Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Small Steps

So, the 71st entry in my 1,000 Item Joy List from my previous post was "small steps forward in the grief journey."  You may be wondering why, since it's been a little over two years now since Hannah went to Heaven, the grief journey is still going on.  You know..."Shouldn't she be over that by now?"...kind of mumbled into your sleeve?  I would have thought the same thing myself three years ago.

Since then, I've learned that grief is not a sprint, and the steps of the process are small, sometimes even imperceptible.  Imagine trying to run a marathon, but only being able to take baby steps.  It's gonna take you awhile, isn't it?  In fact, you might not ever finish.  But every one of those baby steps does take you closer to the finish line, and as my former marathon-ing husband will tell you, it's continuing to move forward that really matters.

So...a couple of those baby steps...

Last year, we participated in Relay for Life for the first time.  The Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry had a team, and I was the team captain.  As the captain, it was my job to attend all of the team captain "rallies" leading up the actual event.  And I'm just going to be honest with you...it was hard to attend those meetings.  I had a constant refrain running through my head -- I don't belong there...I shouldn't be here...My child shouldn't have died of cancer...I don't want to be here...Let me out of here!  But, of course, nobody saw that...I sat there smiling politely at everybody...just not talking to anybody, because you already know that I can't talk when I'm about to cry.  That was pretty easy to do, because I didn't really know anybody at the meetings anyway.  I would duck out as soon as the meeting was over, and let the pent-up tears flow as I drove home.  Every meeting was like that, and deep down, I was dreading the night of Relay.  If just the meetings were that hard, how could I possibly make it through the whole night of Relay?  But, you know what, the Relay itself was not bad.  Surrounded by our friends from Anchor of Hope, we were actually able to enjoy ourselves...and realized that Relay for Life was something we should have been involved with before our daughter was ever diagnosed with cancer.  Here's a picture from last year...

Sorry...I've digressed a little bit.  Let me get back to that baby step I was talking about.  This year, I am once again the captain of the Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry team.  The team captain rallies have been going on for awhile already, but I haven't been able to get to one due to basketball season.  That's over now, so I was finally able to go to last week's meeting.  I came in, signed up my team, picked up my bag of goodies, found a seat, chatted a little bit with the people around me, listened to all the different committee representatives, and then headed out.  I had driven maybe a mile down the road when it suddenly hit me.  I wasn't crying!  I wasn't even choked up.  And I realized that I had sat through that entire meeting without a single verse of that old refrain running through my head.  On the other hand, I had felt very comfortable and confident that evening...as if I actually belonged there.  I can't describe the lightness I felt in my heart as I drove the rest of the way home.  It was a step...an almost imperceptible one at first...but a step forward...a reminder that healing is taking place.

One other little step to share.  For a long time now, really ever since Hannah went to Heaven, I've wanted to have a quilt made out of her old t-shirts.  When we cleaned out her room several months ago, I went through her dresser drawer and picked out all of the shirts I wanted to use.  But then I put them away, because I didn't think there was any way that I was going to be able to actually talk to a quilt-maker about them...remember the aforementioned lack of speaking ability in emotional situations.  How could I possibly explain to someone which parts of the shirts I wanted to use, the design I wanted, the colors I liked...if I couldn't even talk? 

I did do some research, and identified the person I wanted to make the quilt...a family friend of a co-worker.  She lives about an hour away, and she does absolutely beautiful work.  With spring break coming up, I knew I would have time to carefully go through the shirts and make the trip to the quilt-maker's house.  So I screwed up my courage, and last Saturday, Brad and I took our precious cargo to this sweet lady's house.  She invited us into her home, which was filled with some fascinating antiques...a beautiful juke box, an old Coke machine, an ancient cash register...and she put us immediately at ease.  Turns out she and her husband are OBU alumni, so immediately we were family, as all former OBU Tigers are.  And I was able to hold Hannah's t-shirts in my hands, coherently explain to her what I wanted, and smile and laugh while we chatted.  No tears.  My voice worked.  Another step on the path to healing.

And I can't wait to show you my new quilt when it's done!


Cathie said...

Jill, those aren't small steps - they are big steps! Thanks for sharing from your heart. I can't wait to see the quilt.

Melanie said...

Our 12 year son, Andrew Christopher Dorsey, was dx with GBM stage 4 in August '09. He passed to Heaven Dec. 15, '09.
We walk the road of grief, too.
We are "The Dorsey Family ~ Forever a Family of Five"

Kelley's4Kids said...

LOVE your new buttons and proudly have one on my blog!

I can't wait to see the quilt. I've often thought about doing that to Grayson's clothes but don't know who to go to...wish that sweet lady lived near me too.

Thinking about you - Kelley

Kecia said...

Do those 2 years sometimes seem like an eternity and sometimes seem like the blink of an eye?
Yearning for heaven-