Grief and Gratitude Go Together

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since my brother took his own life. I have a million blogs entries to write because this experience has been insanely hard and insanely wonderful. I know that doesn't make sense, but hear me out.

Today has been hard. I woke up tired despite the sunshine, the grief already stuck in my throat. It comes and goes on a whim I don't understand. I spent the day in one of Mark's plaid shirts, too large for me, and very male looking.

Right before I start typing, I open a tab for Pandora. Music always helps my mind to sort through my thoughts. The song that starts is "Unknown Soldier" by Breaking Benjamin. The chorus is close to home:

"Holding on too tight
Breathe the breath of life
So I can leave this world tonight
It only hurts just once
They're only broken bones"

Even thought today has felt sad and I can't stop smelling his shirt or his beanie, pretending his going to be so mad when he finds out we took all of his stuff. I feel so thankful for the people in his life.

I posted the announcement of his passing and his memorial, so I was the point of contact for everyone on Facebook. The spread took less than eight hours for the private messages to come pouring through.

Family: Tate and Lewis alike immediately responded to the post. They wanted to know what happened and what they could do to help. My mom's sister flew in town from Hawaii a few days later to be here for the memorial. My sister and niece flew in from Ohio to be here with them family. 
I am so grateful for my family, close and extended. My mom is very introverted and we didn't go to many family things, but they were there that night with hugs, flowers, and condolences. 
This isn't our first go with grief in my close family. In five years my father, two grandfathers, and now my brother passed away. I know my siblings and my mother handle grief very differently, but we came together and put aside everything to be there for each other in these moments. 

Marines: I won't lie to you. The Marines are my favorite response. Where family is tied through blood and constant gatherings, these men have very little attachment to me and my family. Yet, they were number two contact. I have to call out Chris McMurrin, who has been my brother from another mother over the last two weeks. He also passed my information to Staff Seargant Senese, who helped so much with setting up financial support through GoFundMe and the Utah Marines. These men contributed money of various amounts and gave my family so much support. I CAN'T imagine this process without their assistance and help. I don't think they understand even a little how much they mean to me right now. I am so grateful for the U.S. Marines. I'm grateful for their support and care for their Marine brother. 
Over 30 U.S. Marines showed up at Mark's memorial. They stood in a circle around my family, some in dress blues, some police officers, some in suits, and some in jeans. In that moment they offered their support and gave Mark a shout and a "Oorah!" In the church cultural hall, it seemed to echo in the walls, and for a minute I felt him standing with them. 

Friends: Mark's friends came flying out of the woodwork. For someone who felt so lonely, he was incredibly loved. Friends from today, high school, ex-girlfriends, elementary school. Mark often didn't feel like he belonged in our family and he found love in those friends and they showed it in their responses. I'm grateful for their responses and their help sorting out his affairs (now and the future).
I can't end this section without calling out my friends. Today hits me really hard because it's been hard. One of my sweet friends must have heard my heart hurting, she dropped cookies off while I was out running errands. My ward and neighbors have been priceless in this time. They have brought dinner, flowers, treats, and offered to help with my kids. I'm glad to be in place to know these women. I don't know what I would do without their support.

Coworkers: Mark's sweet boss, Jessica, reached out to me as well to offer her sympathy and support with the benefits at Discover. Mark enjoyed working under her because of the opportunities she gave him to grow and develop his skills. Discover provided my mom with a large basket of flowers and they day of the memorial, his entire team wore shorts in honor of him (he always wore shorts, even when it was cold and it was cold that day!) Like all of us, Mark had a love/hate relationship with his job, but I am grateful for Jessica and his wonderful coworkers. I met one young man at the memorial close to tears. He took Mark to work on Valentine's Day because Mark was having such a hard time that day. 

Various Spirits: That may be a funny thing to call out in a blog about people. I honestly wasn't planning this part. The day Mark passed away I heard him twice. Before dinner, I bustled around the kitchen and I heard him say my name from the living room. I looked in the living room, but it was empty. My mom hadn't called me and I felt sure I was "trippin". I'm pretty sure the second time was that night, but it could have been the next night-they blend together. Those first few days I had a hard time sleeping and I woke in the middle of the night and begged to know he was okay. In my head I kept thinking, "Please tell me he's at peace and he's okay."  Nothing, no feeling, no peace for me. A few minutes later I heard him say quiet with a joke in his tone, that familiar way we spoke together, "Hey."  This process has felt hard and extremely lonely, but I know that there is invisible help around me and my family. He released himself from his pain, but we are in it for a while still, left in a scramble of his stuff, bills, burial, and memories.

Recently Dave and I spoke about legacy in reference to the movie, "Interstellar". In the movie, it's implied that children carry our legacy in their memories. Mark didn't have children, but he has a different kind of legacy carried in family, friends, coworkers, and Marines. Mark's legacy lives in us and our experiences and memories with him. 

Mark's face more often than not, slight smirk with a question.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Michelle. I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. How true is what your post title says. "Grief And Gratitude Go Together" I have enjoyed your blog post. I am glad to stop by your profile on the blogger and the blog post. I am also blessed and feel privileged and honored to get connected with you as well as know you and about your interest. I love getting connected with the people of God around the globe to be encouraged, strengthened and praying for one another. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 39 yrs in this great city of Mumbai a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and the poorest of poor live. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing to the brokenhearted. We also encourage young and the adults from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to have you come to Mumbai to work with us during your vacation time. I am sure you will have a life changing experience. Looking forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and friends. Also wishing you a blessed and a Christ centered rest of the year 2018. My email id is: dhwankhede(at)gmail(dot)com and my name is Diwakar Wankhede.