At my house “before” and “after” have a very specific meaning.
Before was that innocent time when we were just like you. We complained and worried too much about the unimportant little details of life. We were an ordinary average family. We had our little conflicts but there was always a strong bond of love and caring. We were Five.
After, well we’re still trying to figure out after.
There are still Five of us, but one of us is no longer a physical presence. The last six months have been dominated by trying to figure out how Kev’s new spiritual place in our family works, by trying to sort out our new roles in the family and by just flat out missing our son and brother. All the assumptions which we ordered our lives around have been thrown askew. I saw pictures of the aftermath of the tornadoes in Alabama this week, that’s kind of what our lives feel like. The normal and the familiar are gone. We are kind of stomping around in a daze trying to figure out what to do next.
From time to time I come across items that remind me of before. I don’t mean the mementos of Kev’s life, I mean little things that remind me of the old me, the before me, the person I used to be. I was a lot more light-hearted in those days. I had a twisted sense of humor. I was cynical as hell, and often impatient with the foibles of others.
After, that’s still a work in process but to start with I’m a lot sadder. I’m way more introspective. I’m more patient, but also a lot more fearful. I don’t laugh or smile as much. I do find I appreciate things more. A sunset can bring tears to my eyes. I’m more actively aware of the pride I feel for my children. I’ve always been proud, but I just feel it deeper after. I’m more empathetic. Every story of a parent losing a child hits home. I do know exactly how they feel.
I’m more creative. I’ve always had a creative impulse but I was never confident enough to follow it. Now when a thought rolls into my head I put it down. I still don’t know if it’s any good but I’ll keep writing.
I try to be more compassionate, to be there when someone needs me. It’s tough to be consistent with it right now, but I’m working on it. More than anything this I strive to do for Kev. If he was ever too busy to help a friend in need I haven’t heard the story.
I think about things a lot more. I’m becoming quite the philosophizer (I think that’s how it’s spelled; you’d have to ask White Goodman). I’ve refined my beliefs about transcendent reality more in the last six months than I did in the prior forty years.
I wish none of this ever happened, but since I can’t change it, I hope to become a better me because of it. Anything less would be an insult to the memory of an incredibly special young man. If I slip up I hope he’ll swing down here and give me a kick in the butt. I dare him to.