My office is in a 1929 farmhouse that has been converted to office space. It’s a really great space, renovated in the 1980’s. The owner at the time made quality upgrades (great weather-proofing, soundproof windows, etc.), while keeping so many of the original features that gave the building character. The window and door moldings are original, glass doorknobs throughout, depression-era glass in the french doors, original hardwood floors. I seriously could live in this house! It’s beautiful, warm and inviting.
My boss and I have offices downstairs, and we lease out the four offices on the second floor. We’ve had various tenants over the years – accountants, builders, civil engineers, financial advisors. One of our tenants is moving out today, and I’m sad to see him go. Although he’s only been in the office for a year, I’ve taken a real liking to him.
We have very little in common, if anything. He’s fairly quiet, at least at work, and is a handsome young man that fits the very definition of an athlete. He’s into every sport imaginable – biking, kayaking, skiing, on and on. We don’t talk a lot, but he’s one of those people who makes me genuinely laugh or smile when we do have a conversation.
I had told this young man earlier in the week not to leave without saying goodbye. This morning, I walked in to find flowers in front of my office door, along with a note. He’s not even in the office today, so it was something he planned ahead and made a special trip to deliver. I’m sure he has no idea how much I crave beauty since Jason died (I’m not sure he even knows about Jason, as it hasn’t come up in conversation), but he could not have chosen a better way to say goodbye. Such a sweet, kind, simple, beautiful gesture.
When you’ve had as many people disappear or leave as I have, especially when people leave without ever saying goodbye, it’s hard to have another person move out of my life, no matter how large or small the connection may be. I’ve found myself sad at the thought of losing connection with another person I have begun to know and care about – this nice young man.
I don’t open up to people much at all any more. As professor and researcher Dr. Paige Toller wrote in her article “Bereaved Parents’ Negotiation of Identity Following the Death of a Child,” bereaved parents often adopt an “openness-closedness” technique. They try to judge how open they can be with someone based on whether or not they feel this person may hurt them in some way. Depending on this judgment, the bereaved parent decides on how open or closed to be with this person. I’m not sure this is even a conscious decision-making process by a parent whose child has died, but it is certainly one of self-preservation. When the hurt has been so great and deep as the death of a child, other hurts tend to go deep, too.
I’ve walked through a lot since Jason died. People I thought I could trust and count on have hurt me deeply. As a result, I tend to be more closed than open, and don’t let people get very close to me or let them in my heart very readily any more. I opened up my heart just a bit to this young man, and I’m sorry to see him go. I wish him well, and am thankful for his kindness and the beauty he offered to me today in the form of these flowers. I’m not sure he knows how much it means to me, but I do.
© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney