A profound post from my daughter, Ali…
This is grief. When I see this picture, I see grief.
The waves rush in, in sync with the flood of his own emotions. He’s a dad on the 10th anniversary of his son’s death.
It’s summer at the shore. Ocean City, New Jersey, in fact. His son’s favorite place. He’s wearing a shirt that bears his son’s name to feel even closer to the boy he can no longer hug. Families are spread across the miles of sand. Hundreds of people and at least three broken hearts. There may have been other broken hearts that day, but the thing about grief is that it’s so often experienced in silence.
This day, time stopped for this dad. It was 1:55pm on July 14, 2017 – 10 whole years without his son. Around him, though, kids, family…life was bustling. Families with new babies. Families celebrating birthdays. Families and friends reuniting. But this dad wasn’t whole; his boy wasn’t beside him. His boy is gone.
Of the hundreds on the beach that day, two saw his pain. Two knew a version of his pain… in their own ways. His wife quickly made her way to the water and wrapped her arms around him. No words needed to be spoken for the message to be known – “I’m with you.” I’m with you, if and when you want to talk about it. I’m with you, in this pain. I’m with you, on the good days and the hard days. I’m here to support you.
Together, through tears, they stared out at the ocean. I’m willing to bet, their mind was showing them the same picture mine was when I looked at those waves – Andrew. Andrew diving into waves, jumping over the waves, and riding them onto shore. Just as he’d done time and time again.
I was the third broken heart on the beach that day. I am the sister and I am the daughter. I watched as my mom saw my dad’s pain and made her way to him. All of us were feeling our own pain that day, recalling individual memories of our time with Andrew and sharing memories we made together as a Family of 4, but we saw each other’s pain too. Watching as my mom joined my dad, I saw her become his support. With waves crashing around them, coming ashore and being sucked back into the ocean, I saw grief.
Ride this wave with me… When one is grieving, the waves can suck you away. Some days, getting sucked away feels like the only, the easiest, or the best option. Grief is exhausting. My dad stood there, with his feet planted in the sand, but only had so much strength left. You see, he had already been weathering the beating of the waves for some time. The ocean is powerful. Grief is powerful. As the waves continued to crash, he continued to grieve. His legs inevitably got tired, just as a grieving person does. Then, my mom showed up and held onto him. Now, instead of two legs holding him in place, solidifying his footing, and giving him strength, there were four. Together, they were resisting the push and pull of the waves sucking back into the ocean. Together, they were stronger. I took this picture because I wanted to remember it forever. It was a hard, hard day as we marked 3,650 days without our brother and son. That day I saw grief. I felt it too, but I also saw so much strength. My parents don’t know that I took this picture. (Surprise, Mom and Dad.) I took this picture to be reminded of the strength we have when we work together. I took this picture because I don’t know how I could have made it through these 10 years without their modeling. Yes, we all grieve differently and those waves hit us hard at different times, but I’m stronger because of them.
So often, those grieving say, “I’m fine” when the truth is, they’re hurting so badly. So often, those grieving smile, when the truth is, it took so much of them to muster up the energy to form that little smile. So often, all those grieving want is to know that their loved one is remembered by others. See, the thing is, those grieving will never forget that their loved one has died.
Elizabeth Edwards said it best:
them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that
they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What
you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and
…that is a great gift.”
And, it just so happened that we got our own sign that day in OCNJ. Forgive me for not recalling your name, but I hope you read this and know what it meant to us. You were there that day. Of all the places you could’ve laid your towel for your day at the beach, you were right next to us. You wore a UDance shirt with a B+ logo on it. In the B+ logo, UDance, NYDM, NovaDance, and all of the other incredible events across the country to benefit The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, I see my brother’s legacy. My dad spoke to you that day and thanked you for wearing the shirt. I’m sure it was just the shirt on the top of your pile that morning, but for us, it was someone remembering our boy.
To anyone who is reading this, please remember Elizabeth Edwards’ words. She said what I’ve been thinking and feeling for the past 10 years. Saying my brother’s name to me won’t remind me that I can’t hug him. I live with that. I know that. Saying my brother’s name to might just be the strength I need as the waves are hitting me hard. It might just be the strength your family member or friend needs too.
– Andrew’s Sister/ Ali