On April 11, my son turned 23 years old. In celebration of his birthday, he wanted to spend the day at Powell’s Books in Portland and then go to dinner at one of his favorites, Sweet Tomatoes. It had been eight days since my hysterectomal hollowing (yes, I conjured that word using my own wand focused intent.) I was tired and in pain, even with prescription pain pills, but I wanted to spend the time with my son on his special day and his dad was driving so I was happy to be able to join.
Powell’s Books, for those unfamiliar, is a massive place. They describe themselves on their website as occupying an entire city block and stocking more than a million new and used books in 3,500 sections, making them the largest book store in the world. There are 3 city block levels full of books. Awesome is the only word that fits, and it is, without a doubt, that!
We arrived and parked, wandered in and went our separate ways. Since Dannica’s passing, reading hasn’t been for me what it once was. It’s been terribly difficult for me to get into anything that isn’t somehow comforting, whereas, before Dannica’s passing my reading list was full of Diana Gabaldon, Terry Goodkind, E L James, George R.R. Martin, Deborah Harkness, and Stephen King, among many others.
I have books on my Kindle, unfinished and awaiting my return but since Dannica’s passing most of what was my passion has passed as well, so I really felt a bit lost in this City of Books where I once would have gone crazy just to keep from spending every penny of disposable income at once!
The first stop I made was the coffee shop to get a green tea. They let you wander the store with your beverages! I began to wander. I wasn’t there for anything in particular other than time with my son and, as I said, I was tired and in pain, so I hoped to find a comfy spot to sit, sip and read whatever was closest, I didn’t care what. On my way to wherever, I found myself walking through isles of books and, for once in my life, not caring what they were, just touching them with the fingers of my right hand, holding my hot tea in my left; like a child with a stick in those old movies, where they walk mindlessly, just making clatter along a white picket fence.
Suddenly, I lost my balance, but what actually happened was I was pushed, from my right shoulder, where my hand was touching the spines of books and where I was passively looking. This shift in motion forced me to find my balance by grabbing the shelf to my left, where I had not been looking and suddenly now was. The next book I saw was entitled, “I’m not dead, I’m different… Kids in spirit teach us about living a better life on earth.” I shit you not.
I stood there staring at the book. I grabbed the book. I held it to my heart and I cried. To my knowledge, I was alone in that isle of books in that city of books but I couldn’t have been to be pushed that way. I felt Dannica with me there just the way I feel here, in this isle of homes in this city of homes in the town where I live…and she pushed me! It’s something she would have done and did do when we’d walk together…bump my shoulder with hers, playfully, until I’d lose my balance. I came home that day with ONE book out of over a million possibilities when I wasn’t looking for a single thing other than a comfy chair and maybe an interesting magazine.
I read the book that weekend. I read it again. I ordered a bunch of copies and read it once more. There are many stories I could tell of the people I was guided to give the copies to but here I will share only mine; this book brought me so much comfort, changed my thought patterns and my grief patterns and validated my beliefs that my daughter, my Dannica, is not gone. She’s not dead, like that emergency room doctor callously heartlessly told me she was. I knew he was wrong.
We left the City of Books and sat together at dinner. My son’s dad asked him, as he always asks the birthday person, “What wisdom have you to offer for having lived 23 years on earth?” My son said he’d need to think about that for a minute.
After a long minute, maybe several, he replied, “I have learned that it is possible to be very sad and very happy at the same time.”
What hell he’s been through for such wisdom. What hell we’ve all been through. I struggle every day to remember that happy and sad are possible within the same heart. If that is possible, so much more becomes possible. I’m so grateful for the gifts I received on my son’s birthday and for the gift that he is every day of my life.