So last night, Ethan’s bandmates, fraternity brothers, and fellow Fresno State Bulldogs met in front of the music building to remember the kid they knew for such a brief moment… because it turns out, he touched their lives. There were candles (yeah!), and songs with lush harmonies, and a very Ethan soundtrack playing from his “little brother’s” laptop. And a few wonderful pictures… And there were lots of hugs, and lots of tears… and stories and laughter and afterwards drinks and hotwings and more stories. It was pretty much what I expected and maybe a bit more… and even the number of students in attendance seemed to give me a little shove in the positive direction. It was a warm fuzzy. I am grateful they did this and happy we both came.
And this morning I woke up feeling light and hopeful. It may sound strange to say that I woke up happy. The hampton here is now kind of familiar. But it still isn’t my bed or my shower… and my 20 minutes on the elliptical was strange… because the machine here has a bit of an incline and the stride is shorter. But I ate all the different items at breakfast and even though I usually like company… I ate alone… waffles, western omlet, potatoes, and sausage patties and a cup of hot chocolate. None of it was bad. The waffles were actually good, and I have to admit, fun to pour and let cook. I like motel lobby waffles, and it does seem that it is the only time I eat waffles.
I have to take stock… inventory my life… frequently these days. I evaluate what is working and what isn’t. On this dry, logical level, I sort of weigh everything I’m doing, and see what is worth keeping, what needs to be dropped, or pursued with vigor. And today, on the balance I am happy. Never phone it in or fake it. This really is it… being content with lobby waffles and foam plates. Being content with memories. Being happy when sitting alone… in Fresno.
There is enough pain and sorrow in my life from last year so that at any given moment I can summon up a memory, listen to a meaningful song in my head, or draw upon the reality that my son is dead and isn’t coming back, and I can immediately go from happy to despondent or angry. Today, I chose not to go there. And probably every day, something at sometime will trigger an unexpected emotional response… and sometimes nothing at all will do it. Certainly my son is still dead… and I miss him greatly. And I will always miss him. And I think in those moments it is perfectly fine to be sad… to miss him. To pass into those darker emotions and let them soak in to the depths of my being.
But today I woke up happy and I am going to continue along that trail for as long as it will take me. I will let the light soak in just as deep. I’m not sick. My feet don’t hurt. I’m not tired or angry. I love my job. And I am surrounded by awesome people. People like these Bulldog musicians… who are awesome and creative and quirky and funny. I feel good and I think it is good to just feel happy for as long as it lasts. (Not to force it or fake a smile… but just to accept it like a big, unexpected gift.) We have some of Ethan’s ashes in a chinese take out container… and we are surreptitiously scattering them somewhere today… somewhere beautiful. And I may cry at that moment. I may think of some inappropriate joke to share with Marquita… and laugh… and I may just continue on… content and happy.
Today, you will build memories… just as I will build memories. These memories may be all you have to hold onto one day… all you have to comfort you. Memories may be your only company, and your only companion. Will the memories you build be good company?