Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's been over two months since Tara died.  Sometimes I think of that and I'm blown away. 

She was cremated.  Her remains stood in a box the the funeral home, surrounded by some pictures.  There were many, many people present, and her husband gave a wonderful eulogy.  As did her best friend.  All of this while her 3-year old daughter, a pixie of a thing, wound her way around everyone's calves as we stood listening.  Listening to words and to music.  And of course, everyone crying. 

Her final decline was rapid.  It's hard to think of someone's three-year fight against cancer and frame it in any way that it seems merciful.  But if there was one thing about it that was merciful, it was that she was transported to hospice on a Thursday evening, and had passed peacefully by 7:30 on Friday morning.


I did well for about half of Lent trying not to yell at my kids.  That was my 'sacrifice,' and believe me, if you have kids, it IS a sacrifice.  There is a lot of pleasure in yelling, "What in the name of God are you thinking?"  Or, "If I have to come up there..."  Or, "early bedtimes for all!" 

But, you know, sometimes it becomes too easy, and too natural, and one thing I try (very imperfectly) to keep in my mind is that Tara would want me to try to be gentle with my kids.  And everyone else.  I mean, sure, she'd probably agree that I need to give them holy hell every now and then, but really, why waste too much time with vinegar when honey can work too? 

Still, I started failing about three weeks in.  I should tell you that my kids gave up nothing for Lent.  They did chores for money, and sent the money in to a relief organization in Haiti called Hands Together.  You should have seen their faces when they got back a thank-you letter addressed to them. 


My kids and a friend of theirs had their own memorial service for Tara, which was disorganized and involved prayers I'd never heard of.  They dressed in black and held her funeral card and I had to stop myself from stopping them.  It seemed too morbid, but I knew they'd seen me upset and heard me talk about her, to David and to my friends, and they knew when she was still alive that she wouldn't be for long. 

Kids can have the most beautiful and tender hearts.  That's what they wanted to do, in a world that suddenly seemed to contain a diminished level of control.  So I let them. 


My eldest has been having a hard time at school, with one child in particular.  It has been stressing her out, and she's been displaying signs of anxiety at home.  Right around the time Tara died, I remember talking with Hannah about her classmate.  I told her, "I need you to stand up for yourself, but I will intervene if I have to.  I'll always be here for you." 

And she said to me, "Not if you die." 

And everything I had been trying to hold in came out like water from the Johnstown flood.