The Red Oak

Last night I went to dinner with two very good friends.  It was a gratifying evening of good conversation and savoring cuisine.  I indulged.  I ordered everything I wanted.  My friends let me talk and talk and talk.  They asked just the right questions at just the right moments.  They listened intently, often leaning over the table to indicate their interest.  For three hours we sat and enjoyed the meal along with the company.  I love those types of dinners.  I love when time stands still and no one has to go anywhere and no one is in a hurry. 

"When did it really hit you?", they wondered.  It was the only question I
couldn’t answer throughout our night.  This bothered me.  I could
answer everything else they asked.  But, I am not sure when the tragedy
of Shawn’s death hit me.  I have been wondering all day where to find
the answer to this troublesome inquiry.  Could it be that maybe it
hasn’t hit me yet?  That doesn’t seem entirely probable.  I understand
what happened.  I am aware of the enormity of the loss.  I grasp the
concept that Shawn died on that warm September day.  But, then again
maybe it is closer to the truth than I deem plausible.  Maybe the
reality of death doesn’t “hit” the survivor in the sense of a strike or
a punch or a slap in the face.  Maybe the awareness of death is more
unhurried; possibly seeping in slowly as it seeks to take root in the
conscious mind.  Is this approach more dangerous or simply considered
necessary for survival? 

I have not found a way to escape the gradual revealing of death.  Each
morning wakes me rudely, whether I get enough sleep or too little.  I
wake with the heavy knowledge that life has dramatically changed; that
someone very important is missing.  I slide out of bed and slowly
tolerate the truth that Shawn is gone.  Each day the irreversible
reality sinks deeper than the day before.  I am beginning to believe
that news of this magnitude does not suddenly connect with the
cognitive mind and say, “now I realize”.  Instead, each day it gently
caresses the mind with its unwanted, unwelcome, unsolicited proof of

I am a witness to the unraveling certainty that Shawn can not come
back.  The timed release of information seeps into my body, which is
learning to absorb the shock in small doses; for the impact of the total
message all at once, would devastate the body beyond what it was
designed to endure.  I am evidence of this slow, fact-believing process.

We ate last night at the Red Oak; a restaurant known for its steaks and
wine.  I ordered salmon.  The menu told the story of the mighty Red Oak
tree.  It explained that the Mighty Red Oak was once a nut…that simply
held its ground.  There is my answer.  When did Shawn’s death hit me? 
His death isn’t capable of hitting me.  I am not receptive to a blow
that big.  The knowledge of his death grows within me, taking root,
spreading itself throughout my life, becoming part of what moves me and
part of where my future is going.  In response, I am simply trying to
hold my ground.

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