Millstones and Milestones

Seventeen. My oldest daughter would have turned seventeen last week. Seventeen seems like such an unimportant birthday. You became legal to drive the year before, and it will be another year before you are an adult. Seventeen is just seventeen.

As I sit here at the park watching my boys and my little girl play at the park, I can’t help but think there is more to being seventeen. This year would be the last she would be a child. Responsibilities sh e will never have to face would be looming around the corner. Decisions about the future would need addressing. She does not have to worry about any of that, but I wish she did.

This morning might have opened with a big breakfast, if we could get her out of bed, and she would have gotten hugs and kisses until she told us to go away. We wouldn’t listen. A dinner of her choosing and a cake made by her mom (or maybe her brother since he loves to bake) would end the day. Would she go out with her friends, or would she stay home with her family? I don’t know, and I never will.

My wife asked me if it would ever stop hurting. I told her no. It will always hurt when those two lonely milestones come around.

For my part the grief for her, my Hailey, hangs about my heart like a millstone grinding away at the wheat of my soul with a slow persistence that I may never be rid of entirely.

Thankfully, I have my wife and children to keep me whole. They are the light that chases away the darkness that wants to feed the destructive urges that lurk beneath the surface. They may never know exactly how much I love them, but I try to show them and tell them every day.

Its Been A Year and the Loss is Still Painful

It was a year ago today that my friend Jan Marie passed away. I didn’t find out until ten days later. I spoke to a mutual friend who was also worried about her and suggested that she check the local paper just in case. Sure enough Jan’s obituary was posted online and confirmed what we were worried about. Having my fears confirmed left a hollow place in my chest and that emptiness still persists.

I never met Jan face to face, but we chatted online on an almost daily basis and frequently spoke on the phone. She was a good friend and a huge supporter of my writing. She designed and created the cover for my first book and my second book as well, but more than that she encouraged me when few others did. Jan loved my family as if it were her own and often sent things she had found or created that she thought we would enjoy. She was special to me and I will never forget the smiles she brought to my face.

Despite the happiness and support she brought me, she struggled to see the value in her own work and life. She struggled with physical and mental disabilities that so many people would have succumbed to. She was estranged from her family, but when her mood was good and she was in a positive cycle you could tell she loved them but struggled to express it.

It was ironic that a woman of such limitless creativity struggled to find a way to communicate with others. Her passions were immense and her principles uncompromising. Often we would speak and I would try to help her understand that people made mistakes and should be given another chance, but I think I could learn something from the way she would not bow to pressure or let people live to a standard that fell short of her own. She could be harsh and demanding, but there was pain and beauty beneath that exterior and I only wish that more people could have known it.

She would have loved seeing the way my kids have grown in the last year, and I am sure she would have sent me dozens of emails with promotional materials for my new book, but she is gone and I can’t help but feel poorer for the loss of her company even though I am far richer for having known her.

God Bless you, Jan. I hope you have found peace at last and that the pain is a long distant memory.

Twelve Years and So Much Has Changed

Hailey Swett, Leukemia
Hailey Swett: Day 1

Twelve Years ago yesterday, July 7th, my first born, Hailey Thompson Swett, was born. It was my proudest moment and I couldn’t believe I had a daughter of my own. Tracy and I did not find out what we were having before the birth, and I was sure it was a boy. I was surprised when it turned out to be a girl, but in a good way. She was perfect and I loved her with my entire being. Continue reading “Twelve Years and So Much Has Changed”