December 29, 2017: Minor Details

True to the pattern we’d established, one year ago today, after one of our worst days, we (our family of four) had a better day.

I don’t have any emails or photos to share from today. I have a few text messages that give our day an outline—we (our family of four) took a trip to the grocery store and made it out without a scene. But I have nothing more, no stories of overwhelming changes, for better or worse; no razor sharp edges or moments of light. Which meant that December 29, 2017 was an easy day. Though the definition of easy day had drastically changed.

When I think back to these days, I remember most clearly the minor details that told their own story about Matt, about how much of him was missing.

Matt’s sneaker collection rivaled my shoe collection (probably overwhelmed my shoe collection) and he’d always been meticulous about matching his sneakers to his outfit. But by December 2017, he’d started wearing the same pair of Carolina blue sneakers every day. He’d always been meticulous about organization, but by December 2017 he’d started leaving things in his pockets—hats, gloves, papers, potato chip bags. He’d started wearing the same shirts in rotation rather than looking into his closet for other options. He’d started sleeping in socks.

The sneakers he chose, the chips he bought, the socks at bedtime. Everything from his sneakers to his undershirt to his choice of potato chip spoke to how much of Matt was truly missing. All minor details. Minor details that were clinically insignificant when compared to all the other changes that made it into his medical file. But minor details are sometimes the details that matter most to a heart and a soul and a family. I remember the minor details as well as I remember every MRI.

In a very early post, I noted it was hard for me to believe that Matt was the person we lost on February 3, 2018. I said in that long ago post that I couldn’t explain why until I told our story. The explanation is becoming clearer. Matt wasn’t Matt. What he said, how he acted, how he dressed, and how he slept— None of it was familiar.

In Post Hope, I’ve been struggling to write the story of our days. Identifying, describing, and understanding our hope feels almost disingenuous given the ever-present countdown in my mind. Explaining our hope while also staring down the fact that our hope wasn’t enough to save us feels almost forced. Writing about hope while drowning in the memory of how it felt to just barely hold on is simply impossible.

But maybe that’s because I’m no longer writing about the kind of hope that was the brightest star in the sky, the kind that looked like a miracle and was featured on 60 Minutes. That hope was always there, an ever-present light glowing in the background. But the hope I’m writing about during these days is different. It’s the hope for a calm morning, a quiet car ride, a forgotten pair of sneakers, and a shared smile. The hope that I might see Matt when I looked at him. The hope that Matt might see me when he looked at me.

The hope that infused these days was softer, quieter, maybe naive and full of denial, but no less formidable. Because the hope that infused these days survived despite razor sharp edges, unfamiliar details, and moments that felt impossible to withstand. The hope that infused these days deserves a story, too, even one that may be hard to write.

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