Today our little man (and mom’s “medium man”) would be a teenager. A teenager! The other day, while our walking our dogs, we saw one of our old friends’ daughter ride by on her bike. The once little girl, who is just a month or so younger than Oliver, is now tall and skinny, long red hair flowing down her back as she rode by. And we watch the neighbor children grow and often gauge how Oliver would look next to them and wonder who his friends would be. Would he ride his bike to swim practice with James or join the girls on the corner selling lemonade and cookies?
Oliver’s mantra was “happy” and we obviously work to honor his approach to life. But that mantra was easier to follow when he was with us. Clearly, he is still with us. Yesterday, our son-in-law Lee sent us a picture of our granddaughter, Scout, eating a red, white, and blue bomb pop. He said Maria bought them for Scout because they remind her of Oliver, the uncle that Scout is told many stories about. Gray and Kim are daily affected by his loss and never hesitate to talk about missing him. Dov who is more quiet about Oliver, spent last summer working with children with cancer, spent 24 hours dancing this past March to raise money for DeVos Children’s Hospital, and is planning to volunteer two weeks this summer at another camp for children affected by cancer. He clearly remembers.
Remembering Oliver is a form of grief and we will always be a family in grief. It is not something you “move on” from, but the shades of grief change like the shade of a tree during the day. At times the shade is strong and overwhelming and then slowly retreats as the sun rises, only to come back again with another day. Mary Ann, whose gardening skills now have her working for several individual clients and a condominium association, excels at growing a garden not only in the sun but in the shade as well. Different plants grow in the sun and shade and they need different types of care. Mary Ann recognizes this and helps create life both in sun and shade, joy and grief.