On Monday, appropriately Halloween, I begin a new position. For six years I have worked for the WSU Foundation, five of those years working with families and memorials at WSU. My job was humbling and incredible, but difficult. I cried with strangers over the phone and at their kitchen tables. Through those tears we became friends as I worked hard to follow through on my promise to honor their loved one and to ensure they would not be forgotten, whether through a named scholarship or a paver in the Plaza of Heroines, or simply within the recesses of my already broken heart.
I never professed to know their personal pain, only understand as each of us grieves separately and differently. I still feel I was placed in that position for a reason, having taken the job and just five months later losing my niece, Andrea. You cannot know what it is to grieve for a mother, father, sister, brother, child until you have experienced such loss. And as I helped these families through their grieving process, they helped me.
Which is why the hardest part about leaving my position is I feel I’m losing Andi all over again. I’m afraid I won’t share her story as much, now that I will not have others who will understand the story. I’m afraid most of all of forgetting. I know I will never forget her or the pain my family carries, but I can’t help but fear that others will.
It took me a few days to recognize this emotion, this strange nagging in my soul. I’m extremely excited about my new job, a little nervous, but so looking forward to its challenges and my new co-workers. But, part of me has been hesitant, and while I knew it was not about leaving the Foundation, I knew it had something to do with leaving those families who had relied on me during one of the darkest moments of their lives.
A week or so ago, Dr. Jim Rhatigan, former dean of students and my personal cheerleader, loaned me a cassette tape of a sermon by Dr. Robert Meyer of the University Congregational Church. He told me to listen and truly understand what it is that I carry, what it is that I know. I waited until the day following my last official day with the Foundation and this is what I learned.
Dr. Meyer explained what changes in a person who mourns and how they are blessed by this change. “Some new depth in yourself, some richer knowledge of how priceless love and life are, so that from that day forward your life will bless others lives in ways it could not have done before.”
I’m not leaving Andi behind. I will continue to take her with me wherever I go and she and I will continue to cry with others, hold hands through tears, and be the needed strength of those who feel they cannot go on, as well as laugh with those who never thought they’d laugh again, and smile because we know such sorrow because we once knew such joy.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.