In November of 1989 my uncle Bud, my mom’s brother, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a span of about two weeks. Our families (my Uncle Bud’s family is my Aunt Bea (yes, I have an Aunt Bea!) and cousins Cindi, Carla, Carl and Crista) spent several days in a hospital vigil---building beds out of waiting room chairs, trying to keep Bud comfortable, trying to comfort each other. My niece Maggie had been born in June that year. The first scene greeting me when I got to the hospital was my cousin Cindi walking down the hallway carrying cute Maggie. Maggie was a bundle of hope that we all sort of passed around while we navigated a very hard, sad life situation.
My mom later observed that Maggie’s presence was a therapeutic reminder that “life isn’t all subtraction,” which is what you think it is when you’re in the middle of a subtraction journey.
I was reminded of this a few days ago, January 20, when “buzzin” Cara (Dana’s “beloved cousin”) and her husband Aaron brought 8 lbs and 1 oz. of life into this world, a bundle of hope named August Christopher Chaney, pictured above. Life is not all subtraction.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more glowing set of parents and grandparents (Dane’s aunt and uncle, Jon and Becky), aunt (our other “buzzin” Kirby) and great aunt (Mama Sue!). And August would make anyone’s list of top five beautiful babies of all time!
Cara and Aaron’s pregnancy and delivery has hit me at about every level of emotion available, of joy and of grief. I don’t think anything has yet touched me any deeper than when I think about how Dane would be LOVING this experience: pride over Cara and Aaron, love for them and their new family, a glow over Jon and Becky’s evolution into grandparent-hood, joy in the new Aunt Kirby, and Dana-grade enthusiasm over whatever she’d be knitting. It’s impossible not to experience these kinds of life events without the filter of “Dana would love this.”
The knitting element was really tearing me up, and then it struck me that I could ask our knitter friends to knit something out of Dana’s “stash” (the official yarn word for a knitter’s stored yarn). Dane’s knitter friends beat me to it. When I called knitter Carrie before Christmas with this idea (for a Christmas present) she said they had already been thinking about asking me to do that. And so I was able to give to Cara and Aaron for Christmas a hat (on August’s head in the picture above) and booties knitted out of yarn Dana had picked out. Everyone needs a group of knitting friends in life.
I’m also going to be hand-delivering a couple other knitted items. In fact, when knitter Carrie came by to look at Dana’s stash, we found a pair of baby booties that Dane had knit…not knowingly for anyone but as a project for a class. Wow. Those will be in the baby rotation along with a hat the knitters knit out of the same yarn and a beautiful baby wrap from Dane’s stash. (And speaking of knitting, if you’ve not read the post on “The Afgan,” you might want to give it a look. You can click here; it's a great story of love.)
A few evenings ago I was thinking about this whole concept of addition and subtraction. I was thinking about Maggie’s presence in light of losing Bud over 20 years ago, and about August’s presence in light of losing Dane. As I pondered this my eyes went to a stack of artful old books on the end table in the living room. One of them is the diary of my grandpa Clarence Shafer, my dad’s dad, chronicling the last year of his life, 1961. This was the year I was born. In fact, Grandpa Shafer passed away in August. I was born in September. I guess I was the addition that year.
And I guess all of us were an addition of some sort when we were brought into this world. This motivates me a bit. I want to be a worthy addition.
August Christopher was born January 20. I realized somewhere around January 28 that I blew right through January 23, a monthly mark of the date of Dane’s passing (December 23, which is also my other niece Katie's birthday, a nice addition reminder); I hadn't given the 23rd a thought this month. That’s the first time I’ve done that. I was obviously so caught up in the addition brought into the world that I was distracted from the subtraction.
Maybe as we journey through life it might be good to look for the additions. These aren’t replacements for our loss, but they are additions and they will help us heal through our subtractions.
I leave you with some images from my latest life addition, and a current photo of my nieces and nephew that shows Maggie today.