The Envelope

This morning, I received an envelope in my work mailbox. That’s nothing new, I always have mail in that box. The envelope was addressed to me, handwritten, and I didn’t really think about the sender’s name. It was vaguely familiar, but I was in full work mode, and it didn’t fully click.

Ten minutes later, in my office, I opened that manila envelope and pulled the pages from inside, and felt like someone had reached into my rib cage and ripped my heart right out of my chest… And I started to cry.

The pages had picture after picture of Sam, in first grade, taken by the sender who was student teaching then. The pictures are beautiful, full of life, laughter, curiosity. They show Sam measuring, poking, talking and thinking. They are spectacular. And they broke my heart anew. To be clear, it was an incredibly sweet and kind thing the person did in sending them to me, it was a gesture of love, but it still kicked me really hard.

I love pictures of Sam, you all know that. But, I think it was that I was so unprepared for them — at home, in my safe zone, maybe they wouldn’t have hurt so much. In my work zone, it was like being skinned alive. There he was, so beautiful, so full of life — and so not here in person any more.

After getting myself back together the best I could, I thought a lot about the envelope. Was it because it was at work that it hit me so hard? Because I am so raw emotionally right now anyway? Because they were so unexpected? Because I miss him so much? Why did it hit so hard?

The simple answer is love. Grief is love that can’t be shared with the recipient in person any more. I saw those pictures, and the rush of love was so strong, it almost broke me. Now, hours and hours later, I am so thankful for those pictures, and someday, I will be ready to open that envelope again.

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