Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of James’s death. Just when I think I’m upright and moving in the right direction, something happens to remind me he’s not here. He’s never coming back. Recently I went to my storage units in search of things to put on my office wall. While I found what I was looking for, I also found things that made me happy, nostalgic and things that made me sad.
One storage unit was full of uniform cardboard boxes that hold the contents of my life spent with James. Would you believe I’ve saved every rose James ever gave me? I have boxes and boxes, big cardboard boxes of dried roses, carefully packed in newspaper. Dried when they were perfectly formed. Beautiful buds still bound together, petal upon petal, like lovers’ hands, intertwined finger by finger.
JAMES GAVE ME ROSES FOR BIRTHDAYS, ANNIVERSARIES AND FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN BECAUSE HE LOVED ME.
I would lay them on paper bags on top of the refrigerator to dry. It seemed as though there were always roses there. Afterward, I put them in old wooden boxes, silver trays and crystal bowls. Containers of roses filled the living room, the dining room, and my dressing room, even an old Lalique bowl in a alcove beside the tub.
I didn’t open the cardboard boxes marked “Roses” because I feared they’d be too hard for me to see. Too hard to think about the candlelight dinner on the floor with the vase of roses beside us, and yet, I would have been better off opening that box because I already knew what was in it. It was the box marked “Fragile” that disarmed me, that made my heart beat out of rhythm and brought me to my knees.
Unlike “Roses,” the contents of “Fragile” were unexpected. It was full of James in the most unexpected ways: the inlaid box he bought me in Italy and surprised me with when we got home; framed photographs of ski trips with family and friends. I even found the place cards from our wedding dinner: a card with “James” and another with “Brenda” written in elegant black script.
Grief and loss are universal. All of us have experienced pain; the pain we feel when we lose part of ourselves to illness, death, divorce and job loss. Do you remember your most painful moments? Have you contrasted them with your life now? Have you thought about putting your feelings down in a journal, a healing tool for your eyes only? Today I’ve put my feelings down in this blog because it helps me make sense of the myriad of emotions I’m feeling because of half-opened cardboard boxes.
Here a box, there a box, everywhere a box-box. James will always be in each and every one. I know he would want me to make today a good day. To do everything intentionally, with love and compassion and reverence for God. I want that for you as well, sweet friends.