Pigeons Are Legit

I still miss Bryce.

[Today’s post is going to heavily reference context presented by this post from one year ago.]

The other day one of my students sat outside my house staring at the trees and said something along the lines of, “I woke up with a wave of grief today; I miss my aunt.” Her aunt passed away four years ago. She’s a sensitive student, and I’m not sure how much of her comment was aware of my own grief because she knew that Saturday was the first anniversary of Bryce’s death, and she knew I was getting my tattoo that day. She has a tattoo celebrating the memory of her aunt – just like I now have one celebrating the memory of Bryce.

I’m not sure exactly when Bryce and I decided on getting matching tattoos, but I do remember the conversation as we talked about wanting three black trees – a black forest (and three because I’m big into the Trinity) – and how he found a style he liked though we hadn’t settled on the exact design. When he passed away, I asked two students who were close to me from the same graduating class as him as well as his sister to draw me the three trees. When I was at the tattoo parlour with Lissy several weeks ago, I scheduled the appointment for the anniversary of Bryce’s passing. I put on my “Pigeons make me happy” t-shirt from Bryce’s parents on Saturday morning and sat with my grief and a cup of coffee and a croissant and talked to Jesus about the complexity of my feelings.

I was excited to get the tattoo; it’s a celebration of a life. I also was going to hang out with my friend Emily and some others later in the afternoon to celebrate Emily’s upcoming wedding. Laying on the table getting the ink professionally put into my dermis, I thought about the pain I’ve gone through in life. Several weeks ago when someone asked me if getting tattoos hurt, I replied I was the wrong person to ask. I describe getting a tattoo as a kinda unpleasant tickle. It was this fifth tattoo session where I was laying down looking at the ceiling that I finally connected that skewed tattoo pain scale with the most physical pain I’ve ever gone through: looking at the ceiling of the emergency room in the Basel Uni Hospital. Breaking your back hurts; getting a tattoo is an unpleasant tickle.

I wept for twelve hours non-stop the day Bryce died. I was so dehydrated by the end of the day, I experienced extreme muscle soreness the next day. I ate nothing other than what my friends living in my building or down the street put in front of me for the next week. I was in more emotional pain than I’d ever known.

Sitting up and looking at my arm when Benny was finished brought me a deep, deep satisfaction; a joy beyond words. I still miss Bryce. I will always miss Bryce. But I will also always celebrate Bryce.

A lot has not gone according to plan in the last 21 months of my life and counting, but I’m still doing my best to live each day on purpose. When I got home from the tattoo appointment, I had a text message from one of my first students at BFA asking if she and another former classmate could come say hi. I was overjoyed at the chance to hear how they were each doing five years after leaving BFA – and nine years since I’d met them as eager freshman in my English class. We talked about some of their other classmates and the connections we’ve maintained, and I showed them the bridge tattoo drawn by one of their classmates. One of the two has a younger sister who graduated with Bryce, and I was grateful for the chance to share my new tattoo story with them. My life is filled with these connecting stories, and I’m always grateful for them.

I texted a picture above to a group of former students in a discipleship group with me, and the response from one was, “You’re smile makes me happy!” He’s been texting me a lot this past couple of weeks asking how he can pray for me, knowing I’ve been dealing with a lot. I’m so incredibly blessed to have that extra prayer support navigating the weirdness of my life. I also sent the picture to Bryce’s sister who drew the tree in the middle. While she’s said more ridiculous things to me that I wish I could tell her older brother, I just value the fact that I still have her in my life. That kid is an absolute gift.

I’m still not ready for platitudes about Bryce’s untimely death, so leave those behind, but I’ll ask you to look to the skies. Remember, Aslan is on the move.

When the trees fall down

The stone table cracks open

That’s the avalanche

Oh, and if the Holy Spirit tells you to tell me to stand up and walk during the middle of the night, make sure that you knock on the bedroom window so I don’t get freaked out by someone at the door.

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