Making Meaning of the Madness

Chapter 13

A Bright and Shining Penny

We shared his life for twenty-five years;

it could have been twenty-five weeks.

It could have been twenty-five minutes.

Journal: Mar '97

penny image

Depending where you are in the grieving process, the thought of returning happiness may have little meaning, or it may already be welcomed reality. Should you be in the early stages of grief, the "Doubting Thomas" in you may question the plausibility of happiness ever returning. Given time, and given the chance, happiness and purpose will return.

A few days after Jeff died I asked my good friend who had earlier lost his son under similar circumstances whether I would again feel joy when thinking of Jeff. Was I condemned to spend the balance of my life tortured by the vision of his end? Ron's response was that one day I would again see Jeff doing positive things, like helping me coach. The negative visions of his death would fade. During the absolute darkest days I hung onto those words trusting implicitly Ron's wisdom and experience. Understanding his integrity, I never doubted him, though at times I was sorely tested.

 At the funeral home Ron stood beside me and I noticed him quietly slip something into the breast pocket of Jeff's shirt. Later when I asked what it was, he said he put a shiny penny in there. They would crop up everywhere. Each new one would remind us of Jeff and provide comforting assurance of his presence.

 Ron knew exactly what he was doing; they do appear everywhere. The first two we found, we found side by side on a pathway where we often walk our dog. Despite the rain and surrounding mud, they were as bright as the day they left the mint. Carol put hers in a private place, and I drilled a hole in mine so I could wear it forever around my neck.

 There have been many pennies since; the majority we keep in a little basket beside a guardian angel and a vase of flowers Carol seldom leaves untended. In contrast to the little cherub by the flowers, Jeff was no angel, just a wonderful young man whose life provided us a source of light and joy that we are so grateful to have shared for twenty-five years. He had qualities I wanted for myself, and in a very real sense, he inspired much of what I did with my life. When I heard another man say of his son, "He was my hero," I could relate.

A Bright and Shining Penny

On my way into the gym today there lay a penny so I tucked it away.

I needed to spend time with you and shooting hoops seemed the answer.

We could communicate in a fashion well known to both of us—

Some rust had accumulated but it wore off soon enough.

After such a long time it was good to hear the net sing again.

I wonder what took me so long to figure out

The gym is the best place to be those days

When the roller coaster spiral is stuck on down.

Ten months ago Ron told me there would come a day

When I would see you bring the ball up the court before the other sights.

He was right.

Finally I have been graced with that discovery!

During those moments in the gym the ghosts backed off—

You and I were again sharing our passion.

Just in case you missed it…

We didn't play any one on one,

( I guess you were going easy on me )

But we did play a little twenty-one.

On this day, I owned the net.

No apologies, but you got thrashed.

Some would say I had you in my hip pocket,

So to speak.

Oct '95


I see you everywhere,

But sometimes you catch me off guard

Like at the airport the other night.

The build, chin, carriage, incredibly were yours

As a young man strolled through the whistling door.

For one brilliant instant you were there.

I experienced a rush,

A burst of exhilaration as a flash of memories leapt at me.

They are in the letters, albums, videos,

Tucked away, sometimes sneaking out

To join with all the others.

I have written about them—

The good and the not so good.

I cherish them all.

Damn it!

You didn't have to go.

We had many more to make.

Jul '96

Glory Days

Shooting guard and outside linebacker

Celebrating life,

Saturday night parties and Monday morning replays

As you basked in the attention of classmates

And teachers who went to the game,

Reliving second half baskets

Or the running back you stripped in the flat.

Later, alone in your room

You wonder about frogs that sing in the night.

Feb '95

Shooting Hoops in a Schoolyard

Today I watched two young men shooting hoops in a schoolyard

And was reminded of you.

Neither resembled you

But the actions, the emotions, were the same

As they celebrated their youth, their athleticism

And their friendship.

They moved with the grace of those

Not yet inhibited by age, or the world.

Dribble between the legs and swing after a slam.

An alley oop and another swinging slam on an eight foot rim,

Dreaming they were Michael and the rim was at ten.

Laughter as one trips driving the lane,

A steal from behind and the ball turns over,

Jab step right and take it to the hoop left,

High five's and another celebration—

I had seen it all before.

I could tell they were pleasant kids.

You should have been there with them.

May '95

  I had to work through a truck load of "stuff" before I could consistently celebrate Jeff's life. Initially there was too much hurt. Eventually, however, I discovered that those who had been through grief before knew what they were talking about. Given a chance, Time, the mighty healer, takes us by the hand and guides us.

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