Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Kiss, A Teddy Bear, and a Jake the Pirate Serenade

My little guy has become an expert at comforting his mama when I'm sad. Believe me that it's an expertise that I wish he didn't have to perfect at 3 years of age, but he has been learning about grief and mourning since he was 15 months old. Even then he had obvious instincts as a comforter. He would gently rub my shoulder or pat my back whenever I was upset or displayed some sign of missing Joe. His offerings matured as he did and three weeks ago, on the 2nd anniversary of Joe's death, his chosen method of comfort towards his mom was to give me some of his cranberries - his very precious cranberries - while we were riding in the car together.

This morning I was in my bedroom when I got the news that my friend and fellow CWA organizer Connie English had passed away. She had been in a car accident last Saturday along with her husband, Herman, who died at the scene. The tears just came and with them my son found his way into my room. He always seems to know the moment I start to cry. I don't think I will ever forget what happened next.

First he climbed up on my bed and told me he was going to make me feel better. He told me he was going to give me a hug and a kiss and then he did. After the hug and kiss he told me that he wanted to give me his teddy bear and then sing me a "Jake" song. Would I come into his room with him? Of course.

I was heartbroken, but somehow my little guy depositing his teddy bear in my arms and serenading me from his Jake and the Neverland Pirates CD was a "life rushes in" kind of moment. Just like when he offered me his cranberries 3 weeks earlier, there was no way I could ignore the earnestness of his effort. He wanted nothing more than for his mommy to be happy and for that moment at least I was proud and energized and blessed.

The day still went on. And it was hard. The reality is that I'm finding it incredibly difficult to talk about Connie in the past tense. It still feels so surreal that she is gone. That Herman is gone. That I won't see them at our next CWA Convention. Or on a dance floor. Or around Trenton. How is it possible that I won't have another chat with her about how her running is going? That we will never get around to running that race together we always talked about but never did. Today, time is the enemy.

I have no doubt that as stories are told in the coming weeks they will reveal the deep impact of Connie's work as an organizer. She was damn good at it and people loved her. I think that those of us who do this work often get caught up in the day to day and lose sight of the fact that what we do involves helping workers win big changes between the "before" and "after". That impact can matter greatly for workers for a lifetime and I believe we will see that Connie's legacy is particularly powerful.

For me, today was a day of refocus. There is a saying I've seen repeatedly over the past two years that has resonated with me that really hit home today. It goes like this: There will be a day when you can no longer do this...Today is NOT that day.

I never got to run a race with Connie but I did the one thing today that I know always helps when I need to clear my head and get my soul on track. I went for a run. Today though, it wasn't just any run and perhaps that is fitting. This was Week 1, Day 1 of my journey to qualify to run the Boston Marathon - a journey which will almost certainly take me more than one attempt and which could very well take many years. For as long as I am physically able, I will keep pushing on until I get there because certainly there WILL come a day when I can no longer do it, but thankfully that day is NOT today.


  1. My friend, what a wonderful words! A fraternal hug, William Mendes

  2. It doesn't mean much from a stranger but I'm sorry to hear things are so difficult for you right now. It sounds like your "little guy" is the perfect company on your journey.

    1. It does mean so much! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog and for your encouragement. My son truly is a constant bright spot in my journey.