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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Grief and endings

Travel Rileys
In my family, the end of the school year last month signified more than just the end of another year. It was the last year that Riley’s classmates were in middle school together, the school that Riley went to. At the ceremony, many eighth graders carried pictures of Riley across the stage with them (see the assortment of Travel Rileys on the left). Riley was given an honorary certificate, and all three of the student speeches mentioned him. It was interesting to hear about his death from their points of view. It’s only recently that I’ve started to consider how his death affected other people besides myself and my family. Hearing his name in their speeches was a relief; it also left me breathless. Mentally preparing for the day was the topic of my latest piece in Six Hens.

Me, trying to smile at the dance.

Later that night, my husband and I chaperoned the 8th grade dance. I felt like an interloper because parents of 8th graders are not welcome at the 8th grade dance. An exception was made for me, and I was grateful to get to see all of those kids one last time before they head off in different directions to high school this fall. A photographer friend made some almost-life-sized pictures of Riley on foam board to have with all of the props--big hats, and crazy sunglasses, and feather boas--at the photo booth. One of Riley's friends helped coordinate a photo of me with Riley's five closest friends. I imagine in the nearly three years since he spent time with them, those kids have moved through different circles of friends. But they were willing to take a moment out of their night to let me get a photo of myself with these boys--these boys who had been at my house for playdates and sleepovers so often when Riley was alive. These boys who I cherish and who make my heart flutter whenever I see them. I so want to publish that photo here--I even smiled--but they aren't my kids and it's not my place to put their photo online. Instead, see the picture of me with my husband (and fellow chaperone) above. I have a strained smile in that photo, too.

Riley, in his signature hoodie.
There was even a slender, not-too-tall boy at the dance who was wearing a red hoodie with the hood pulled up over his head, the way Riley frequently wore his red MIT hoodie. I tried not to stare. And every time I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I did a double take. I mean, who wears a red hoodie to a middle school dance? But I'm so grateful he did. Between my photo with my five surrogate sons and the boy in the red hoodie, it was almost like my boy was there.

Or it was nothing like him being there, and it was just me clinging to anything that reminds me of him.


  1. Life is a stage doesnt turn out the way we want it to be and we face all kinds of hardships and tests but it goes on! Make urself a strong mother. And i wish God give u patience. May God give him a place in Paradise. stay strong and fight!