The danger of having pictures of your family in your office is that people ask about your kids. When they ask about your kids, you want to talk about each one of them. When you talk about each one of them, what do you say when you get to the one who isn’t here any more?
It happened again yesterday. A nice young family came to tour our school, and the mom asked if all my kids live at home. I began with the immediate response I would have given before January 1 — from oldest to youngest. When I got to Chandler, for a split second, I thought, “I shouldn’t tell her this. It’s just too sad. I don’t want her to be sad.” But it’s the truth. My son died. So I told her. She was sad for me. I didn’t stay in that space but quickly moved on to tell her that Charli is still at home and a junior in high school.
God knew I needed a boost today. A dear friend whose husband passed away four years ago texted me this morning to ask if I wanted to go to lunch. YES!!!
I told her it’s so hard when people who don’t know about Chandler ask about our family. It makes it too real to talk about Chandler in past tense. Not that I don’t want them to ask. I do! I want to talk about Chandler. But I want to talk about him as if he were on a trip and will be coming back in a few weeks or months. Like when he did an internship in Washington, D.C., followed by a trip to India. I didn’t see him for about five months. That was by far the longest time I’d gone without seeing any of my kids, but I knew he would be coming home. I would see him again.
My friend understood. She told me she had felt the same way for a long time after her husband died. She told me that someday I will be able to talk about Chandler without the deep sadness and pain. Without the feeling of heaviness. That I will be able to not feel punched in the gut when someone who doesn’t know asks me about my kids.
I will keep my family pictures on display in my office. And people who don’t know will keep asking. And I will keep sharing.
These are my kids. And this is my story.