I didn't know what to expect. My husband and I last went to Chicago five Octobers ago, for the purpose of emptying Josh's apartment and bringing his belongings home. It was a horrible, horrible day, one on which my feet felt like lead as we surveyed the rooms that had remained untouched since the night he had died and met with the detective who had handled his "case" to extract what details we could. My husband and a good friend (a VERY good friend) dismantled furniture as Josh's girlfriend and I sat and talked, trying to discern meaning in his belongings and from the events of the previous months.
And so I didn't know what to expect as Marissa and I drove west. Would I make a U-turn as soon as the Chicago skyline came into view? Would we check into our hotel, the same one in which Josh and his dad had stayed when he came to college (I was in Columbus, delivering his twin brother to Ohio State), and be overwhelmed by sadness at the thought of all the hopes and dreams crushed only five years later?
I felt as if I were constantly checking my emotional pulse, but it remained steady and strong.
A little last minute investigation had indicated that only one of Josh's close group of friends remains in Chicago, and he agreed to meet us for dinner downtown. As we all talked, I began to relax and to realize that the week-end might offer the prospect of a small increment of healing. It was wonderful to hear stories we'd never heard, to fill in some of the blanks of his college life, and to confirm that he had found joy and mischief and friendship in those years.
It was especially wonderful to spend time with a young man able to recall the past and to talk easily about it. We wondered afterward if he had perhaps also been in need of conversation about his friend who had left us all so suddenly and so completely without warning.
Very few people mention my son Josh to me. A couple of months ago, I broke down in the local garden center when I ran into a mom from Montessori middle school days who mentioned that she has a picture of him on her bulletin board and so sees him smiling every day.
If you have occasion to share a memory or a story with a bereaved parent, go ahead and give it a try. We miss them so much.