This morning, I went through a shelf of old tennis shoes and hiking boots in our garage. There was a moment when I stopped, heart thumping and clutched a pair to my heart.
Who knew a pair of shoes could conjure up such emotion? In my mind, I understand that they are simply rubber and cloth stitched and glued together for a purpose. The purpose of protecting our feet. But, the emotion creeps in and runs down my face. These shoes represent more than fabric and glue in this mother’s heart. They represent the steps taken, the adventurous beauty that ran, jumped, and spun her way through life. They represent my Brittany. To know her feet stepped into these…her fingers tied the laces…and she stepped out and lived in them tugs at every part of my being. I am logical. I know that shoes are “just shoes”. But, my heart can’t help but remember the beauty of the life that took place in these shoes.
I imagined her long tapered fingers tying a double knot. I pulled the insole out and poured the sand trapped underneath into my hand. Sand she’d walked through. Finally, I examined the soles, definitely showing some wear … of course…. because Brittany was always a blur of motion.
What do I do with these shoes? What do I do with all this emotion… love, loneliness and want? Tell me what to do on the days when the loss is a fresh wound again?
I haven’t decided what I will do with Britt’s tennis shoes, BUT I did put mine on and headed to the beach for a walk. I heard Brittany’s voice telling me to look for beauty and love. I saw an elderly couple unloading groceries at their house. I saw the beauty of the coastline. I saw what I call ‘Brittany light’ shining in a bright patch on the water. I saw my puppy’s serious little face when he heard me crying.
I gave the sand back to the ocean because I remember after Brittany died the ocean told me that Brittany was not mine to keep. Nor was the sand.
Friends, I will be tender with my heart, I will go on a walk in the places she and I walked. I will collect sand in my tennis shoes. I will donate blood, again. I will continue to do life-affirming things in her name.
The sand returned to the ocean. My tears returned to my eyes. The shoes returned to the garage. I don’t know when I’ll be ready, or if, I’ll be ready to part with the shoes. They were an unexpected reminder. An unexpected tug on my heart. Perhaps, that’s the way it’s meant to be. Those little reminders that say…I was here, remember me, speak my name, carry me with you. The grieving heart of a mother knows no rules. We all just do our best each day. Some days, I wake up and I go and I do. Some days, I wake up and I cry. No two days are the same. I just do my best. That’s all any of us can do.
If you’ve lost a child or loved one, you already know. You just do your best. There is no timeline. There is no right or wrong.
Thank you for allowing me to share and heal.