The day Eddie and I realized I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, was April 20, 1999. This was the same day the Columbine School shooting took place in Littleton, Colorado in which 2 seniors killed 13 people and injured 21. The two boys then committed suicide. Being only 42 miles away from the shooting it felt as if it were in our own community.
The dichotomy of the day had me paralyzed for hours as I held my hand over my stomach and watched the news footage of children running from the building, parents running towards the school and even the newscasters appeared traumatized. At the time, school shootings were not as front and center in our nation’s consciousness. Even though I was only a few weeks pregnant and had never been a mother before, I already loved this baby more than my own life and the thought of 15 mothers loosing their children that day brought me to my knees.
When Eddie came home from work I didn’t know what to do. I was overwhelmed with sadness but at the same time, it was literally the happiest day of my life and I wanted to celebrate the night with him by having dinner on Pearl Street, one of our favorite places in the world. UGH! CELEBRATE something the night of the Columbine shooting??! We got out of the car to an eerily quiet downtown Boulder, CO. The bars were empty, the streets were like a ghost town and our favorite place was serving a limited menu because they were closing early.
As we sat down at the table, I wanted to burst I was so happy. We had been to this restaurant a thousand times. Eddie bussed tables there when we started dating in the early 90s and I would sit and do my graduate school homework while he worked. We went there for birthdays, graduation night and on the night we got engaged. And now we were sitting here and I was pregnant! I tried not to look at the TV screen in the corner, that the few other patrons were crowded around.
As I sat there and thought about the 15 mothers that were 42 miles away, I thought about the reality that every single day is somebody’s best day and every day is somebody’s worst day. For a lot of people, most days feel uneventful…running errands, working, folding laundry. Everyday someone is getting a diagnosis, a phone call about a death or an accident or a health scare.
Everyday someone is starving to death or involved in a war. Everyday someone is getting diagnosed with cancer and everyday someone is receiving a cure. Everyday someone is falling in love, accepting their dream job or experiencing a miracle of health. Everyday people are getting married, having a birthday or finding out they are pregnant like me.
If you are struggling with something and you are feeling like the only one, look at a calendar and remind yourself that every single date is the anniversary of something horrible for someone and something wonderful for another. On this date back in 1999, I was saying hello to this new life, while the Columbine mothers were saying goodbye. And one day I would be saying goodbye to this new life and someone else would be saying hello to theirs. Somehow this thought process gave me permission to eat dinner that night. I continuously kicked Eddie excitedly under the table and embraced this moment that had finally arrived for us.
The next day I went back to watching the news and praying for Columbine with the rest of the world.
I remembered this dinner on Pearl Street 16 years ago as I sat in my family room this week folding laundry and watching the coverage of the Amtrak derailment on TV. I thought about the people on the train, the first responders and the families of the deceased. May 13, 2015 will be etched in their memories as a worst day, and I am sitting here folding laundry. Bizarre.
I remember vividly on September 12, 2001 looking out my kitchen window and seeing a man run down my street. I remember wondering how he was doing that…how was he moving his legs? When I stood up my legs weakened and I had to sit back down again. My guess is that the man running down my street didn’t know anybody on the East Coast and so the terror attacks felt far away from him. Maybe he was even able to turn off the news and not think about it. Maybe he was folding laundry as he watched. I’m not sure. I just remember wondering how his legs were able to move like that and if mine would ever feel stable again.
My point of all of this is to remember to be grateful for times that I am folding laundry. To be grateful for the moments my life is not rocked by illness or death. To pray for people while they are in their struggle and to know that for whatever reason, on any particular day it may not be my day to struggle and so embrace the ease of an ordinary day. I have felt the gripping sensation of death before and as long as I continue to love, I will feel it again. So I try and spend the days in between as consciously and grateful as I possibly can.
Just this morning I spoke to a friend who is planning a birthday party for her husband while her nephew is being visited by Hospice Care. I understood the sacred confusion she was feeling: life ending, life continuing, life and death, joy and loss all happening all within the same moment. This is how it is every single day if you look at it like this. It helps me to take things less personally and gain the courage needed to face the unpredictability of daily life.
Refection: Be as present and grateful as possible for a day without grief. Celebrate the “ordinary” and pray for people who’s grief or fear have taken away the luxury of folding laundry or taking a run and when it is a day for you to grieve, know that it is somebody else’s day too and you are not alone.