Yesterday was November 15. Two years to the day after we entered the new normal of life without Deanna. At least, life without her in the flesh. I'd say that's a good segue actually. It's been hard not being able to call her up or see her face or hear her hearty laughter. But the truth is this: It isn't "life without Deanna."
And, if it's up to us, it never will be.
This year it fell on a Saturday. The "it" being ides of November, that fateful marker of it all. And since the family's motto has been "more glad than sad," we all did things that were meaningful in her memory. See, Deanna always believed in punctuating important moments with fellowship and loving gestures. For her, the love was always in the details. A day of moping about alone, fielding text messages and emails by responding with nondescript emoticons wasn't an option.
My day started out exactly as I wanted. The sun rising slowly into the sky of a crisp autumnal day and a quiet house. I sat on my couch alone, closed my eyes, and prayed. Mostly, it was a prayer of thanks for having the chance to know and love Deanna and for not just surviving, but thriving in ways that I believe would have made her very, very proud. I prayed for my parents and for every parent who knows what it feels like to lay their own child to rest. I recognize the unnatural order of that, and how the grieving process of a parent who has lost a child is so exponentially different than that of losing a sibling. In that quiet time alone, I vow to remember that and I petition God to give my parents as much peace as is possible.
I asked some of my sorority sisters who pledged in the same collegiate chapter as me if they'd join me for an early morning run. I knew I wanted to get my heart pumping early on November 15, but also that doing so in the fellowship of Delta girls would please my sister. She loved seeing people united and the sentiment of something like a "Tuskegee Delta Girl" group run would never have been lost on her. And you know what? Despite me asking for them to join me at an oppressively early time on an even more oppressively cold morning, they did.
And so. Tamika W., Ishan M., Valencia M., and Natalie K. all bundled up and flanked my sides as we did this kindness for our cardiovascular systems and our souls. We laughed. We talked. And, at one point, there were a few tears. Mostly from me when I thanked them for being with me and how much I needed them that day. I appreciated them and I needed them to know it.
We had such fun. It was exactly what the doctor ordered and felt like the most perfect chicken soup for my soul. Yes, it did.
I channeled my inner Deanna and ordered a little souvenir to give them commemorating our run that morning. Yes. Ordered it--which is usually the kind of thing I'd never have my act together enough to do. But Deanna? She would have been all over that.
In our chapter, especially as pledges, we sing lots of songs and make many references to ducks. It's not necessarily unique to Tuskegee, but is something I've noticed we emphasize a bit more than others. And so. A run with my fellow Gamma Tau chapter initiates seemed fitting for the little token I found--a little red ducky covered in hearts. Yes, hearts.
I cried when I gave it to them. The symbolism of it, the sacrifice they'd made, and just the whole idea of it all. What could be more important in a sisterhood than this? Being there when a sister needs you. This? This made me feel so . . so. . .full in side. And probably always will.
I'm so glad we did that together. Tamika suggested we do an annual Gamma Tau Deltas Duck Run from here forward. I told her it's a date.
After that was football. Zack's team was in the semifinals and fought hard in a very painful loss in overtime. It hurt my heart to see him crying so hard, but some part of me loved the passion it represented. Deanna would have been the loudest of all at that game.
I thought of her a lot this season. Her energy, her zeal for supporting family at sports events. I cheered for us both this season. (My alter ego, Kimmy T., is really a hybrid of Deanna and me. LOL.)
Harry let Zachary know that he'd left it all on the field and that he was proud of how hard he'd tried. And how much of himself he'd given. I told him that if he hears thunder later, it's because his auntie is applauding from the heavens. He'd given his best effort -- his very best effort -- and that was all anyone could ask for. I even felt like I'd made a better effort to support him, too. As Deanna would--through those loving details like ordering green mini megaphones for the moms, getting the whole crowd going, and never, ever missing a game.
That's a good metaphor, now that I think of it. Leaving it all on the field, you know? I think that's why Deanna affected so many people. She lived her life so big and bold. She loved hard and intentionally and never left people guessing about where they stood with her. When you asked her to do something, if she could, she did it. And she did it with such enthusiasm, such attentiveness and love. How exquisite is it to have lived a life where others can say that you left it all on the field?
Of course, it feels so abbreviated, her life. We imagine what more she could have done and mourn that loss. But when I think about how well she played her life, I can't be mad. With her love, there was never any pass interference. Her aim was always spot on.
The rest of the family did special things, too. Will and Fran had the "Auntie Dee's Lemon Drop" martini at Rivals, the restaurant Will owns. Earlier that day, he and his son David played their "First Annual Auntie Deanna Father-Son Golf Outing." Which, as you can see, was perfect.
JoLai and Poopdeck went on a hellacious hike up in Baldwin Hills yesterday. Dad sent this pic of them with the caption: "At the top of the hill and still lovin' Plinko!" We all smiled when we saw it since Plinko was his pet name for her. It also made me happy to see their hearts pumping, too.
Mom was exactly where she needed to be. At the place that gives her the most solace--the ocean. A group of her good friends joined her down at Siesta Key and when I spoke to her she sounded peaceful and happy. Which made me happy.
And so. Yes. It's been two years since Deanna made her transition. But I'm happy to report that the kids are still alright. Love doesn't die. It doesn't. And since we know that, we are all still more glad than sad. And pressing on to live our lives with purpose and especially, when it comes the legacy of love when have to give. . . . leaving it all on the field. Just like she did.
Happy Sunday. Are you leaving it all on the field? If not, why?
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?