I am reminded that gratitude and it’s constant sincere expression are a source of strength. So I am taking a page to say thank you to those friends and family (Including Marquita and Justin) for standing by me through the most difficult of days and months and years.
Sometimes it is hard to do my job. I work around young people and every day, something reminds me of Ethan. And I can’t stop to reflect. I certainly can’t break down in tears over anything. And as I approach Ethan’s birthday this month, it seems like every day becomes a little more difficult. Even though I’m looking forward to going to a UCLA game. Even though I have art going into a gallery this month. Even though everything else in my life is going well and I am, in general, fine. That hole in my life, that emptiness inside… seems to be growing as it has every time about this year.
Ethan’s birthday is September 14th. He would be turning 23 years old. He probably would have finished up at Fresno State and might have been looking to start a career. But that isn’t how it happened. I don’t mind thinking about that absence. And I definitely don’t mind hearing how something you saw reminded you of Ethan. I don’t mind hearing his name or talking about him. Even now, I am still his father. I am still a proud parent. Sometimes I really wish we could sit down and remember stuff together… talk about it. I like to know that he had a life and that it mattered and that others besides me remember him, too.
His birthday and the anniversary of his death are still hard for me and always will be.
And I know there is an element of that that is uncomfortable. I know that there is something about me and my manner that could be grating or off putting. I am broken in a way that I have discovered is in no way fixable. There is nothing you can say to make it all better. There are no magic words, prayers, or healing rituals that will beguile me from my grief. I have the daily task of finding a way of living with grief. Every day. Every day, I have to find a reason to move ahead. And I know it can’t be fun to watch. But even when I”m in this with my wife, Marquita, and my son, Justin… we are essentially each walking our own solitary path.
So sometimes I think these difficult days are easier. It sounds strange but grief feels a whole lot more normal than happiness does. A happy life seems at odds with my reality. And even though for the most part, I count myself happy- there is a deep uncomfortableness in happiness that I don’t even know if I can explain. Crippled in many ways, I think often our friendship is one of an uneven balance, that we are constantly in need of support and comfort and often incapable of reciprocating the way any real friendship should expect.
Grief is an artifact of love. It is what is left when a loved one leaves that hole in our life that nothing can adequately fill. People like me that grieve- we aren’t looking for pity, nor do we want to drag you down. And even though you are uncomfortable or perhaps bored with our grief, we count you among our friends because we need you. You, my family and friends have stuck it out. You have sustained me and made this trip this far so much more bearable and I grant that any happiness I have, you deserve some measure of thanks for. Life goes on. And sometimes it seems like nothing is changed. But it does move on. And having endured one of life’s more frightening events, and having risen, however broken, I count it my blessing that you have stood there shoulder to shoulder and often with the same bitter tears, by my side.