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All of Our Days

Upon losing you, my first coherent thought was that you had never not been here. You’ve been with me all of my days.  All of my days.

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Everything started and ended with one sunny Saturday. I answered my phone and realized I knew nothing, nothing, nothing about how this world works. One random day my brother murdered my father, I still have to remind myself.

I remember every second of the day we held your cold hands, heard the echo of dirt clashing against wooden coffin.

One day we packed your life into trash bags and boxes, stared one last time through the window of your home turned crime scene. I marveled at how it had been scraped of floors and paint and ceilings. Everything was bright white. Someone’s sweaty work hurried to cover up your messy death.

There were days I put on a brave face, but more days than those I couldn’t look a person in the eyes without mine spilling over, when the hurt was too close to the surface. I spent those days hiding.

Other days I remember to eat breakfast. I brush my hair and feed my son. I manage to laugh  & have a conversation with a friend and for those minutes or hours I am mostly normal. On these functioning days, I glance at your picture fast, quick, quick. Just long enough to smile at you but not long enough to think about how much you are gone. I’m learning to take these days as the new Good Ones, where I delicately gather up what is good today without letting my mind down the big, black hole of what happened yesterday.

The days many kind-hearted people told me about beauty from ashes and God’s perfect plan, I bit bruises into my tongue to keep from screaming at their misguided condolences. I wanted nothing more than to show them your battered, bloodied body. I would point a furious finger and ask them “Tell me, where is this holy?”. Those were days I stayed exhausted  from nodding, nodding, saying sweetly “thank you”. But I do thank them because you would, because they still care even if their kindness rubs a wound.

Sundays at church, I tried to decide if we were all betrayed by God or if I got Him and His promises all wrong to begin with. I decide it doesn’t matter. I sit outside with my chin to the sky, palms turned up and stretched out, tears streaming down my face. I am still reaching for you or God or any Father to pick me up and hold me.  I must trust enough in something.

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After 60 days we sat in Mom’s front yard, too emptied out for tears. We stared flatly as they wheeled her body away, realizing only too late that your death was hers, too. A Wednesday in September we learned that that one Saturday in July was her last heartbreak. All of her days. All of her days, too.

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Those first holidays without you both,  we cooked too many casseroles and gathered normal as we could be. We flurried around and tried to ignore the empty chairs. These are the days you seem to be missing MORE. These are the days when other people’s tidy families seem to hurt our feelings. We put the focus, then, on your grandbabies. They shoulder a responsibility they know nothing of: to be our saving grace and only happy distraction. Opening gifts and running sugared laps around the house, we try to borrow their joy.

Amid several cold, hard days I cried tears of real joy. I learned we would have a baby. My growing bump became Baby Good News. I focus on this new life on the days when the Done Lives overwhelmed me.  I rub my belly and look ahead to a sweet August day when this little boy will arrive & share your name. Something tells me he’s come from where you are.

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On pretty days I go to your grave. I clean the bronze plate & bring you artificial flowers and some part of me knows that this is silly, but more of me feels like my options for showing you care are pretty limited these days. So, I leave fake orange daisies in a vase and assure myself I’m a good daughter still.

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One day not long ago,  I sat cross-legged, head down, and wept over your grave. A lady was visiting a plot nearby and came over to me. Without pause she wrapped her arms around me and prayed words for help and peace and calm. There are these days when people swooped in like angels come to set me back on my feet. A note in the mail, a meal prepared, stopping by to see how I am doing, an embrace from a kind stranger, these gestures small but mighty save. They come with an understanding that this is the closest I get to you now, being around these people who help for no reason. Oh you’d be so proud of them.

Just  Monday we sat in a courtroom and watched your beloved boy admit to killing you. His eyes were hollowed out, his hair matted, his skin sallow and I thought, for the first time, that I was glad you were not here to witness the waste and ruin of your only son.  It would’ve killed you. I cried selfish tears realizing this legal conclusion offers us no real relief. You don’t mistake a verdict for a victory when your parents are still dead. There are no trophies to pass out.  I cried tears for you as some monotone lawyer read off the facts of your heinous death. I cried tears I can’t figure out, not for the monstrous killer in the courtroom but maybe the little boy he used to be, the one you loved and lived and died for. This was hard amongst hard days.

We’ve walked through these hundreds of heavy days with gritted teeth, bracing ourselves for the end again.

 And here we are.

Today you have been gone for one year, Dad.

Here is the hour, the minute, the second you saw your son and understood he would be the death of you. This was the time your precious head cracked against hammer, the throat that held your sweet laugh was slashed and slashed again.  This was the day your blood would spill and climb the walls. This was when you would be left in the quiet horror, alone. And by your broken self, this was the moment of your last, aching breath. This was the minute I would’ve most loved to hold your hand.  This was the day of your death, and how I’ve spent so many days since stunned by it.

This will always be the day the sun shone, the son murdered, the world outside your door kept spinning without you. Impossibly, we are left here hundreds of days since July 10th received its brutal, sacred meaning.

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I look ahead with sadness and worry and doubting trust and some small spark of hope that these days will happen  just like they have: not all good, not all bad, but all missing you. We will endure the missing and learn to enjoy some of the days.  We’ll cry when the tears come and cook too much food and pray desperate prayers and follow them with thankful prayers. We’ll shoulder the disappointment of how things should’ve been but boast accomplishment in still standing despite the catastrophe around us. I will look in trees and stars and wonder where exactly you are. I’ll still reach palms up and out for you. I’ll miss you so ferociously some days my bones will shake and I’ll think for the hundredth then thousandth time that this broken heart could kill me. But it won’t, Dad. I’ll  go to church on Sunday morning and question God’s motives on Sunday night. We’ll watch your grandbabies grow and wear their joy until it fits more like our own, more like the kind we felt when we were young and you were the gentle center of our world. I will stay troubled by your death. I will forever stay proud of your life. I will remember all of your days before the last and love you all of my days after . All of my days, Dad.  All of my days.

DAD5Jeffrey Lee Nelson

March 10, 1957- July 10, 2014

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29 thoughts on “All of Our Days

  1. I ache for your loss. Once upon a time in a different life we both blogged for love and fun. Now it is for loss and our survival. Sending much love and strength.

  2. Oh, Tori. I am so sorry. There are a million words I could say but I know they probably won’t ease your broken heart. I will say that this is a testimony to the strength passed on to you by your father. You are a fighter. I hope you can remember that for just a moment on all the days. I barely know you, but I am proud of you.

  3. Your writing is so beautiful, I feel your pain and want to ease it for you. I will pray for you that God will help you thru this trial. I am so sorry this has happened to you, losing your father, then your mother. You also lost your brother the day your father died, although in actuality, he may have stopped being the brother you knew before that. Hopefully, this new child growing in you will share more than your father’s name, help to ease your pain by having that small piece of your father with you until the end of your days.

  4. So touching and so moving. Sometimes we can never fully understand why bad things happen to us and to those we love. There are never any explanations and there are no words. Just take consolation in the fact that your sweet daddy is in a happy place where no harm, no hurt and no pain can ever reach him. I have also been in a position where i was so angry with God but i quickly learnt that we can never really question Him. He always knows what is best and even when things go sour, He has our backs. God has your back Tori. I wish you and your family the grace to bear your loss and the power to forgive and carry on. Much Love.

  5. So much love for you and your family. Your parents are still loved and thought of. I didn’t know your Dad, but all I’ve heard are sweet words spoken. I’ll remember him with you today.

  6. Both your parents are holding your new little one up in heaven, getting him ready to be with his wonderful parents. I am so sorry for this awful anniversary and send you my sincere condolences. Peace and love to you.

  7. I hope penning these words was cathartic. Terribly sorry for the overwhelming tragedy your family has experienced, but happy to hear you are expecting a new baby. I hope you all find peace, Tori.

  8. Few people can put themselves in your shoes, can feel the heaviness of your heart, day after day.

    But I hope that with each word you write about this, you transfer just a touch of your pain to the words, to the keyboard and to all of us who are wondering just what to say to you to comfort.

    There are a lot of us, and I think I can safely say that our collective arms are around you, offering what comfort we can give you.

    May you find the peace that I’m sure both of your parents now have.

  9. Tori, my heart breaks for you and your family. You are a sweet soul and that new baby inside of you is incredibly blessed to have such a loving mama as you. I’m sending you the biggest hug and a shoulder to cry on. If you ever need anything or just to talk or chat or email or whatever, I’m offering a listening ear.

    I know my words won’t bring you the comfort or peace that I wish they would, but I can still try by letting you know we all can hear your raw aching pain through your writing and are so deeply sorry for the loss of your parents. Lots of prayers and love coming your way.

  10. I can barely read your post because of the tears that are falling – both for the grief you are experiencing and for all the grief that I evidently haven’t dealt with from my own ‘July 10th’. So if I may, I would like to share a perspective that has given me some comfort as I try to heal and my hope is to provide some comfort to you too.

    A girl I went to Junior High has grown up and has children of her own. We are friends on Facebook! Her daughter has hair as bright red as her mothers and it is wonderful to read all about her. Recently, my friend reposted an old photo of her daughter when she was two and struggling with snow boots. Apparently, this gal wasn’t ready for her snow fun to be over and the red and tear stained face told the tale. The photo caught this child in a full-on tantrum, mouth frozen in a howl. Looking at it as an adult who has withstood many a tantrum from my own lot, I understand this child’s pain and how all-consuming it is. But I also understand the adults in her life love her and she is well cared and provided for.

    I think the Universe is looking at us in this way. At the very moment when our pain and grief seem all-consuming and we wonder, how in God’s name could this ever happen and how can we even possibly think of a day when it won’t take up every single thought and feeling of our being…well, I don’t know. All I can say is that the Universe knows the plan, even if it is a right-shitty one. It sees us and knows us and loves us anyway.

    Listening to the Blues always helps because I believe if you are at a place that you can sing about it, well then, it can’t be that bad. And Sister, if you can write about it, well then maybe, just maybe, you can do this. Just maybe, you’ve got this…

  11. Tori, I have no words. But in the silence know that I am praying mightily for you, wishing I could take even a tiny bit of your anguish and bear it myself – I would do that gladly. The human spirit amazes me – the capacity for a heart to bear such sorrow and pain, the capacity to feel hope in the face of seeming hopelessness, and the your breathtaking capacity for sharing your crushing anguish. Your words are raw and powerful. I hope you find strength in your beautiful memories and the hugs of those physically close enough to you to embrace you. Those of us not close enough send our love, our prayers, and our support.

  12. Dear Sweet Tori, we have never met. I grew up around the corner from the Nelson’s big stone house. I knew your grandparents and your Aunt’s and Uncles. I played in their yard and ran through their hose pipe in summer. My parents partied in their house. We all shopped at Nelson’s CeeBee. It was life in the 50’s. You are an eloquent writer and you certainly address the heart of the issue of loss. Platitudes and well meaning phrases even from the most loving and kind people do not come anywhere close to addressing the ache you feel in your whole body for the person who is no longer with you. They are however what we do, along with hugs and pats for we really don’t know what to do otherwise. My wish for you is that time and love of others for you will bring you to the place were the “good” days far outweigh the bad and the gift of life everyday will give you more peace and joy than sorrow. That you will see your father and mother’s hearts in your children’s smile. That although the horror of this day will never, ever leave you the pure joy of living, loving and being part of this amazing experience called life will soften the blow. Sometime in the future you will realize nothing is ever the same but that doesn’t diminish the present from being good,great and even wonderful. Blessings on your new baby. Love, light and healing energy to you and all the family.

  13. God bless you. May you find His perfect peace. My father committed suicide July 2, 1989. His too was a violent death. This year was 26 years and I have learned to live with it. You will too because you are strong. You make me remember what the early days were like. It takes great courage to make it through. I ache for you. Prayers. Take care Tori.

  14. Tori, your ability to write and express yourself is exceptional. My heart hurts for you! Because of this exceptional talent of writing, you might consider writing children’s books and possibly dedicating it to your dad. This could be a healing process and also beneficial to others. Writing is a wonderful outlet and could help you find inner peace.. I hope you know that you are loved and I only want you to have a positive and brighter year with the focus being on something that can bring happiness. Bad things happen, but dealing with those catastrophic events and finding a meaningful way to move forward is important. Looking forward to your next visit with Thomas Nelson, Jeffrey Peck, Tommy and you!
    Please consider my thoughts on writing a children’s book!

  15. Tears. I know there’s nothing I can say to ease the burden of your sorrow, which you capture so beautifully and profoundly in your writing. My heart goes out to you. Please keep writing and sharing.

  16. Tori, my heart hurts for you today as it has every day for the last year. I have seen first hand what drugs can do to a person through one of my own family members and it is horrific. I continue to pray for all of you because it is not God who does this but the drugs. All my love to you and your sisters and their families. I can’t wait to see the new baby and Thomas Nelson’s reaction! I think you have picked THE perfect name for two men who were dearly loved. Thank you.

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