–What are you watching Daddy?
-It’s a memorial service for something that happened 15 years ago.
I knew he wouldn’t know what a memorial service was, but I was put on the spot and hadn’t yet worked out my answer to the question yet so I let it hang there.
The service was the now familiar reciting of names. The seemingly endless recitation of the dead that occurs every year where the towers stood. I’ve tried to listen or watch in the past, but couldn’t always make it. This year it fell on a Sunday and I had some coffee and wanted to stir the emotions that didn’t come as early as they used to. That still hadn’t really arrived until I put on the service.
As in past years two relatives or friends will recite a section of the seemingly endless scroll of names, alternating turns alphabetically until arriving at their final destination. The name of their loved one who is now gone, frozen in time, never growing older. Each year the pictures of them getting more dated as time continues to creep forward without them. When they get to their own loved one they say something to honor them, something to remember them, something to put out in the world some of the pain they carry the rest of the time. They give it out now so that others may burden some of the pain. If not for them, then at least with them. It never fails to stir me. Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
In the past my emotion would arrive earlier. It would loom large on the horizon for days just waiting their stoic, unmoved by and unaware of my concerns. This year I had yet to confront my emotions around the whole thing. It was my head that lead my heart this year.
-Why are you sad, Daddy?
-Well, something very sad happened 15 years ago. Some very big buildings fell down. I had a friend who was in one of them and when I hear about the people that were in the buildings it reminds me how sad that day was. It was very very sad.
-Did your friend die?
-Yes, he did. A lot of people did. Thousands of people died that day.
-I’m sorry your friend died daddy.
-That’s very sweet Charlie. Thank you. He was a very nice man and it is very very sad that he died. I’m sad.
I shattered into a million tiny pieces.
I’m not used to this. It’s completely foreign to me, in fact. These tiny little people are not so tiny anymore and while there has been love and pain and joy and pride and so many threads that bound us together since the beginning, this is new. This compassion and concern emanating from him. This expression of love and thoughtfulness, this true recognition of such a sorrowful moment and his wish to comfort me felt overpowering but it wasn’t. It was tender and gentle and disarming. I shattered not because the weight of the moment. No. It was the complete removal of defenses that his loving words brought me that turned me to thin glass that crumbled under the weight of a whisper.
-I could draw a picture of him!
He is five and I love love love his pictures.
-That would be amazing, Charlie. Would you like to see a picture of him.
So I searched for Darryl L. McKinney and there he was, the same tight, zoomed black and white tight shot, his head turning. The same action shot on the court in his college uniform, the picture of athleticism and youthful energy. The shots I see every year at this time. The one’s I’ll always have. The ones that will sadly never change.
-Daddy, how do you spell Darryl?
I spelled it out for him from the couch where they were up to the ‘L’ names.
-How do you spell love?
It was all their now. All I wanted was that one minute. I hoped it would be a family member of Darryl’s up there, telling of his life and saying some kind words past tears. I hoped I’d be able to see something of him in that face. It wasn’t t be however. I think they mispronounced his middle name. Only slightly.
-Daddy. Do you like it? That’s him and that’s you.
I love it. I love it so much.