I have been in this place before... even at a young age, my mother seemed to know I could handle stressful situations and let others know what was going on.
I can remember the day my grandmother died. I was in sixth grade and my mom came and picked me up from school early. This was strange because my mother never picked me up. She was a nurse and for part of my childhood she worked nights and was asleep during the day and for the other part she was a home-health nurse and was on the road. So, her picking me up from school was not in the cards.
I can remember my brain slowing down not being able to process first why she was there and then second that my grandmother (who we lived with) was gone.
I cried and found comfort in letting my tears be washed away by the warm rough tongue of my dog, Digger, as I tried to bury my face in her fur.
A few hours later, we were preparing to head to the small Lutheran school in our town for play night. Everyone went to play night because either you were related to someone in the school play or knew someone related to someone in the school play. Right as we were headed out the door, my mom's cousin, Loretta, called to tell us that she found her dad (my grandfather's brother). He had died of a heart attack cutting her front lawn.
My mom and Loretta were like sisters... they had grown up on the same farm together(my grandmother and her sister married my grandfather and his brother)... and knowing they had both just lost a parent, my mother felt like she needed to go be by Loretta's side.
She held my shoulders and looked straight into my eyes, "Can you do me a favor?" she asked me. "Sure." I said in my bravest twelve year old voice. "Can you tell our family at the play about Great Uncle Bert dying?" I nodded my head and turned to walk the 3 blocks to the school.
I remember it so clearly ... on the walk there, I tossed around exactly how I would say what I needed to say. Once there, the first family member I ran into was my cousin, Shirley. With a straight face, I said, "There has been a death in the family." Shirley hugged me and said, "I know. I'm sorry about grandma." I shook my head and said, "No. Uncle Bert." Shirley corrected me and said, "Uncle Bert was there when grandma passed...but" I stopped her and said very calmly, "Uncle Bert is dead too. Loretta found him. He had a heart attack." Shirley immediately went into hysterics. She hugged me and her tears ran down my face...
Fast forward ten years...
I don't like to think about the day my mom died... but the one thing I was insistent on was telling my brothers. It was such tragic news, I didn't want them to hear it from a stranger (like I had). So I made the dreaded phone calls. I ask them if they were sitting down. Both Michael and Tim laughed when I asked them that... but I was insistent. I knew my whole world had stopped and my head was spinning when I found out... and that I should have been asked to sit down. Howls of horror came ... I still don't know if they were from my mouth or from the other end of the line.
Fast forward another 15 years...
Today my friend, Kelly, died. Even as I type that I can't keep the tears from filling my eyes and from shaking uncontrollably. She completed our group of four - Rachel, Kelly S, Kelly M., and I...
I still can't imagine how our group is going to work without her there... We all are friends, but I was the closet with Kelly M. We told each other things that we knew the other two may not understand. It went both ways. I'm not sure how that void is going to be filled. Also, no matter all the crappy stuff that was happening around her (cancer included) she was always SO happy!
Today, I got the call from Kelly's sister. She was beside herself and I tried to piece out her words as she gasped into the phone. But I knew the message... Kel had lost her battle against cancer. I told her that I would call the other girls...My heart broke as I told them the news as we sat together on the phone and cried not having any words to comfort one another.
I learned today that I was much braver in my younger years... because I no longer want to take on the job of being the informant. I lost something in myself doing that job today.
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