Around about this time last year I was working just a day a week at the tasting room and a sweet little brown eyed boy was there with his parents. Lots of kids come thru and I don’t always take the time to connect with them while I serve their parents. This boy was sweet as can be and his eyes looked familiar to me so I couldn’t help but interact with him. When I asked his name he answered “Isaac”. I smiled kindly and though I felt a sting in my eyes as tears began to well up, I maintained my fragile composure well enough to finish up with his folks and resist the urge to hold him in a big hug. I had a fierce sense that this wasn’t a coincidence and said a short prayer of gratitude for the short visit with that little person. But I also stopped asking little boys names. It seemed the best way to keep going to work!
So tonight I found myself face to face with a little one with those familiar eyes. His parents were loving and doted on him and that always makes me connect more with a child– I love loved children– they fascinate me. He was shy. I gave him endless oyster crackers and a drink box. I spent about 20 minutes with his parents talking about our products because they were interested and interesting. I continued interacting with this little guy and high fiving him and trying to conjure more than a sleepy smile from his sweet face. I forgot that I don’t ask names anymore, he made me forget. He was so sweet and those eyes just got to me. So I asked his name and he was too shy to answer though he looked me in the eyes and smiles coyly. His mama said “can you tell her your name is Isaac?” I said your name is Isaac? That’s a very nice name. I like that name very very much. I turned to my coworker, my life long friend Callie Dee and said “have you met Isaac” her eyes smiled and then turned misty. I thought, this is why I don’t ask and also why I do. I was fine. I guess I was fine. I decided I was fine. I’ve endured far more and this was more a sweet little hello from beyond or perhaps simply a good name.
Waiting patiently behind these guys were a group of women I know of– we know who each other is– but we aren’t what I would call friends (nor enemies! As if!😜), they know my sister and one of my sister in laws. One asked how I was, with intentionality and kindness and I said “I’m ok but that little boy was named Isaac”. It just sort of came out. We were busy and it was probably not the best timing but, since she asked I just said the truth. I knew she knew “my story” and it just sorta effortlessly fell from my lips. Even I was surprised that was what I said and I know she could see that in my face. She was sweet. Her mother, several minutes later said “I just want you to know we were at the benefit last year for your son and it was so beautiful, such an elegant tribute”. I said thank you, it really was, I think about that night often when I look out at the barn. They finished and left.
Next came my neighbors daughters– Isaac’s first babysitters that weren’t family (but who became family!). The oldest has a young daughter whom Isaac called “the most beautiful child he has ever known”. She reminds me of Isaac and showers me with affection and remembers me between visits enough that she is friendly upon first glance, and as they had just arrived home for the summer, I invited them to come tonite. This little girl was beaming with love and making everyone smile. As busy as I was I took in these moments and considered my strength to endure them– that I am ok– that I can keep smiling and shine on– the little dialogue in my head was simply this. Shine On. Keep going. Don’t run out the door, jump in my car and high tail it outta there. It’s ok. I’m ok.
Shortly afterwards, seconds? Minutes? A new musician, whom I don’t know and does not know me, stood up to the open mic stage and said “I’d like to play a song by May Erlewine called Shine On”. At this point I decide now is a good time to just step out back– to not force myself to endure this song– a song I love but is also– intense. Callie had the bar handled and I stepped outside alone, far enough away from the sound that I could just breathe– could keep self talking– could just take a knee. Then another one of my sisters in law came outside, bawling her eyes out– as open mic host she had no idea all the other things that had just transpired behind the bar and said “I just can’t right now” and I thought… Hmmm. How often do I force myself to endure? How often do I worry about my grief being too much or too heavy or too old… How many days a week do I listen to people ask me “how Isaac ‘did it'” or “how are you REALLY” or any number of the daily ways this continues to stay so close, and here I witness my beautiful sister who loved my boy simply allow herself to mourn and fall apart under the pressure. What prevents me from this? Why have I chosen to be ‘stoic’ in the face of so much. Why can’t I just fall apart. Why can’t I touch my sadness. What is the actual reason I can write and lament in such writing but in real time, I just can’t go there? What is that? Why is that? Why can’t I go crazy. Why can’t I walk away from it all when it’s too heavy?
I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for myself much less for you, dear reader. In all honesty, today wasn’t much different than others. That’s how this goes. I could write everyday about it, I could also stay in my house and never leave in hopes of protecting myself from further pain. I consider it every single day I have an obligation to others. I wonder why I work at all. I wonder why I even bother pretending I am capable. My insides have to keep it up day in and day out.
And then, after work, I came to pick up my dog from her brothers. We call it doggie day care. Isaacs dad came shortly after and told me he saw an old friend today who said “I was real sorry to hear about your boy” Phil said “thank you for saying something.” He said he drove away and cried. And then he saw an eagle flying above his truck for miles, with him. And as hard as it was he felt grateful.
We both agreed it’s better to have little lovebeams even when they take our breath away. It would be so much harder without them. It doesn’t go away, it doesn’t bring him back, but it helps say hello, and helps us keep going. We keep going. That is something.
That is all. That is all.