by Beth Saadati
It took nearly three years and one month. Or, to be precise, 1111 days.
It took seeing the cruel swirl of ambulance lights, attending another funeral, grieving the beautiful life of a young man gone too soon.
It took reliving the nightmare of the evening I was delivered the devastating news about my daughter before I could face what I hadn’t yet been able to do.
Once upon a time I’d taken pride in meticulous organization and the gleaning of anything unused. Not anymore. I could no longer step into my side of the small walk-in wardrobe. Overflowing with baskets, bags, and boxes, my bedroom closet heaved and swelled like a dam about to burst.
The tangible memories of what once was engulfed me. Jenna’s trophies, plaques, awards. Special logo tee-shirts. Her marching band hat. The white blouse she wore to play Juliet in an eighth-grade skit. A ballet dress she’d twirled in, a pearl bracelet presented to her on the evening of her only formal dance. School papers. Funeral cards. Notes.
And so much more—all of it screaming Jenna was here.
Now it begged for closure, except closure is for bank accounts. It was never meant for love.
With a sickening feeling I sorted—my only saving grace the perfectly timed FedEx delivery of a Swarovski necklace I’d never expected to receive from a group of friends. My hands trembled as I read the card: “We hope this gift will remind you that you and Jenna may be separated for a time, but she’s still the shining center of your heart. She feels your love circling her every moment of every day.”
I clasped the pendant around my neck as my heavenly Father whispered, “I know it hurts. You’re not alone. I’m here.”
While sweet tears slid down my face, I emptied my college trunk of teaching curriculum I’d written. Then I began to repack it, tenderly positioning each reminder of Jenna and hoping every memory I needed to keep would somehow fit.
* * *
One month later I walked into Riverside High School. Although only in seventh grade, my younger daughter, Christa, had been selected to play in Greenville’s All-Region and All-County bands. The familiar sight comforted me. Happy memories from four years ago returned from when I’d come to hear Jenna perform during her eighth-grade year.
I headed toward the auditorium. To the left stood a souvenir-stacked table. I picked up an overpriced tee-shirt and, on the back, located Christa’s name before returning it to its place.
Moving down the line, I saw the boxes of preprinted plaques and recalled the unfair parental trick. I knew better than to find my daughter’s and pick it up—knew that after reading the inscription I wouldn’t want to put it back regardless of its outrageous amount.
Nevertheless, I decided to search.
My eyes scanned the alphabet’s end: Alex Tedrow, Erich Threlkeld, Ethan Wells—teens I’d known from when Jenna was in band. Then it hit me like a punch to the gut.
Jenna should have been a senior. Her name most likely would have been there. Chances are she would have concluded the concert with the senior ensemble’s Star Wars excerpts, and beamed with sisterly pride when Christa’s junior ensemble opened with John Williams’ theme song. In the midst of healing and closure—if you can call it that—I shuddered to think I’d forgotten.
Needless to say, I fingered the plaque and re-palmed the shirt, continued to the checkout, and chose to go home a little poorer.
Following her performance, I handed Christa the bag. As she pulled out the mementos, she smiled and said, “I wasn’t expecting you to buy both of these.”
Neither was I. But Christa deserved the gifts; she was worth more than they cost. And, the obvious absence of Jenna’s name was accompanied by a heart-cry—to Christa and the others whose names lined the shirt—that said stay.
Because you can’t pack a life in a trunk.
Closure is for bank accounts. It was never meant for love. (Click to Tweet)