That crying girl on the bus

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This is a photo taken on a sunny California day exactly two years ago from yesterday.

I wish I could say my family came together that day for a happy reason. It was quite the opposite.

But, I’ll get to that in a little bit.

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Last week I was riding the bus to work in the morning, like I do every morning. The bus was crowded for a Friday. Passengers were standing and being packed into the #66 headed to downtown Seattle. Half-way through my ride I noticed someone sniffling loudly. I looked up from my phone and saw a young woman crying.

The reason I was keen to figure out who the sniffler was, was because I wanted to stay as far away as possible and not catch any germs. I already banked in my one cold of the year at the beginning of the month!

She looked to be about my age, maybe a few years younger, or one or two older. I didn’t recognize her as a regular rider. (You know, the same people you see on your bus day in and day out?) But, she caught my attention because as she sniffled, she had streams of tears rolling down her cheeks.

Like I said, the bus was packed so there was a man sitting next to her, and two people directly across from her. I was one “row” behind her but I had direct view of her face because she was seated in that middle “accordion” section of the bus where the seats face inward.

She had her iPhone glued to her ear as whoever was on the other end was breaking the sad news to her. It had to be sad news. Every so often she tried to blot her eyes with her sleeve. She actually wasn’t making too much noise. She wasn’t talking much and when she did talk, it was very soft and mumbled. I couldn’t hear what she had to say.

A part of me wanted to not stare. But, a part of me was also transfixed on this situation.

I started to become very sad.

Not many people cry publicly on a bus.

And, if it was some unreasonable angry situation, you would be yelling back over the phone; not be sitting quietly.

This scenario was all too familiar to me.

I’ve been that crying girl on the bus.

About a month before that quick visit to California — yes, the one where that photo above was taken — I received a call while riding the bus to work.

My dad called to tell me that my uncle had died. He had committed suicide. I felt like I was having one of those moments when life isn’t real. When you are having a nightmare and are just waiting to wake up.

Our beloved family member, who we had no idea was in need of help, had left us.

That sunny beach in California is where we had all gathered for his memorial service.

Feelings of disbelief and shock and deep sadness came rolling back to me as I looked on at this stranger who was crying on the bus. I had to stop starring for fear that I was going to start crying right then and there myself.

And, maybe her situation was nothing.

But, people do not cry over nothing on the bus.

I wanted to walk over and give her a hug, or at the very least a tissue.

Be kind to those around you. Make sure your loved ones truly know that they are loved. Tell others how you feel. If you know of someone in need of help, be there to help and support him or her.

And, if you ever see a girl (or guy) crying on the bus, be nice.

 

Dear Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I can’t believe it’s been nine years.

Nine entire years that I have been living and breathing and running and having fun — all without you.

I always dread this day, May 2nd. I’ve been so busy lately that I almost forgot. But, I don’t think I ever could. Yesterday when I realized that it was officially May, I knew right away what the next day would mean. I suddenly had a knot in my stomach and my eyes began to water as I drove to work.

I know you don’t want us to wallow and be sad. I know that I have to move on.

Never did I imagine that the mourning process would continue on like this. They say when a loved one passes, it gets easier as the years go by. I still don’t quite understand this concept.

I’m doing the Eugene Marathon next weekend and Joanna will be doing Ragnar Cape Cod. I know you’ll be our biggest remote cheerleader. We also have big marathon plans for next year, which we’ll let you know about when we have it all figured out.

Thank you for always being such a great friend.

I miss you.

Mucho love,

Kristin

Kids will be kids

Usually songs or smells are triggers. Not a billboard on the big intersection you go through every day on your drive home from work.

In fact, I’m not even sure if the billboard advertisement was new or if it had been there for weeks. But, I noticed it for some reason yesterday. It’s probably because I was second in line at the red stop light, waiting to turn left. (It’s this crazy intersection where five directions/roads meet. If you get stopped at red, you could be waiting for a bit).

Kids will be kids. We’ll make sure of it.

The two short sentences struck me instantly. I didn’t even have time to think. I was crying. I was waiting for the light to turn green and tears were streaming down my face.

Next to this simple phrase was a picture of a little girl. It was a closeup and her face was covered in dirt and her hair was disheveled. Clearly, she was having fun being a kid.

I couldn’t stop crying. I kept re-reading these two sentences over and over again in my head. As if by the fifth time, maybe it wouldn’t be as sad. It wouldn’t be as poignant. The light signal seemed like it was taking forever to change colors.

This was a billboard advertisement for the local children’s hospital. And, in my opinion, it does a good job getting their message across. This hospital will take care of your kids — so that they can continue to be kids.

But, what if that doesn’t happen?

What if the kid’s life is cut short?

What if the kid never gets a chance to grow up, to graduate college, to get a job and be married and have a family of her own one day?

These were the questions spiraling in my head.

The light finally changed and I followed the car in front of me up the hill toward my house. I was surprised that all these memories and pain came flooding back to me from one small piece of advertisement.

Yes, it was the same hospital she was getting her care at.

Yes, at the time, even at 17, she was still a kid. We were all kids.

But, it’s been nine years. Isn’t the mourning period supposed to be over?

Maybe it’s never over for those who have made a significant impact on your life. For those who truly were the best friend they could be to their friends.

Natalie, I’m thinking of you. 

The camping and running in downpours, the iron-on T-shirts, the graphic design-y stuff, and just the act of being nice to everyone … I will always remember everything you taught us and all the fun we had as kids.

I’ll make sure of it.

Thoughts, time, loss and love

Broken heart. Thinking of him. Miss him.

These are difficult hashtags to see on my feed.

Sometimes, we can never truly understand one another.

But, we can always be there for each other.

My family has taught me this over the course of the past year.

The holidays are supposed to be a happy, merry time.

They still can be.

We will just have to hold each other closer.

And remember the good memories.

So,

Even when you are at your lowest, know that you are always loved.

And that there is always someone you can turn to.


Not many want to openly discuss depression. But, it is real.

These feelings and emotions are real. This pain is real. These tears are real.

His pain was real.

I’m trying my best to forgive and I know I truly will one day.

 

Uncle, we deeply miss you. Aloha ‘Oe.

 

 

Birthdays can be hard

Birthdays were great as a kid. You got to have a party where you were the center of attention. There were cake and presents and all of your friends were there to celebrate with you.

And, as you got older there were milestones.

My golden birthday at age 8 because I was born on the 8th. Ten because you’re finally in the double digits. Thirteen because you’re finally a teenager. Sixteen because you can get your license (to drive). Eighteen because you can vote and are considered a legal adult in the eyes of America. Twenty-one because you get to have 21-runs.

But then as you get even older, birthdays become less exciting. There are no more milestones, just another year to add to your age to remind you that you are old(er). I mean, there is that whole being able to rent a car at age 25 for a “decent price” but that’s not as cool as voting or drinking alcohol, right?

This doesn’t bother some people, the whole getting older thing. Those people continue to throw parties and enjoy “their day.”

I haven’t really looked forward to getting older since 18. Every year after that has been one more year. One more year “away” from Natalie.

Sometimes when I think about it, during the weeks and days that lead up to my birthday, it makes me very sad and a little mad.

I’m getting older but she remains 18 … at least in my mind, anyway.

The more time that passes, the more disconnected I feel from her.

And I know it shouldn’t. Because, nothing has changed. Or, everything has …

All I can do in this moment is listen to U2 and think of her.

And, rather than dwell in my sadness, just walk on.

Because even though birthdays can be hard.

They can also be a celebration. So, I will do my best to be happy and celebrate as I know best — by racing a 5K on Sunday.

The second of May

Some dates you just never forget.

Tomorrow will be exactly eight years since Natalie died.

Ironically, it is also the birthday of Sarah, who passed away about six years ago.

Natalie, a childhood friend. Sarah, a teammate and college friend.

Two lives cut way too short.

And, it still brings me to tears.

I won’t be in Seattle chasing bunnies at Green Lake with you. I won’t be in Seattle playing ultimate with you.

Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the marriage of two good friends in sunny California.

I will be thinking of you both.

And I know you both will be dancing with all of us.

Absent

I kept waiting for the front sliding doors to rattle and the sound of laughter followed by a shout to echo into the house.

There was no such noise.

It was different.

Sometimes you don’t fully comprehend someone’s absence — until one little trigger sets it off. It could be the smell of something wonderful that reminds you of this person. It could be seeing a headline in the paper of this person’s most passionate human rights issue. It could be passing by a stranger who looks “exactly” like this person from the back.

The trigger always varies.

My a-little-over-a-week Japan trip during New Years was my first visit to my grandparents’ place since my grandpa died (about two years ago). The last time I was there was three years ago. It was the first time I was there, and not seeing him.

The usual dialogue of “What?? You’re going to Japan! That’s awesome!” stated by a friend, coworker or acquaintance followed by my “Yeah, I’m going to visit my grandparents,” was slightly different. My response this time was “Yeah, going to visit grandma.” I was going there to visit just one person.

Even though he had been retired from official work for some time, he still went “into work” daily — volunteering. He would come home in the evenings, always rattling that door and making his presence known with a happy greeting and chuckle.

His former students would always send gifts of assorted Japanese sweets — but usually beer — to my grandparents’ house. My dad and he would always drink a beer together at dinner. This time, my grandma bought beer from the store and my dad drank solo.

There was definitely an absence. And, I noticed it.