DIET CHERRY SPRITE AND GRIEF
You know that woman you hardly know, but you’d love to be friends with her? She seems funny and smart and just so cool. But she has other friends and you travel in different circles, and you just think that she probably doesn’t need any more friends. You should probably think again.
Many years ago I had a super funny and smart and cool woman named Stacy going to my church. She was married with 2 kids and pregnant with a third. I didn’t really know Stacy but she seemed nice. I wanted to get to know her better, but she seemed to have her life in place and didn’t need any more friends.
Stacy had her baby - a boy named Alex. Life continued for everyone and I was no closer to being friends with Stacy than I was before. Two years passed and her son Brady and my youngest ended up in the same Sunday School class. Cameron had been invited over a couple of times to play, but I was never invited to stay and have coffee or chat. So when I invited Brady over to play I didn’t ask her to stay either. I mean, she had two other kids in tow and seemed to be in a hurry so I figured she wasn’t interested. But then life changed for all of us.
One Moment Changed Everything
Alex’s aunt was watching him and he was down for a nap. The two-year-old woke up, toddled over to a bookshelf, and pulled it over on himself. His aunt looked in on him and saw what happened. She called 911, but it was too late.
I didn’t know what to do, other than pray. I didn’t even know Stacy so I didn’t want to call. Cameron wanted to go to the funeral. "Mama, Brady is so sad and I want to hug him."
Our whole family went to the funeral, and afterward, we were invited to Stacy’s house for traditional Southern food and coffee. Cameron colored a picture for Brady which we brought to the house. Brady said thank you and Stacy hung it on the refrigerator. We left after thirty minutes and I thought that was the end of my connection with Stacy. Our relationship would go back to the way it was. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Phone Call
A couple of weeks later Stacy called me. She knew I made scrapbook albums, and she wanted to make one of Alex. And she wanted me to help her. I was speechless but managed to choke out the words, “Of course!” We set a date at her house and she asked me what she needed to put together. “Just gather as many pictures of Alex as you can”, I said. “We can sort through them and you can decide which ones you want to put in the album.”
I arrived at Stacy’s house with my kids in tow and all four ran outside to play. Stacy and I sat at the kitchen table. “I decided I don’t want to do that album anymore”, she said with tears in her eyes. “I want to make an album of when we lived in Hawaii. It was such a happy time. Yes, that’s what I want to do.” Her words signaled that she had been on the fence but now she was sure.
We began going through the photos and Stacy started telling me about them. Her husband had taken a job teaching on the big island, and they rented a tiny apartment near the beach. It was just them and their daughter and Brady - no Alex yet. They went to the beach almost every day and walked to the grocery store. As Stacy relived the memories and the fun and the laughter, I watched her grief disappear - it was just for a short time but it was very necessary.
The kids and I started coming to Stacy’s house once a week, and she turned me on to the joys of Diet Cherry Sprite. We had our standard drink order for both families, and I’d pull through the drive-thru on our way to Stacy's house. The kids played together wonderfully, and Stacy and I put together her Hawaiian photo album. I didn’t want it to end and I don’t think she did either.
Beauty in the Ashes
We continued to make weekly visits and drink stops all summer long because Stacy’s family had a pool. We sat outside sipping our Diet Cherry Sprites and watching the kids play. Some days Stacy talked about Alex. Some days she talked about her husband and his grief. Sometimes she wanted me to talk about my life and my family. I always let her lead the conversation and I always affirmed her emotions.
When she was angry with God I told her "I think I would be too." When she said she couldn’t wait to be with Alex in Heaven, I said "Oh girl - I'm ready to get there too!" Our conversations weren’t meant to take away her grief or solve her problems. They were meant to be whatever Stacy needed them to be.
As summer came to an end and school started, Stacy and I reluctantly agreed that we couldn’t meet every week. But we made a date for the week after school started and decided to take it from there. Stacy told me that, although she was devastated at the loss of Alex, she could also see many blessings in her life because of his death. Her statement surprised me. “How Stacy? How could there be any blessings?” She smiled. “Well Jann, you and I wouldn’t be friends now, would we?”
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