June 11th

10 years ago today was the hardest day of my life. The day my life forever changed. I barely remember the flights that took me from Los Angeles to Raleigh. I alternated between sobbing and passing out the whole way. I remember a woman who sat beside me on the first plane. She lost her husband in Afghanistan and said, “I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get easier.” I sobbed harder.

I remember waiting for my luggage at baggage claim and a man who smelled like cigarettes handing me a $2 bill and saying, “Just know that you are loved.” I still have the $2 bill. 

***

I got married a few months ago. I gave my girl friends custom made tumblers with the words, “You are so loved,” written in cursive on the side. 

Last night, my husband and I played guitar and worked on a painting for our new house, while Bob Marley played in the background and our dog snoozed on the couch. 

It reminded me of those first few months, ten years ago. I spent a lot of time painting then. I didn’t know what else to do. The painting was healing for me. A way to momentarily forget about reality. Something I could do without having to think. Thinking was so painful. The next few years, whenever June 11th rolled around, I’d paint. 

It’s just by happen chance, (is there such a thing?), that I was painting again last night. The memories are still painful, of course, but over time, June 11th has lost its grip on me.

I don’t know why we have to lose people we love, but I can tell you this: The woman on the first flight was wrong. It does get easier. Jibrey was right in what he often said, life does go on. And the cigarette smelling mystery man at RDU baggage claim was right, too. We must never forget that we are so, so loved. 

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