Who would have known how much mercy a couple of minutes could bring?
I glance over at the clock to see it has finally moved past midnight, moved me past the melancholy and memories etched into this date every year. And with this awareness, I feel the red, scratchy ball of anxiety that has set up housekeeping in my chest all day slide down to my belly, melting into a dark blue pool of sadness and relief.
The day–Steve’s birthday–always comes with the hope of carrying out some small ritual in his honor: bake his favorite chocolate mocha cake and share it with neighbors and family, talk with his siblings on the phone, give away one more of his possessions to someone in need.
But this year, not much of this happened. Instead, I kept myself unusually busy, hoping to move through the day without thinking or feeling a whole lot, the victim of my own emotional gag order. It was all very tidy, all very contained. Now, looking back on the last exhausting seventeen hours, it’s painfully clear that expending that much energy to just-not-go-there has cost me dearly.
Next year on this date, my plan is to have a small gathering, bake that cake in his honor, then sit around and share its sweet perfection, allowing stories and memories of Steve to bubble up as they will. I expect some tears may surface, but also plenty of laughter. I would much rather move through the day feeling my own messy emotions and enjoying the companionship of honest friends and family than spending it as I did today, desperately trying to outrun my grief.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. So as you remember loved ones lost, I want to encourage you to avoid my costly mistake. Emotions are messy, but go ahead and make a beautiful mess.