Grief is such a crazy, unexpected thing. It hit me Saturday while I was driving, headed into town. I was thinking of what I needed to pick up, wondering if I needed to take anything to church the next day for our annual Christmas decorating day. We stay after the service, put up decorations, and spend time hanging out together and eating. All of a sudden I realized what the date was--December 5th.
That meant the next day was the 6th, which meant it was my brother's birthday.
Not just any birthday, either. This year marked 40 years since the day my parents welcomed their first child into this world, a long and skinny baby boy.
In that moment, I realized that it was the day I should have been able to call my big brother and make fun of him for being "old" and turning 40. It was the day I should have been planning to make sure he got all sorts of "over the hill" memorabilia, the day I should have been poking fun at the fact that I still have a whopping 4 years before I hit that milestone myself.
Instead, the tears welled up so quickly in my eyes that I was afraid I might wreck.
I was almost to the cemetery, so I made the quick decision to stop. That's a really hard thing for me to do, and honestly I've only done it a handful of times in the 16 and a half years since Michael's been gone. My sister-in-law and I didn't see eye to eye on things, and seeing the headstone she chose stirs up a lot of stuff for me. It did this time, too, but I ignored the headstone and instead went to the foot of the grave, where the military stone is placed. I busied myself cleaning away the grass and leaves, trying to pull myself together, looking at his name and service record--oh, so short for the guy who was born to be a soldier--carved into the stone.
And then, I went to the grocery store and picked up the stuff to make a cheesecake to take to church the next day for dessert. I even picked up a can of that nasty goopy cherry stuff for people to put on top (not for me, though--can't do it), because that's always the dessert Michael asked for growing up.
It's okay for the tears to come. It's okay to grieve and mourn, even when it happens out of the blue almost 17 years later. But don't forget to remember the good stuff, too (like cheesecake, even with the nasty goopy cherry stuff), and live life.