We've recently had some sadness here at Second Blooming.
George, the father of one of Jude's very best friends, also named George (we'll call him Little George for clarity), and the husband of Julie, one of my very dearest friends, passed away very suddenly. I say suddenly, though really it was expected, he had been quite ill for quite a long time. But when it finally happened, it was still shocking and heartbreaking. He literally dropped dead in the front yard, after driving to the art supply store to buy poster materials for the boys' Adopt-a-Family project. I find that quite poetic, as he was an extremely artistic man, and since his health began to fail, he had been forced to stop the majority of his business, but was blessed with spending most of his time sharing quiet activities such as poster-making with his kids and their friends. Jude loved him.
My first thought on the morning I heard of George's passing was of Julie and her children, Rachel and Little George. 17 and 10-years old is too young to lose your father. And Julie, who luckily is one of the strongest and most resilient people I know, is now both the primary caregiver and the primary breadwinner for her family. There was so much to take care of, and so much to process and it all fell directly on her shoulders.
My second thought was of Jude. Jude and Little George are part of a foursome of boys who came together in Kindergarten and named themselves the "Best Friends Club". The four have been inseparable ever since. These are boys that I know will end up being my pallbearers when I pass on, hopefully many, many years from now. I knew that his class had been told that morning that Little George's father had died, and I was concerned about how Jude would react. He is always so stoic, and internalizes all of his feelings.
I went down to the school and waited for the 5th grade to come downstairs for recess. Remember that it's a tiny school, and there is only one class per grade level. When they were headed down and saw me there, several of the little girls came over and hugged me, and told me that Jude was on his way downstairs. One little girl told me that "Jude didn't cry. But his face got really red, and he's been acting funny." This was true. While the other two members of the Best Friends Club had been crying so hard that they were sent home from school, Jude kept saying he was "fine" while plastering a very peculiar, fake smile on his face. I asked him if he wanted to come home with me, assuming that he would jump at any chance to get out of school for a day, but he said he wanted to say. He ran off with that strange smile still plastered to his face and played foursquare. And I let him. I figured he needed to process the loss in his own way.
My third thought was that I needed to buy Julie a ham. Mama always bought a ham for people when somebody died. Either a ham or a casserole, but I didn't really have time for the casserole, so I headed out for the Honey Baked Ham store. I got there only to discover that it wasn't there anymore. Damn. I'd never actually purchased a Honey Baked Ham before, but I was comforted knowing that the store was nearby just in case somebody died and I needed to buy one. So I Googled Honey Baked and located what Google Maps seemed to think was the closest location, and headed out. It was, I kid you not, an hour away. It was down near the airport. Ridiculous. But I was on this weird kind of autopilot, and was just so focused on this absurd idea that I needed to buy a damned ham, that I wasn't really paying attention to how far it was, and when I did realize, I was already committed and halfway there, and so...I just kept going and bought the stupid ham. I wanted to help Julie, and I didn't know what to do. I felt like I needed to DO something or PLAN something or PROVIDE something. But I couldn't give her any of the things she really needed. And I, like Jude, hadn't cried. But instead of playing foursquare, I tracked down a ham.
When I picked Jude up from school that day, I told him we needed to go to swimming, and he looked at me like I was from the moon, shook his head and said "Mom, my friend needs me. We need to go to George's house." Which was, of course, right, and it fascinated me that Jude had, unlike me, processed his feelings and knew what he needed to do, and how he could be most helpful to his friend.
So we went over, and hugged our respective friends, and talked about George and ate ham. And the house was filled with women and children, it was amazing the way our little community had come together to support and love their family. In a big, hard city like Los Angeles, it's an incredibly blessing to find a community you can call home.
During the funeral, which Jude and Little George's entire class attended, Jude stood between Jimmy and me, clutching us tight. He's at that age when he avoids any public displays of attention that involve his parents, but this day, he held and kissed us the entire time. I held it together until the very end of the lovely funeral. As they were processing out of the church, I looked at Julie, walking with her arms around each of her grief-stricken children, and the phrase "the lovely widow" popped into my head. And I burst our sobbing.
I just couldn't control myself, everything I'd bottled up for days came pouring out. I wept for George, who was a lovely and funny man who died too soon and whom I will miss. I wept for Julie and the kids because they needed their husband and father a little longer, and will have a tough road ahead. And I cried because...there but for the grace of God go I. I do not want to be the lovely widow in the black dress.
And so, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for...
- A husband who is alive. I may complain about him all the time, and yes, he can be a pain in the butt. But I love him. And he's here. And on Thanksgiving, the thought of looking at an empty chair at the head of the table, makes me catch my breath and say a quick prayer.
- A son who is far more evolved than I will ever be. Who knows how to be a good friend, and an even better son. Who would never waste half a day tracking down a ham. And who makes me happier every day than I ever dreamt of being.
- A community of loving friends, who I know would be there and would take me in their embrace if, God forbid, a crisis ever struck our family.
- A school for my boy where he has a circle of children who truly care for and protect each other. And where, when crisis strikes, they are allowed to stand together and pray.
- All of you dear readers, who I know, if I needed it, would shower me with support and prayers and good energy.
So everybody should now go and hug a loved one, and give them a kiss on the head. Let's never forget how much we love them, or take them for granted.
And after you do that, visit each of the Spin Cycle participants linked below, and allow them to share with you what they are thankful for.
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