Yesterday was one of those days when sadness crept up on me and caught me by surprise. I am sure we all experience them from time to time. I felt overwhelmed by grief yesterday and it stayed with me till I picked up Violet from nursery school.
It all started with a memory.
I was thinking about our sweet Violet at about 10 months old. Violet had this cute little bonnet with birds on it. It was a handmade bonnet made my Urban Baby Bonnets. She loved her hat. In fact her first word after mama and daddy was hat.
Every day Violet and I went out for a morning and afternoon walk. She always pointed and said hat before we walked out the door. I can see her smile and the twinkle in her eyes as I placed the bonnet on her head and snapped the snaps beneath her chin. I would then snuggle her into the sling and out the door we would go. I can hear the click clickety clack of our sliding door and feel the warmth of the sun on my face as the door opened to our front yard, just like it was yesterday.
We first stopped at our cherry blossom tree that Daddy planted when I was pregnant and we found out that we were going to be having a girl. It was Violet’s tree. We counted the leaves and talked about the colors we could see. The color of the branches, the leaves, the flowers in the spring.We looked up to the sky and sang “Blue Skies”. We would walk around our block and talked to our neighbors and kitty friends.
One day Violet realized how to unsnap her bonnet. Just as she did so a gust of wind blew and her bonnet flew off her head and through my fingers as I tried my best to catch it. But I failed and the hat flew straight into a covered ditch.
Violet and I looked at each other and she started to tear up. I knew she loved that hat so I ran down the street and found an opening. I carefully stepped in because the water was low and not rushing too fast. We waited and waited but her little hat never came.
When Gabe came home that afternoon I told him what had happened. Being the super daddy that he is, he told us not to worry.
We all walked down to the last place we saw the hat. He got in the ditch and started to look around. It was there, in a spot directly under a heavy concrete slab. He found a branch nearby and then lifted the concrete as much as he could and carefully fished out Violet’s favorite hat.
It was covered in mud and gunk from the ditch. But Violet knew it was HER hat and she smiled so wide. We took it home and washed it over and over and finally it was ready for her to wear again. It was a little stained but still very wearable. She loved that hat. I imagined that I would keep it in a box for her to see when she got older and that perhaps she would put it on her daughter’s sweet head one day.
But that will never happen. It was washed away once again but this time forever.
The tsunami took many things from us. And I know it is silly to mourn material possessions. I know that things are just things. But the memory of that little hat reminded me of all that was lost and that is when I began to feel that feeling…that feeling when you can’t catch your breath. When you feel that lump in your throat will take over and air won’t be able to pass through it. It was then that I felt the warm wet tears begin to fall down my cold cheeks.
I was walking from work to the nursery school. I knew that people were driving past me and thinking what could be wrong with that woman. But I couldn’t stop it. It had already begun.
We have all tried so hard to just move forward since the devastating events of March 11th. I think that in a way I have tried to push it away as much as possible. But some days it is just too much. The images of my friends faces who were taken away flashed through my mind and I saw their smiles and felt their warm embrace. I thought of friends who survived but seem lost in their survival. Those of us that survived may feel guilty for surviving and maybe we feel guilty for missing our old lives.
I miss our life before. I miss our walks, our neighborhood, our flowers and trees. I miss our warm bed and the memories that we made there. The pictures and videos that we were so careful to take that were lost forever.
I miss the faces of the mothers and children that we played with on a weekly basis. And the volunteers that worked at the center. Three times a week we went to the play group on the mountain. In fact on that day we were there in the morning. We played and laughed and communicated with out words. These women and children were part of our life and although we didn’t talk much because my Japanese is so poor, we shared our motherhood. We were all learning together. It was a happy time, a time I will remember for the rest of my life.
Two weeks ago I asked Violet if she remembered her old house. She said yes. So I said “what color was your bed Violet?” She smiled and said “Red. That’s where mommy and Violet had milkies.” Gabe and I looked at each other with amazement. She really does remember. Violet always slept with Gabe and I in our bed and we had red sheets.
Yesterday, for some reason, I finally began to grieve the loss of that life. It seems like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then. Gabe and I always say to each other, “He took away everything we had and left us with everything we needed.”
After walking and crying for 40 minutes from my office I finally arrived at Violet’s nursery school. I wiped my face and did my best to put on my smiley face for our daughter, although the sadness still seemed to be taking over my heart.
When I got to Violet’s room I saw her running to the door. She was crying for me. She said, “I was looking for you but I couldn’t find you mama.” I wanted to break down right there. But I didn’t. I swept her up in my arms and wrapped her up in my love. She stopped crying very quickly and gave me that sweet smile of hers. The one that shines through her eyes.
Her teacher came to the door and said “Today Violet did something that she has never done before.” I started thinking “oh no I really hope she didn’t hit someone” (something she has not done before). Her teacher continued, “She hugged 4 of her friends today at different times during the day.” I remembered the devotion we read the night before in Violet’s book, The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers. It said,
“Do your friends ever get mad? Maybe you could give a hug to an angry friend. Or you might say something kind to that person. Hugs and gentle, quiet words can help an angry person to calm down. Sometimes people who are mad just need to know that someone loves them.” “A gentle answer will calm a persons anger.” Proverbs 15:1 “Dear God, if someone is mad today, please help me to know what words to say. “
After we read that devotional I talked with Violet about her friends at school. Recently she has been getting hit and bitten. It breaks my heart to see this happening. I told her after the devotional that if her friends seemed angry or if they seemed sad maybe she could give them a hug. I told her that sometimes when people are sad they get angry too. She looked up at me and said “A gentle answers calms anger.” “Yes” I said. I was surprised that she remembered the verse. So we practiced the verse a few times and then we hugged, of course.
I told Violet’s teacher that we had talked about hugging our friends the night before and we were both amazed and happy that she had put that thought into her mind and remembered to put it into action. As is our ritual, on our way home I asked Violet what her favorite part of the day was. She usually answers ‘finding mommy”. Yesterday, however, she answered, “Hugging my friends!”
It was at that moment that my sadness and grief melted away. Our daughter teaches us everyday. I was reminded of how powerful a hug really can be. So many of us are hurting, many of us are angry or lonely. Imagine what a great change you can create in someones day just by showing them love, by giving them a hug. Thank you Violet for hugging me and Daddy and your friends. You show us what love is everyday.