I think about John every day, of course. I think about grief every day, too, sometimes as an abstract concept and sometimes in direct relation to how much it still hurts that John is gone.
Today, eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I've had grief in general and my own loss on my mind more than usual. John's death was, of course, not related in any way to what happened on 9/11/01. But throughout the day, as I would think of John, I would also think of how many people became widows or widowers, how many people lost children, parents, husbands, wives, partners, sons, daughters . . . friends, loved ones. People die every day. People experience loss every second. But to experience so much loss, in such a cruel way, in what amounts to an instant, that is rare and almost incomprehensible.
I was struck this year by how little seems to have been done this year to remember those who died on 9/11. I don't recall mention of it on NPR as I drove in this morning. I confess that it was not at the forefront of my mind this morning, not until Maddie and Riley asked me if I would read them a story before I left. They chose a library book I'd never read to them before, one they'd picked out while with our nanny. It was the story of a little girl whose dog dies. It was a well done book (wish I could remember the name, and it went back to the library today, darn), truthful without being scary or overwhelming, not at all pandering, not motivated by fear. After reading the book, Maddie, a girl who has emotional maturity that most adults will never attain, was very clingy. She didn't want to give her nanny—who she loves—a hug, she wanted me to carry her out to the car to say goodbye, she wanted to go with me to work, she wanted to snuggle me. She happened to be holding a stuffed puppy, one of her many plush companions.
"Are you worried that pink puppy might get sick?" I asked. She'd been peppering me with questions about why the dog in the story got sick, why it couldn't walk anymore, why it slept all the time.
"Yes," she replied, holding her puppy closer.
"Pink puppy is not going to get sick, Love. Stuffed animals don't get sick like that. They don't die."
That seemed to reassure her, at least enough that she let go of me so that I could climb in the car, and gave me a smile and wave through the window when I rolled it down as I pulled away.
The conversation did spark something that made me remember that it was 9/11. And it made me think of John. And loss. And grief. And how the pain may fade, but it never truly goes away.