on breathing

Yesterday would have been Joel's 8th birthday.

I had been writing a post in my head for weeks but yesterday hit me hard. I tried to avoid even thinking about it, making myself busy celebrating Colleen's birthday with brunch and then threw myself into painting. Nothing distracts quite like cutting in. And paint fumes.

I left my apartment around 4 o'clock to bring my grandparents dinner. As I was making a right hand turn onto the highway, a car that I thought was going to turn- because, you know, they had their blinker on- came barreling through the intersection and found it necessary to blare their horn and glare at me. This small act was the excuse my tears needed because I started to cry. Scratch that, bawl.

Clearly it wasn't about the fine display of Minnesota Nice. To say it was about missing Joel is a massive understatement.

It's not like missing him is limited to November 18 but it brought forth all sorts of memories from his last birthday party, his third. We had to have it at the Ronald McDonald House and Joel had to keep a blue mask on the whole time because his little immune system was so fragile. Things were bad at that time and I remember shuddering at the thought that it could be his last. 

His health improved dramatically over the next few weeks, enough to make us all think that we were over this and out of the woods.

One of the worst- and most wonderful- things about life is that it can change in breath.

It only took a breath for Joel to contract a common virus that changed everything. 

One day I was painting his face and the next, I was holding an oxygen mask to it.

It's not fair, it doesn't make sense and there's nothing you can do about it. All anyone can do is keep taking those breaths that can change everything. Because that's life.

So these days, when I find myself in a place of loneliness, of heartache, of grief, of waiting... I breathe, hoping that the next breath will be the one that changes everything. 

And when breathing feels impossible, I run.


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