with three children when the Lord called him home. Nonetheless, when I remember him, which is often, I think of him most often as the child I first knew.

At 10 years old he was fishing in our pond and caught a large fish. When it flopped onto the banks, he took off screaming bloody murder at a speedy crab crawl up the grass. The whole time still trailing the rod, line, and, of course, that flopping fish. He was absolutely certain that fish was “chasing” him. We still laugh uproariously remembering the chaos of the day the fish fought back.

Always curious, he once asked “why” so many times in one car ride that Mr. Wonderful turned it back on him. Kids are naturally curious of course, but this was simply too much. We asked him “why do you ask?” “Why do you think?,” and “why would you say that?” until we devolved into hysterical laughter.

Catching our breaths he agreed to stop with the “why” for at least the immediate future. Love an inquisitive mind, but kids are exhausting, am I right? In the next breath, he said “so how come …?”  Gosh I loved that kid.

If there was an easy way to do something, or a hard way, he almost always chose the hard way. I say this with love. Stubborn could have been his middle name.

Then again “fun” could be too. He had a huge smile and a booming laugh. His was a full-sized life, indeed. Too short, but very full.

Every major holiday has come and gone in the 370 days since he left us. Christmas was particularly hard. We missed his boisterous light and love something fierce. I consider my nieces and nephews among the greatest blessings of my life. Each of them is special. None are replaceable.

Upon the loss of our nephew last March, I was sent many heartfelt wishes. A common theme was that “the family chain is broken now.” I appreciate the thought but on this I disagree.

He may have been away from us for over a year but in many other ways he is with us still. Those children are the chain. It is not broken. If anything it has stretched to include family and friends united in his memory. Links can be added. Time and space does not sever the ties of heart or family.

As a young teen, he visited us and decided that country life was NOT for him. “It’s so DARK out here,” he said. Later he would enjoy moving his own family to the country. He would, however, light the place up like an overnight carnival – or airport runway. He was not going to let the darkness sneak up on him. Then 370 days ago, it did.

I wrote then that the moment I took the call saying he was gone, the entire world seemed to tip. I can say that it still has not quite righted itself. This does not feel “normal.”

I don’t know that in time – be it 371 or 3700 days – it ever really will.


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