STG Books

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 already 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 were in Sunday School together now. 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.

Life Changed in an Instant

Alex’s aunt was watching him and he was down for a nap. The two year old woke up without his aunt realizing it, toddled over to a bookshelf, and pulled it over on himself. His aunt looked in on him and called 911 immediately. It was too late though.

I didn’t know what to, other than pray. I didn’t even know Stacy so I didn’t want to call. Cameron wanted to go to the funeral for his friend Brady, because Brady was so sad and Cameron wanted to hug him. Our whole family went to the funeral, and afterwards we were invited to Stacy’s house for the traditional Southern food and coffee. Cameron had colored a picture for Brady so we brought it with us and Stacy hung it on the refrigerator. We left after about thirty minutes and I thought that was the end of my connection with Stacy, other than maybe some more playdates. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Phone Call

A couple of weeks later Stacy called me-she’d gotten my number from the church office. 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 seemed to signal that she had been on the fence but now she was sure.

So we began going through the photos and Stacy started telling me about them. Her husband had decided to take a job teaching on the big island they rented a tiny apartment to be 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 fun and the laughter, I could see 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 to get the drinks on our way. 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 can’t wait to be with Alex in Heaven, I agreed with her and said I too am excited to be there as well. Our conversations weren’t meant to take away her grief or solve her problems-they were just meant to be whatever Stacy needed them to be.

As summer came to an end and school started, Stacy and I reluctantly agreed that realistically we couldn’t continue to meet every week. But we made a date for the week after school started and agreed to take it from there. Stacy told me that, although she was devastated at the loss of Alex, she could also see so many blessings in her life because of his death. Her statement surprised me. “How Stacy? How could there be any blessings?”, I asked. She smiled. “Well Jann, you and I wouldn’t be friends now, would we?”

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