It’s not any better when you set the grief packet down on a table at home after you return from the hospital. You don’t want to open it because that means you’re starting the process of saying goodbye and you’re not ready to say goodbye.
You just want more time. Another a few years is probably unrealistic, but even a month would be nice. Too much to ask? How about a week? Okay, then, please, just one last day so you can tell them how important they are to you. You want to say all the things you didn’t get to say.
You can barely look at the grief packet the first day. It sits there untouched until you go to bed and stare at the ceiling for hours thinking of all the good times in the past that will never happen in the future. You wake up the next day and struggle to get out of bed, knowing the grief packet is still there, waiting.
It feels like betrayal to open the packet so you don’t want to do it. You can’t do it. But you have to do it at some point. There are things to do when a person you love dies. The grief packet comes with a checklist.
When I suffered a spinal cord injury because of a car accident in Indiana the summer after I graduated from college, Les came out and spent the next year helping me recover and adjust to life as a wheelchair user. This continued when we came back to Bothell. He’s been there every roll of the wheel since.
We had great times over the years, including a trip to Niagra Falls and a couple trips to Pittsburgh. Even though he wasn’t into sports, he watched me play baseball when I was growing up and he took me, my sister, and friends to Mariner games when we asked him to.
The last Final Jeopardy question we watched together was two days before he died. I didn’t know the answer but he somehow pulled it out of his brain, despite being literally on his deathbed.
I haven’t watched Jeopardy! since.
When I re-read what I’ve written here, it’s too much about me and not enough about him. It's easy to get lost in your own sorrow when someone you love is gone, but this shouldn’t be about how much I’ll miss him. That's selfish. This should be about the terrific person he was.
His sand collection is impressive. He traveled around the U.S. when he was younger and began collecting sand from different places. When he worked at an elementary school later in life, a job he really loved, the people he worked with would bring him sand from the countries they visited.
He also liked colored glass. Cobalt blue was a particular favorite. He collected glass spheres that he would match up with the perfect base. He had enough glass spheres to open a small boutique.
In fact, if circumstances of his life had been different, I could see him owning a little curiosity shop full of fascinating objects in different shapes and sizes. It could be called The Magical Mystery Store and there could be a section for his oil paintings, another section for his glass spheres, a third section for his hand-built lamps, and a variety of wondrous objects in between.
Back in the real world, the grief packet is still on my table. This is day five and I haven’t marked anything off on the checklist. Les’s brother and sister will be here tomorrow, so maybe we can go over it together and figure out how to get through this. Of course, Les would probably tell us not to worry about the checklist in the grief packet. He would say it doesn’t have to be followed precisely, it’s merely a suggestion.