The evening of March 28, 2003, was supposed to be a fun-filled, uneventful evening. It was our oldest grandson Sam’s sixth birthday. A bowling party was scheduled at 7:00 p.m. with cake and ice cream to follow at Sam’s house. Grandparents and a few of Sam’s young friends were invited. Sounds simple enough.
My husband Ralph and I and a few of Sam’s friends with their parents arrived at the bowling alley about 7:00, but Sam and his family were not there. We waited. Finally, about 8:00 o’clock, Sam and his family arrived—noticeably late.
We hugged our three grandchildren then listened to our son-in-law Bryan explained why they were late. He said he had been setting up for an early morning meeting at K-State when he accidently dropped the television, smashing it into pieces. He had to clean up the mess and would still need to buy a new TV before morning.
Next, our focus turned to bowling, and my husband Ralph and Sam went to pick out bowling balls. Sam wanted to carry his ball, and Grandpa Ralph warned him to be careful—to “not drop the ball.” Ralph had just taken off his shoes to put on his bowling shoes when it happened!
Sam dropped the bowling ball on Ralph’s right toe. Pain! Agony! Swelling! My daughter ran for a plastic bag with ice. The rest of the evening Ralph sat with the ice on his purple toe—no bowling for him!
After a couple of games, it was getting late. So Sam’s friends declined the invitation for cake and ice cream, and Bryan and a limping Ralph left to buy a new television. My daughter Misty and I decided to start toward their home with Sam and his two younger sisters.
As I was getting into my daughter’s van, Sam slammed the car door on the fingers of my right hand. I screamed and somehow managed to open the door with my left hand. My fingers were throbbing and swelling. I knew I must get my ring off of my third finger—quickly!
I found lotion in my purse, and Misty found Desitin in her diaper bag. After globbing some of both on my finger, I was able to coax the ring off of my swollen finger. We drove across the street to a little market and my daughter Misty got a cup of ice for my hand.
As we drove home, Sam said, “I did two bad things tonight”—he was feeling badly for hurting his grandpa and grandma. His little sister Olivia assertively spoke up, setting things straight. She said, “Sam, they were just accidents!’
By the time Bryan and Ralph arrived home from buying a television, it was about 11:00 p.m. We finally got to eat ice cream and cake. As Ralph and I drove home that evening, four deer ran in front of our car, but luckily, we missed them all.
We arrived home after midnight, and both of us went to bed in pain—Ralph’s toe was throbbing, and so were my fingers. As we lay in bed in the dark, we began laughing. In spite of things going wrong, we were thankful to celebrate a sixth birthday with a special grandson. In spite of the pain and mishaps, we made memories that we never forgot.
Since 2003, in my own life, I have experienced worse pain than smashed fingers. My husband Ralph died in 2006 after a battle with kidney cancer. Two close friends died in 2013, one from cancer, the other from an aneurysm. One of my sisters died in 2014 from lung cancer, and my brother-in-law died this past September from pneumonia. (My sister is struggling with the loss of her husband and faces the New Year with trepidation.)
If you too are struggling with the pain of loss, hopefully the New Year will bring you joy through special moments with those you love. Some of the small moments, some as simple as sharing birthday cake, can leave the best memories. So search for ways to create those small moments in 2016. May the New Year bring you joy and memories you will never want to forget!
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator