The Sixth

It’s been four years. How can four years feel like yesterday and forever all at the same time? I guess loss is hard to measure by a time line.

Last night, the Lino Lakes Police Department brought over a Dairy Queen cake. The Chief suggested bringing something the kids would like. They were already asleep when it was delivered, but I promised they would feast on it today. We opened the cake this morning, my kids grabbed bowls and spoons and extra smiles. They couldn’t believe their mom would let them eat ice cream for breakfast. I told them that so many people knew how special their daddy was that they wanted us to celebrate.

We read cards from cousins Ashlyn and Evan about their memories of Uncle Shawn, how he used to balance cups on his eyes and a spoon on his nose. I tried to balance a spoon to show them. “Can you do it, Mom?” Jordan asked.

“No,” I laughed.

“He was tricky,” Maddi said.

“Yes,” I agreed, “He was very tricky. Just like you, Madelynn!”

She grinned, licking Oreo-cookie off her spoon. Then she hid her bowl behind a bag and asked for seconds. When I asked for her bowl, she said it disappeared. “I’m being tricky,” she chuckled with her deep prankster laugh that turns into a hysterical giggle.

“You're just like your dad, Maddi.”

“I’m always going to be tricky,” she said with a sureness that told me she will always be connected to her dad.

We spent yesterday having a picnic with my in-laws at the memorial rock sculpture dedicated to Shawn in Lino Lakes. On the way home we passed the accident site and instead of telling my kids about how their dad died, I described our last lunch together.

Jordan had sat on a bar stool acting older than he was, propped next to his dad at the kitchen table and Maddi was on the other side swinging in her baby swing. We had eaten ravioli and salad. We had waved goodbye extra long in the driveway before Jordan pressed the garage door button, his job whenever daddy left for work. We had sent a card with a fish on it for Shawn to open on his break to tell him he was the best dad in the world. He had read it because it was found sitting open next to his computer.

"What did daddy eat at work?" Jordan asked.

"He had been snacking on tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers," I said.

"I'm glad he didn't have a chili pepper," Jordan told me, "Cuz, chili peppers are spicy."

"I'm glad, too," I said, not mentioning that I wished Shawn would have had his favorite foods on that last day, beef Stroganaugh, BBQ ribs, French Silk pie.

"Did he have carrots?" Maddi asked.

"I think so," I told her, bothered that as much as I try I can't remember every detail.

Back home from our time at the park, I grabbed our mail and started bath time, book time and bed time.

A stranger sent me a pendant made of shattered, imperfect glass with a note that said, “It reminds me of your life story broken and beautiful.”

My sister spent the night and I told her, “I’m very lucky.”

How can I say this on the night my husband was killed? The night I was told I would never see him again, talk to him again, kiss him again, argue with him again, laugh with him again?

The only reason I can say I’m fortunate is by the grace and compassion of a community that chose to embrace me. A community that says it doesn’t matter if it has been four years or fourteen years or forty four years. We aren’t using a time line to measure. We are gauging this loss by how it has touched our lives—we are connected.

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