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What Goes with Grief?  Hope and a Cold Miller Lite

By Lori Welch Brown

I’m writing this column on the tenth anniversary of her death which seems appropriate as April showers bring May flowers.  That’s a bit what grief feels like, right?  Things feels gloomy and dark for a time, and then a bit of sunlight peaks through just enough to allow something beautiful to break through the soil, a sprout of hope.

She died in March, on the 16th to be exact, just one day after her youngest daughter’s tenth birthday.  Since 2012, the term March Madness has taken on a whole different meaning for those of us who knew Holly.

Holly loved March.  She was actually born in January, but somehow March feels like her month.  She was a St. Patty’s day girl with her fiery red hair and vibrant personality.  She never met a stranger, and she had more ideas than there are four-leaf clovers.

This year’s anniversary of her passing felt like a kick in the gut.  She should be here.  Her youngest just got accepted to VCU.  Her oldest—who is the spitting image of her—is set to graduate in May.

I could go on and on about what a life force she was—one of my best friends since I was 15—but you didn’t know her.  I could ramble on for hours about what you missed out on, and it would all be true.  Her laugh and penchant for Miller Lites.  Her zany ideas and master plans that she sucked us all into because we couldn’t stand to be left out of anything she was involved in.

One such idea had me standing in the freezing rain at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in D.C. trying to sell green glitter shamrock head bopper thingys.  “C’mon, Lor—it’ll be fun,” she said.  She had purchased 5,000 of them for about a nickel each, and the plan was to sell them for $5 a pop.  In theory, it was a great idea.

We sold four before the police shut us down for not having a sales license or basically following any of DC’s guidelines.  “Who knew?,” she said as she walked over to the payphone to call her Dad to come pick us up. Minus the price of lunch and the gloves I had to buy from the guy around the corner who presumably had a license, I was only out $26—practically a paycheck for me at the time.  While her grand plans usually lacked a few key elements, you were always guaranteed an adventure and a story to last a lifetime.

For every story like that, there are fifty more.

Holly passed without warning just two months after she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer.  None of us thought she was going to die.  We thought she’d get a chemo drip, say goodbye to her gorgeous hair for a while, maybe have to undergo a mastectomy.  We’d set up a meal delivery system, tell her she knew how to rock ‘bald,’ and then we’d don some pink shirts and walk together every year to honor her as a survivor.

But that wasn’t how her story played out.

Instead, I was awakened at 5:00 am by another friend, “Holly just passed.”

“Passed what?” I asked.

I was in shock and continued to be in shock as we gathered to say goodbye. The only thing that saved me was being surrounded by everyone else like me who knew Holly, loved Holly, and was in a suspended state of disbelief. Like little robot zombies, we moved painfully and awkwardly around each other, pushing casserole dishes across the counter, ordering flowers, writing eulogies, and trying our best to keep it together which was an impossibility.  We spoke without making sense and without meaning, nodding our heads at each other’s statements knowing full well nothing was penetrating our grief.  We got through hours and days as best we could without her voice, her laugh, her presence.

You have a Holly in your life—not our Holly, but someone like Holly whose life, love, and laughter you may be taking for granted.  Someone you love and adore might not have as many tomorrows as you.  For your sake, I hope I’m wrong.  Really I do because it’s painful and makes your heart hurt for days, weeks, years, and now a decade.

When we reach a certain stage of life, it seems like there are as many anniversaries of passings as there are birthdays to celebrate, but we can’t lose sight of the hope and the newness and the births.  Praise God (or your higher power or whomever) for the new sprouts popping up and out into the world.  Everything from the daffodils to the tulips to the litter of puppies to the baby showers is a reminder that on our darkest days, life continues to offer up beauty, joy, and a big serving of hope.  It is there, and will be there for us when we’re ready to receive it.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  Mostly, it’s working, but I still can’t shake the feeling that Holly should be here. Maybe that’s what I’m struggling with.  Maybe she is here.  Maybe she’s been trying to tell me to lighten up, pop open a cold Miller Lite, and make a memory because that’s what she would do.

“C’mon, Lor,” she’d say.  “It’s beautiful outside.  We should have a yard sale and sell all those head boppers collecting dust in the garage.  We’ll make a fortune!  They’re antiques now!”

Cheers to April showers, and may we all look forward to some beautiful May flowers soon.

About the Author: Lori is a local writer, painter and pet lover who loves to share her experiences and expertise with our readers. She has been penning a column for the OTC for over 20 years. Please follow Lori online on Medium for more missives like this.

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