595

595. That is how many days since I last held my son’s hand. .595 days.

1 year, 7 months and 18 days since I kissed his cheek last.

85 weeks since I last cried on his chest.

14,282 hours since I last felt his heart beat.

856,944 minutes since I last watched him sleep.

51,416,688 seconds since I last felt complete.

595 Days, 2 hours, 24 minutes and 48 seconds.

595 days

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Self Under Construction

Well, I did it. I have officially decided to take time for myself, I have decided to for once to take care of me. This decision has racked me with pain, guilt and many sleepless nights. By all means, the outward appearance that everyone sees is of someone who is smiling, handling life and seems “okay”. The truth is that person has mastered putting on the face of happy deception. In reality, I spend my nights tossing and turning. Crying and screaming into my pillow. I spend my days with headaches and pure exhaustion. On the days that are good for me, there are the moments that fleet across my mind and will have me crying hysterically for a brief second. But that second is enough to leave me just ready for the day to end so I can crawl into the bed with sleepless exhaustion.

I was spending my days taking care of children when I could barely take care of myself. It is hard to put on a smile and fix grill cheese for these innocent faces when you just want to be alone. It has not been fair to them or me. They are not getting the best me they deserve. How do you answer them when they ask why you are crying? Well little child, I am crying because I miss fixing my son peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or how about I am crying because Richie used to play this game with you and it hurts me now to do it. Not fair at all for them to have this sad mess instead of the MumMum that used to dance with them and sing at the top of my lungs over the littlest things. Not fair at all.

So what do I do when the last child leaves each day. I immediately go into shut down mode. I do not want to deal with life. I do not want to do anything. I want to go to bed at 5:30 and sulk in my own world. This is not fair to my husband or two children living at home with us. Well, Luke and Savannah are grown you may say. They can take care of themselves.Jeff can get his own supper and let you rest you say. Yes, they can and yes at times they do. But is this fair to them. They did not sign up for this grief ride either. I am the Mom. I am to take care of them no matter their age and I am to be the Mom. They do not deserve a Mom that shuts down from life every evening and does not share in their life fully. I should be making meals for us to eat around our table and hearing about their day. Instead they have been getting a Mom that is quick tempered, stressed, red eyed, frazzled and just a teary mess. My husband does not deserve to come home to a wife that tells him she has had a bad day and is going to bed the minute he walks in the door. How many moments have I missed with them that I can’t get back? Have I gone on too long like this that they no longer desire to be around me?

Then there is this….. Jeff and I have no more children we are responsible for. They have been raised, graduated and are off making there way in the world. What do we do now? We have always taken care of them and put them first always. I can’t count how many date nights were spent with a car load of kids and their friends because we didn’t want to leave them. Now what do we do? Are we even still close enough as husband and wife to be us? What if we don’t even like each other? How do we be us with just us? This scares me more than anything. How do we handle being married with just us? We are having to learn each other all over again.

Now the biggest one…. How do I take care of me? I have always taken care of others. My kids, their friends, my husband(s), others people’s kids, my family, my friends and even the daggum hamster! Now how do I take care of me? I have decided to start counseling to work through some of the things that are haunting me.Things that have haunted me since childhood. I have decided to rest. That is the hardest adjustment so far. I cannot sit still from thinking I have to do something. I am going to write, read, cross-stitch, volunteer at church and just take a walk. If I want to stay up all night crying, I will. If I want to scream at 12:34 in the afternoon because I want my son back, I will. If I want to go have lunch with my handsome son Luke, I will. If I want to go rambling with Savannah, I will. If I want to surprise Jeff with a picnic lunch in his office, I will. (I have always wanted to do that) I will do what makes me happy. I will take care of myself. I will for once let the grief out instead of holding it in until everyone else is taken care of. For once in my life, I will be under construction to be a better me for me. Not for others. Please pray for me. Aside from burying my son, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

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My Chicken Nugget Rant

When we went into town earlier today, Jeff and I decided that we would grab a burger somewhere. Little did I know that this decision would bring forth my anger over McDonald’s chicken nuggets. The conversation in the car went like this:

Jeff: We will just go to McDonald’s so you can get your cheeseburger and I can get some nuggets.

Me: Man, now I want some nuggets.

Jeff: Well, get the nuggets.

Me: But I want the cheeseburger too.

Jeff: Well get the burger and one of the 4 piece nuggets.

Me (And this is where the angry rant started): No, because then they will think I am fat. A 4 piece? What is the point of a 4 piece anyway? They should at least give you 5. 4 just ticks you off. And why do they only give the kids 4 pieces in  kid’s meal? A 4 piece was never enough for my kids. If you steal one of them then your kid only has 3. That just makes you look like a bad parent. At least if they gave the kid 5, you could take one. The nugget system is just screwed up there.

Jeff (who is laughing uncontrollably): You are really fired up about this. How about I just get a 20 piece and you eat some of them?

As you can see, I have a short fuse with things lately. Today, it was nuggets that have set me off. There was a lot more to the conversation but I would love for you to keep a good impression of me. But I am sure you can agree with my logic. 4 is too little for an adult. You can’t steal a nugget from your child’s 4 piece without looking like a jerk. At least I have a husband that will share his 20 piece.

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You Really Wanna Know Mr. Osteen?

I keep getting asked how I am doing. I guess people think that because we are about to hit 18 months into the grief journey that things are just peaches and cream, rainbows and pots of gold. I am actually quite the opposite. I haven’t written on it because I have been trying to sort out this mind of mine that seems to be getting more frantic and loud. But after reading an article a fellow blogger shared about Joel Osteen’s views on grief, I had to share. Osteen believes that after a certain amount of time that grievers are only wanting pity. Well, Mr. Osteen, here is my response.

I am 18 months in this new life that God has dealt me. For 18 months, I have made sure to put others before myself. My children rarely see me cry. I make sure that each day they are not living in the shadow of their brother’s death. My husband and I have struggled to keep this family that was 5 and now 4 as normal as possible. We have struggled to keep our marriage strong when we have no words to ease each others pain and are lost as to how to be partners when our life is broken. I have to the best of my ability, and often failed, tried to keep up appearances at family events. I have tried to go to parties for other people’s children. I went back to keeping children one month after the death of my son. I never missed a school event with my daughter. I made sure my living son knew he was just as important to me as my angel son. If I was asked to do something, I 97% of the time did it. The other 3% I just mentally couldn’t. I never quit putting others before myself. I never said no when asked to do something for the church. I have smiled and tried my best to keep up a sense of the old life I had while trying to learn this new life. I will admit, I failed a lot. I failed my husband numerous times. I have even failed my children. I have horribly failed my sisters and mother. But I did the best I could to try to keep the hurt, sorrow, pain, and aching I felt to myself and not lay it on the shoulders of others.

So Mr. Osteen, do you really wanna know where I am at today in my grief? I am worse off today than I was the second the doctor’s gave me a time of death. I am worse off than the day we put my boy in his grave. In fact, 18 months of faking it and trying to be strong has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I spend most nights tossing and turning. Releasing a days worth of built up tears. I do not want to attend any family events at all because my family is the broken link. I spend most days waiting on the clock to strike 5 so that kids go home and I can start my new rituals. What new rituals you ask? Well, Joel, can I call you Joel? I used to be very OCD about my house and life. The birth of my children’s half sister quickly let me see that this curly haired little toddler was winning the battle of messes. Now the OCD is back and I have the belief that if my house is spotless nothing tragic will happen to us again. My house was a little messy when we got the call of Richie’s accident. In fact, everything bad that has directly happened to us has come at a time when the house was a little untidy. I have been cleaning the house completely. Each room has been getting a deep cleaning. I dread having to get up in the mornings to take care of others. Nothing to do with them, I just can some days barely guide myself much less others. I hate answering the phone. People start conversations with “how are you?” I text very few people. Only the ones I can be real with get them. (A very short list) I am no longer the one at church that speaks to every single person. I sometimes fake reading something so that I do not have to socialize on Sunday mornings. I am exhausted by the end of Wednesday night Bible study because I have to fake happy on the bad days. I do not watch the news because it sends me into a tailspin of PTSD. I hate FaceBook because people seem to not understand that seeing wrecked cars and kids in the hospital bring back images that haunt me every single day. The sound of a train horn makes my heart leap into my throat. I only watch movies after they have been cleared by others for my broken mind to watch. TV holds little interest for me. The Travel channel is safe I have found. I hate 6:44pm on Sundays and the 29th of every single month. I feel as if I have won the lottery if I make it to 3:30pm on the 30th or a Monday and my living children are still living. I cannot eat chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in the same meal. Tried once and had almost had a nervous breakdown. I have started panicking about where my deceased son’s belongings are. Even though I know they are safely packed away in my guest room, I still have to go see they are there. I do this numerous times a day. It is all I have left that is tangible of him. I now get up numerous times to see if my living children are still breathing as they sleep. (They are 18 & 20.) A scratch on one of them has me thinking that the limb will be amputated and they will die. I text them constantly to see if they are safe. I text their friends if I do not get a timely response. I hate leaving the house other than once a week grocery shopping and church. I have certain things that we can not do on Sundays because if we do, one of my children will die. I am failing as a friend to the ones that are closest to me. I can’t remember when I last wished someone Happy Birthday when I was the one that was always the first. I cannot concentrate on tasks that are dear to me. I start projects and quickly lose interest.I spend some days pretending so convincingly to myself that Richie will be coming home that afternoon that by 4pm I feel like I lost him all over again. Sometimes I think that I put myself back into shock just to shut my mind off.

Even worst than the mental effects is the physical ones. I constantly have stress and tension migraines. I break out in bumps and itch like crazy if one thing starts getting out of the “new normal” I am enclosing myself in. I feel tired all the time but cannot sleep. And the absolute most terrible thing…. My heart constantly feels like it is constricting. It literally hurts all day every day. I believe my heart broke the day they told me Richie had passed. Since then I can feel it 24 hours a day. You really never know your heart is there until you experience a loss so gut-wrenching that you cannot even fathom it until days later. Then you are fully aware of its every beat. Every bloody thump against your chest feels like you are being stabbed. Do you understand the heart hurt Mr. Osteen? I am constantly on high alert, waiting on the next terrible thing to happen so my muscles are always sore. My nerves twitch. I have developed little ticks of nervousness. Some others never notice. I just feel like I am always in pain yet have no sickness.

Mr. Osteen, I have done it your way. I have not asked for self pity. I have hated conversations that revolve around me and my loss. I have put others first. I have not wallowed in my pain shutting myself off from the world. Where has it gotten me? It has gotten me no where. I am worse off than I was 18 months ago. I took care of everyone else and did not take any time for myself. So what am I to do now? Do I tell others that I need time now all this time later to be alone and grieve with no responsibilities? Do I continue doing what I am doing and hope it gets better? Quite a predicament I am in. There is no time limit on grief. Some parents lose a child and have another in a year later. Some can never imagine another child in their home. A wife can lose her husband and marry 6 months later. A husband can lose his wife of 60 years and pass away silently that night in his sleep from a broken heart. There is no book on grief. I hate the self-help crap people have been sending me. It would help to shove it up their wazoos. (I forgot to add the part about my quick temper being even quicker.) So please, Mr. Osteen, what do I do now that the way you wrote about does not work? You can email me your answer at mrsjschell@gmail.com. I will be awaiting your response.

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No, I Am Not Living In Death

Isn’t that something odd to proclaim? I am not living in death. I have been accused of this a lot lately. In fact, I have friends and even family that say they can’t be around me because of this. I am just at a loss.

They seem to say that since the death of Richie that I only surround myself with other parents that have lost children or the people I have met through organ donation. Well, maybe I have. When I hear of another mother or father that has lost a child, my heart breaks for them. So yes, I reach out. When I lost my son, Stephanie, Angel, Lisa P. and Judy were at my side because they knew what I was going through. The way they told me that all I was feeling was okay helped me tremendously. It made me regret not knowing what to say and reaching out to them more when they were going through their personal tragedies. Now when I here of anyone going through what I did, I go to them, call them or send a card. I reach out after the funeral because I know first hand that it is harder then, Yes, I have reached out to people that I do not even know but have met through my blogging. In fact, Sherri has become a great friend and I have never even met her! The organ donation world has showed me hope. I see the stories of life continuing. It gives me great joy and a sense of hope to meet the people who are living because of a gift. When I meet a donor family, I feel a kinship of sorts. I know the pain of loss they are feeling and the great pride they feel for their loved ones who gave. I was once “new” to this world too. I know the confusion they feel at first. I reach out just to be a friend. I answer the questions they have or send them to someone who has an answer I don’t. I just listen most of all because that is what I needed when I started this journey.

I do not live in death. I am perfectly capable of separating death from life. I have been to plenty of things that I have never even said the words death, dead or dying at. I am very comfortable with telling a group of Moms what Richie did at age 2 without crying or wanting sympathy. It gives me a great sense of comfort to be able to talk about Richie as if he were still here with people. Just because I say his name in conversation does not mean I want pity. It simply means that I am telling a story about him just like I do Luke and Savannah.

It may seem as if that is the only ones I am around anymore are the ones I have met in “death”. This is not entirely my fault. I have watched as Jeff and I are left off some invite lists. Some that are very hurtful. We have watched as some family, close family, completely cut us out of their lives. And when you bump into them at the store? We get the “we have been busy” excuse. Jeff and I have not been to busy or grieving too hard to reach out to people. Even if it is a text or card, we reach out. Maybe our circle does include more “death” friends than longtime friends and family, but that is all we have most times.

I am still a friend, cousin, niece, sister and aunt. Jeff is still a friend, cousin, nephew, son and uncle. And whatever else you may call us. We do not want any pity. We do not want any one to feel as if they can’t be around me. We do not surround ourselves with death. But the death of our child is always with us. If We can’t handle being around someone or somewhere, we will bow out quietly and gracefully. We are not and do not want to live in death.

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UGH!

First I want to say that I am not wanting sympathy or anything! I am just posting this because I am having one of those days. I have to get the feelings out of my head, through my fingers. So please, don’t pity me and let my written emotional diarrhea begin!

It is only noon and I have already been through every emotion I can. I am angry, sad, happy, worried, hurt and all in between. I have no idea what has triggered this day. Maybe lack of sleep or a slight sunburn from the extremely fun day in the sun yesterday. Maybe it is guilt because I had fun yesterday. I don’t know what it is but I am just over it. I am missing my son so bad that it feels like I have been gut punched today. I am missing my living children because they are always gone living their life. I am upset that the boy was snappy at me this morning for no reason. Aggravated because the girl decided to wash clothes on the one morning I could sleep in a little. Frustrated because I have no clue what to make for supper with no desire to do it anyway. Depressed because I am just not wanting to fold the massive pike of laundry that has built up. The dog has been spazzing out and running up and down the hall all morning and when she does get still, she farts constantly. I am hurt because I feel like I do not get any recognition of pride from the ones I look for it most in. I feel like nothing I do matters to anyone around here. I feel like I am not as important to most of the people that I put first and on pedestals, I am sick of hearing about the latest Monticello scandal when people should be rallying around a little girl in town that lost her father in a senseless shooting. I want to go back to the beach. I want to go to the mountains and sit on my Uncle’s porch and have him tell me it’s all going to be okay. I want a back slapping hug from my Granny. I want to eat a bowl of strawberry ice cream with my Grandpa. I am wondering if I was as good of a Mom all these years as I should have been. Did I give my children all they needed growing up? Do they resent me because I could not give them all they wanted? I am worried about my Mother, what reason I cannot pinpoint. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I am mad at myself because I have those superficial feeling. I am at a loss to fix a relationship that just never comes easy. I am at a loss as to how to make some things at home better. I miss Dillon who has moved to another state. I miss my house being filled with teenagers during the summer. I am mad because I feel the empty nest. I just ate a handful of Cheet-Ohs so now I am feeling really fat. I feel like a failure as a friend for not being there for everyone like I should. I feel like I am too needy at times. I am tired of keeping things inside when they make me want to explode. I am terrified of making changes soon that will benefit me for the better but may upset other people. I am sick of saying yes. I dread saying no. I just want to go back to bed. I just feel UGH!

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Fairness vs Death

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This is something I have been struggling with. It was not fair that my son was taken in the prime of his life. He had so much he was accomplishing. He was needed here. He was loved here. He was just supposed to be here forever. Or at least until we were dead and gone. Why couldn’t I have been chosen? Why not someone who didn’t want to be on this earth anyway? I have battled with this. I have been told it is God’s will. Have faith., It happens for a reason. Look at the “good” that came out of his death. While I am very happy for the ones that were able to live out of our loss, it still does not help on the lonely nights when I am laying in the bed wondering and crying for what his life would have been. It is not fair to my children, his friends, my husband, my family or the world that is missing out on an amazing person!

I just do not understand. I will never understand in all my days on this Earth. I can only have faith that on the end I will. But for now I just do not understand at all.

The Scarlett Letter D

I asked a friend if she was going to an event we were attending. She just looked at me and smirked no. I was taken aback and asked why. She just said, “You know why. The look.” Yes. I know the look.

Since I started going out in public again after Richie’s death, I have gotten the look. It is now a year and four months later and I still get the look. I was visiting another church a few weeks ago and got the look. At first, the look made me want to scream at people. I was getting this look because in this small town, I was the mother of the boy who got hit by the train. What made it worse was his cousin being in a freak deadly accident ten months before his. One person asked one time if I thought there was a curse on the kids of the family. I guess the poor ignorant soul did not know that the boys were cousins by marriage. (Even though we do not believe in the word Step Family) In the car rider line the first day I went to pick up Krista after the accident, the lady who gets the numbers of cars was the mother of one Richie’s closest friends. She got me to roll the window down to give me her condolences and talk a bit. When I rolled my window down, every window in the line went down. I didn’t know if I should sink into the floor or tell them to line up for a Q&A session.

The worse looks are the ones were people know who you are and look at you like you are a saddest person on the planet yet shy away from you as if death is catching. A very good friend of mine, or what I thought was a very good friend, actually turned and went back down the aisle at the grocery store like I had snakes for hair. I brushed it off as  it was too soon for her to find words. The next time, I said she was just in a hurry,. The third time, I knew she was a coward and wanted to scream at her that her kids wouldn’t die if she talked to me. It’s not like I have the gypsy power from Thinner and if you touch me you get a curse. Death is not contagious. I certainly hope that their stupidity and ignorance isn’t catching either.

How long must I go around with this Scarlett Letter D on my forehead? D for Death, I know I carry the death of my son with me every single day. I try to live a life full of smiles and laughter for my two living children. I feel as if they have the same letter D on their forehead. Same for my husband. Someone actually asked my daughter one time if her brother was the dead kid. She was mortified! We live everyday with the fact that Richie is o longer with us. We do not need the head cock, the sympathy stare or the hanging of the head. What we do need is your smiles. We need your prayers. We need your “glad to see you” hugs. We need your laughter. We need you to say our names. We need you to say Richie’s name. We need you to be our friends and family that you always have been. We need you to just be so that we can learn to just be also.

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The Returned

The Returned. A&E’s new show that everyone has been raving about. We have been real busy so I have DVR’ed the first four episodes and Tuesday, Jeff and I finally started watching it. It starts with a school bus going over the side of the cliff. You see this young girl on the bus, then you know she is dead. Next scene is the girl walking in the front door of her home telling her Mom not to freak out cause she was late. The Mom just stands there stunned. Years have passed and this precious daughter walks in the door. What is the Mom to think? Has she finally lost it or is this real?

The show goes on to show other returned and the stories of them. It is actually a very good show. I, however, just went to that place that I go to while watching something that sets off a “what if” trigger. What if this happened? What if Richie walked in the door and yelled that he wanted a sandwich? What would I do? What would I say? Would I even be able to speak?

How can a TV show that I know is fake and the events 100% impossible trigger me so badly? Maybe it is just the way my brain is functioning now. Or maybe there is no reason. Let me tell you though, it was a rough night. I went to bed thinking about this show. I guess I thought too much about it because I spent the entire night stuck in the same dream. I would dream that I heard someone in the living room and yelled out, “Who is in there?” Then I heard the voice I crave to hear answer, “It’s me. Are you cooking tonight?” (Yes, he thought I should cook 24/7) This one scene kept playing in my head every time I closed my eyes. And it seemed so real that each time, I jumped out of bed and went to see my boy. Each time, I had to shake off the slumber and realize it was a dream. I would cry a little and then doze back off. This repeated all night until I finally gave up and just laid there. Scared to close my eyes again. Fearing that i would get heartbroken once more.

Laying there fighting sleep I went through a ton of emotions. Sad because this would never be my reality. I would not have an unbelievable miracle happen to me. I will always feel this loss. Always. And forever.

Then I was angry. Angry at the creators of this show and its makers. How dare they make a show like this! Do they not know that I am grieving? Do they not know that I am still hurting? How could they make a show about someone’s child returning from the dead looking perfectly normal and unaware of the events taking place? How dare they! Out of all the scripts in the world they have come through their doors a day, this is the one they picked? Did they not think about me? I am a very loyal A&E fan. How could they do this when I have lost my precious son in a freak accident?

Then I just went to that place I go to where I know that if I don’t stay busy and keep moving that it is going to be an even worse day. So I cut the phone off and went to scrubbing. All the while working out this grief, anger and sadness. Didn’t really help. But the house is clean.

All of this may seem silly. Who could get triggered over the opening scene of a show that drastically? Who could have a horrible 24 hours because of the first 5 minutes of a show? Well, apparently me. I have started noticing that there are a whole lot of triggers lately. I turn off the TV and listen to the radio. This also has triggers. I am a year and 3 months in and I have this trigger phobia now. I guess I am a late bloomer in grief.

For now, I will go and rearrange the closet. Pray the next trigger stays away for a few days. And try to navigate this next stage in grief. Oh and watch episode four of the Returned tonight. After I got over the first 5 minutes, it really is an amazing show!

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Catch 22 of a Grieving Parent

I had a wonderful weekend! I got to go away for the night with Jeff and have a very delicious meal at a little place we found. The next day I got to spend the entire day with Jeff, Morgan (Richie’s tissue recip), Rodney (Morgan’s Dad), Tracy from LifeLink and her husband Shane. We spent the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Joey Gase and his family and crew. I was having just the most wonderful time….. And then it hit me!

I was sitting up on the pit boxes next to all these great people watching the race which had gotten kinda dull. No wrecks, no pit stops. Just driving in circles. It hit me in the “down time” that I was only right there in that moment at that particular time because my son had died. I replayed over a year’s worth of events in my mind. The call, the hospital, the death of my child, donating his organs, the funeral, the crying, the pain, the letters to his recipients, the letters from his recipients, meeting his recipients…. The whole year flashed in a few seconds. I looked over at this beautiful girl sitting next to me that had received a gift from my son, Our paths would have never crossed if he was living. I looked at this lady from LIfeLink who I treasure as a friend. I would have never known her if he was living. I looked at the Donate Life car as it passed by us. I would have never even thought about being an advocate/volunteer for this if my son was living. Probably would have never heard of it. All this in this moment in my life would not be happening if my precious boy were still breathing and at home raiding my fridge! How sad to think that I only know these wonderful people because my wonderful amazing son is not here.

This is where the catch 22 of a grieving parent happens. We would trade all the breaths we are still breathing ourselves for our child to still be here. We mourn and cry every single day. We may not do it publicly. In fact, mine is usually done when home alone or between the hours of 12am – 4am (as you can tell from the bags under my eyes). But what are we Moms and Dads to do when we catch ourselves having fun and smiling? I still have two living children that deserve a Mom who laughs and smiles. What am I to do when the thought creeps into my head while having a family fun day with them of, “what if Rich was here?” Life goes on as everyone tells me. I feel like I am two-faced for telling everyone to live, laugh and love when I am feeling guilty at times for doing it.

Now, do not get me wrong, I cherish each and every single person I have met since our on D-Day. A whole lot of these people I cannot imagine not having in my life. But the thought more often than not creeps in my mind of what if or would I be? I would have not know the friendship from most. The smile and dreams of a young girl. The life of a grandfather trying to fill his grand-children’s life with love for as long as God allows. I have talked to some other Moms who are in my grieving shoes about this and they agree with me. We are all trying to live life like our children would want us to yet we get sucked back in with guilt when we are catching ourselves doing just that, laughing and smiling. Sometimes it does not hit me until hours after and I am in my alone time. Then as I reflect on the day, it hits me. I think I will forever be in this catch 22 of sorts. I will forever be in a never ending circle of grief. Like the car I was watching on the race track. In turn one, I am happy. In turn two, I am laughing. In turn three, I feel guilt for laughing. Turn four I have to pull it together and take a quick breather. And by the time I come across to turn one again, I am laughing. Forever in a circle, forever in a turmoil of happiness and grief.

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