After Thao died I remember wanting people to treat me like normal. I wanted to be normal again. The normalcy I expected and had once known never came. Instead we have a new normal. Of anticipating heaven. Of creatively celebrating and remembering his life. Of gathering around a small boy's grave.
For Thao's tenth birthday we gathered. We cried. We ate his favorite cookies. We planted a tree for our adventurer. We released balloons and shared memories. It was nice but not wonderful. It was a good gesture, a simple attempt, but never enough. It will never be enough.
Once people began to treat me normal again, once the new normal settled in, I started to want the opposite. I felt like everyone had moved on and forgotten. I was left behind. I appeared normal on the outside, but inside so often I wanted to scream. "Don't you see the hole in my life? Don't you know what I'm missing? Nothing is complete."
Getting to know new people is always difficult. "How many children do you have?"
Normal things are no longer normal. Simple questions have complicated answers. (And often scare people away.) Nothing will ever be the same.
Yet, we can still choose joy. We still risk our hearts to love. And honestly, I think we do that more openly and generously than ever before. But it's never far from my mind when I meet new people. I often wonder ... what is your story? Have you had to learn a new normal?
We aren't that much different, you and I. Mine is the death of a child. Yours may be an unmet expectation or the feeling of just not measuring up. It may be divorce or rejection. Or illness. Or maybe you are just alone. We all have something behind the simple questions.
We all have a story.