Yup, my dress had ripped, at the zipper seam down the middle of my back. There was no way to pin it back together that night.
I was devastated that my regal gown was ripped and ruined, but I was even more devastated at the thought of missing the rest of the dances that evening. I don't quite remember how it happened, but I do know that I ended up with someone's lacy shawl draped across my back and over my shoulders, and we danced until the ball was over. A fairly happy ending to that fairy tale of an evening.
Many of you, my "in real life" friends, know that this summer, on July 13, my husband, Andre, suddenly and unexpectedly took his own life. He had struggled most of his life, and certainly all of our marriage, with mental illness. He had refused to seek help, and no matter how hard we worked on perfecting our steps together, his demons won.
Our dance together has ended, but I am trusting that somehow, the music will go on. I even have a hope for much farther down the dance-card, that I will dance again.
But for now, as the kids and I work on clearing the emotional and financial chaos left by Andre's death, I am reflecting on all the people who stepped up to pick me up from the floor and offer me something to help cover the rip.
There were friends who came right away and helped me deal with the first responders, wash the blood off my hands and feet, make a plan for telling my kids. Friends who came and kept vigil in my house that night, comforting my nervous dog and starting the process of notifying others who could help. Someone took me and my kids to her house that night, put us in clean, cozy beds, prayed the rosary aloud to help me sleep, and fed my kids Pop-tarts and silly breakfast cereal in the morning.
My church's youth staff arrived within an hour to be with my kids that night and stayed well into the wee hours of the morning, and then returned by mid-day the next day to take them out for frisbee-throwing, walks, and slurpees, and to let them cry as needed. One brave staffer even braved the jungle of my son's room to help dig out some items that needed to disappear for a while.
Friends arrived to do my dishes, wash the laundry, put away Andre's things, and fill the fridge with groceries. One friend set up a website to schedule meals brought in, while another friend set up another website to notify our larger community and collect memorial donations. A team of fearless women (with strong backs and wonderful humor) helped me reclaim the master bedroom by moving all the furniture, re-arranging the pictures on the walls, sprinkling holy water and prayers, with a generous dose of sitting and listening to me cry.
And that was just in the first two days !
After that, people (well, they might be people, but I'm pretty sure they are angels):
- made funeral arrangements, notified people near and far, and protected me from the kinds of people who might not understand my boundaries.
- got in touch with my husband's employer, helped me fill out forms, and helped me figure out the immediate financial picture.
- cried with me, prayed with me, made sure I ate occasionally and stayed in my house at night so that I would not be alone if I woke in the night with a need to talk.
- took my kids to Six Flags, to the movies, to Waterworld, and to the mall for appropriate funeral clothes.