The Rituals

Peanut on the beach

Image by califmom via Flickr

As I was lying in bed next to my daughter, waiting for her to fall asleep, I thought about the things she does throughout the day that help her cope with losing her father. 

The moment she wakes, she reaches for his Packers hat, pulling it snugly onto her head, even on 90-degree days. It comes off only to shower, put on her horseback riding helmet, the occasional washing, or to sleep, when it’s placed atop an Ugly Doll that also belonged to Bob.

Each day, she picks out one of his shirts to wear. Her gazelle-like legs poke out from beneath one of his favorite t-shirts, most often emblazoned with images highly inappropriate for a twelve-year-old girl, but I wouldn’t think of stopping her from wearing them. It’s made all the more ironic because she’s the kind of kid that is offended by foul language and points out inappropriate “content” at every opportunity. Yet, there she is, traipsing around in a bright green shirt with an airplane on the front that’s dropping F-bombs. 

God, I love her.

Almost daily she plays the songs from his funeral slideshow—the one’s we each selected—Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe (my choice), Modest Mouse’s Float On (her brother’s), and her selection, Nickelback’s If Today Was Your Last Day.

I hate Nickelback, but we listen to it anyway. My daughter wears a Nickelback t-shirt as part of her weekly wardrobe. Why? Because it’s the one and only concert she ever attended, and her dad took her. He loved her so much he took her to see Nickelback.

That’s a lot of love, people.

These little things she does keep her connected to her memories of her dad. I fully understand that and know that she will need to do some of these things for a little while and some of them for a long while.

When Bob first died, I took the sheet from the hospital bed in our room that he’d been lying on, rolled it up and stuck it in my pillowcase where it remained for about a month. It made a big uncomfortable lump in my pillow that I didn't even notice in the beginning. I just needed it there. 

For a long time, I slept with the Ugly Doll he gave me for Christmas. I still don’t sleep on his side of the bed. In the beginning, I kept my wedding ring on, then I moved it to my right hand, and then I took it off. I wore his wedding ring for a while. Now I don't.

I wear a butterfly necklace that reminds me of the butterfly I found the day of his funeral. I keep the Fuck Cancer poster in my bedroom where I can see the faces of the people who have carried us through this and continue to carry us through.


They keep us connected to the person who’s gone, but they also help us move on with living. They’re the stuff that holds us up until we can carry ourselves.