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Welcome! This is a blog about life after losing my mom (on April 7th, 2014), running (or not, depending on injuries), being a 'mama' to Grace, 13, Genevieve, 11, and Joseph 6, and teaching 13-18 year olds in Philadelphia. Thanks for being here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Got To Go Through It

I am 40 years old, my mom died three years and eleven months ago, and I am still finding my way. I write this thinking about my cousin, my mom's niece, who lost her first born son when he was two years old. I write this thinking of my aunt, my mom's biological sister (my mom was adopted), who lost her husband when he was 69, after nearly 50 years of marriage. And I write this thinking of all the dear ones lost by my sweet students over the years, students who have returned to class bravely, or not feeling brave at all, but facing the same terrible monster nonetheless. I am sure they are still finding their way, too.

The family makes its way through the big, dark forest in
Going on a Bear Hunt. Image from The Guardian.
Click HERE
My mom was diagnosed with the Stage IV melanoma that would take her from us in April during the summer, right after we had returned from Madrid, where we shared an apartment with her friend Jill and she helped me care for my kids while I worked. Jill gave my two-year-old son a book that summer, Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's We're Going On a Bear Hunt, a children's classic that quickly became his favorite. I read it to him countless times that year, so many times that I could recite it to you now, nearly five years later. We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We're not scared. Oh-oh! Grass! Long, wavy grass. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh, no! We've got to go through it! The next page is a picture of the family making their way through the long, wavy grass. And then the book repeats. We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We're not scared. Oh-oh! A river! A deep, cold river. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh, no! We've got to go through it! We then see the family wading their way through a deep, cold river. Then there is mud (thick, oozy, mud), a forest (a big, dark forest), and a swirling, whirling snowstorm. Each time, the family wants to go over it, or under it, or around it. Anything but face it. But they have to go through it. There is no other way. And they do. Over and over again, on their way to the bear. We've got to go through it. Six times they stop, six times they don't know what to do, and six times they continue on until they are in that narrow, gloomy cave with the bear. And when they see him, when they come face to face, they realize what they are looking at and run back to their house, where they run up the stairs, jump into bed, and hide under the covers, together.

To me, this is grief. It seems impossible sometimes. Other times, not so bad. I am with people I love. I am going through it. But then, in the cave, face to face with the bear, it's too much. Back to the house! Back to the bed! Under the covers! And on and on, as bravely as possible.
This image is not from the book but rather from the
TV adaptation of the story, which
apparently left many children in tears when they
watched it Christmas Eve, 2016.
Click HERE for the image and story. 

The last page of We're Going on a Bear Hunt is an illustration of the bear, with slumped shoulders, walking back to his cave by the light of the moon on an empty beach. Perhaps he is not so scary after all. Perhaps, if we were to meet him, he would even be a friend, the picture seems to suggest. I like thinking of it that way. The bear as friend, the cave as shelter. No reason to be scared after all. The journey to meet him is an adventure, and we've got to go through it. Yes, this is how I like to think of it. And deep down, when I am not running scared, I even know it to be true.

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