Monday, February 22, 2016


I have stared at this picture for countless hours since Jenna left us.  It is the last family photo of us captured here on this earth, made priceless the day she died.  Our family seems frozen in time to me here.  When I think of our family, this is still the way I think of us...Five...our perfect number. 

In this photo, the love, the joy, even the hope that is captured here with our beautiful Jenna in the middle seem stopped in time.  It´s as if our ¨family clock¨ stopped that day.  This reminds me of the scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes where the old family clock was stopped at the death of the much loved Ruth.  This is apparently a Victorian tradition, done for reasons from respect to superstition  to a symbolic marking of how time stood still when their loved one died and a new period of existence started without time.

Time didn´t really seem to exist or have importance in the first period of time after Jenna died.  It is extremely frustrating and confusing to grieving people in general that life stubbornly seems to march on right in the face of your devastation.  You feel like shouting to the world, ¨Stop!  Don´t you realize I just lost my daughter?!  You can´t go on like this as if nothing ever happened!¨  Very slowly, you have to step back into the world in some ways (even though you may not want to) and even more slowly, you begin to engage in time-related events with others.  But time - and life - have changed forever and your heart and entire life and future are marked to prove it.  There is a clear and definitive before and after.

None of us can describe our family without Jenna.   We are still unsure of how to answer questions about our family when we meet someone new.  It seems both untrue & almost irreverent to say I only have 2 kids...Jenna is still so very real to me!  Yet here on this earth my reality is two.  For now, I tend to answer, ¨I have 3 children, one in heaven and 2 here.¨ I recently asked Jordan how he answers if someone asks about his siblings.  ¨It depends on who it is and how much I think they want to know, ¨ he said. It´s a very difficult position for all of us to be put in.  Jenna was ripped from the anchoring middle place of our family unit, destabilizing us forever.  We are all still struggling to accept this reality.  We are still unsure of who we really are as a family.

It´s inevitable and natural that family changes.  The kids move on, move out, grow up, start independent lives, new families - it happens.  I had already begun to experience that with both girls stateside at university.  But being ripped out?  That is different.  It is violent, traumatic, sad...we are still reeling some days, still adjusting, still struggling with our new number of four... Four!

So many days I look back longingly at our "frozen family."  The family we have known is captured whole in this precious moment.  I can still remember that day - the weather, the sound of laughter, the different positions we stood in, the dear friends we were with and their voices and clicking cameras.  It is stopped in time in my mind yet full of life and the present at the same time.

Although I cannot relive or restore this captured moment except in my mind, I do have this memory  to treasure.  This paradox of the juxtaposition of past and present is a tender reality I hold in trembling hands.  While in some ways still ¨frozen in time¨, thankfully, we are indeed very much alive.

This photo may always capture the essence of our family to us.  It will always be precious and irreplaceable.  It may always feel both past and present to our hearts...both are very much a part of us, infinitely important pieces of who we are.

Family picture by the lovely Becca Brown


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