Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I’ve taken to measuring things. I was going to say, not things in general but generally, I do. Measure most things. Like the length of my steps, to see if they’re even. The twists of a water bottle cap or an apple stem. I count. I count going down a flight of stairs, but not up. Flossing my teeth, I count the swipes. I set the volume on even numbers, unless it’s close to 15 and then I prefer 15 over 14 or 16. I measure the distance between the wall and my yoga mat, the coffee table books and the edge of the coffee table and I will get back in my car and park again if I’m not safely inside the lines.

The newest thing I’ve taken to measuring is much trickier. There are no tangible guides. It’s more gut guess work. I guess I’d say I’ve taken to measuring pain.

So you can get an idea of where my pain might measure up, I will tell you this. In the last year, both my brother and sister died sudden tragic deaths, less than eight months apart. Surviving these tragedies is my pain. And every pain I come in contact with rubs up against mine.

Listening to a podcast of This American Life, a blind man tells me about taking his baby for a walk on a bustling crowded city sidewalk. Reading in the New Yorker, a father discovers a tumor in his 9 month old baby’s brain.

I find solace in reading a book about a boy whose father dies in one of the twin towers. I didn’t lose my spouse. I am not about to die. I am not blind.

Hearing about my friend’s mother going through radiation is MORE.
Hearing about my friend’s little boy with seizures is MORE.
Hearing about my friend’s grandfather with Alzheimer’s is MORE.

Hearing about pains that measure as more than mine feels fine. In fact, those pains seem to soothe. It’s the ones that feel less that hurt. They jab at my eyes and make me crinkle my face and tense up my forehead. They stab at my lungs making it hard to take a breath. Really? I’m supposed to care about that?

Before you stop reading, please be assured that my pain is wrapped in a healthy layer of guilt. I know a person’s experience is relative. I know each bears burdens that no one else could possibly see or understand. I know that connected to the disappointing audition, disastrous haircut, ass-hole boyfriend, nagging mother-in-law, there is usually more.

And, believe me, I know that before my brother and sister died (young and hopeful with spouses and books by their beds and best friends and to-do-lists and dreams) I knew nothing of this measure of pain. Nor would I wish this upon my worst enemy, as they say. Which I now know they really mean.

And I now know MORE. And I can’t know less.

So here’s where I feel others measure – my progress. I am told (not in so many words, but sometimes) that I am stronger than this, that I seem like I’m doing so much better than I was, that I am lucky I am married, that I am growing so much through this terrible tragedy. And that, in time, it will be better, I will be better. Which I truly truly truly want to believe.

So I begin measuring time. The distance between the present and the phone call in the middle of the night. I measure the time between that phone call and the next phone call in the middle of the night. I count. I count sympathy cards and Facebook posts and voicemails and missed days of work. I note how many days (and then weeks) since I last checked in with my nephew or my sister-in-law. I note how many days (and then weeks) since anyone checked in with me.

As last year becomes two years ago and two year becomes ten, who will tell me where my pain is supposed to be? There is an expectation (most of which is self generated, some of which is not) that the pain will become less and the ______ will become more. Much more. But what is the _____? And what if it doesn’t become? More or less?


  1. powerful and wonderful and heart-wrenching and beautiful....

  2. Gorgeous. Just like you. Keep it goin woman.

  3. Yes, thank you . . . for your beautifully raw honesty.

  4. Continuing to pray for you Kimberlee. No one truly knows what you feel except you. People can relate, but death, time, distance and measurement is different to everyone. It seems like when you lose someone, that the memories of them start to fade. I find that to be one of the hardest things to deal with when thinking of people that have gone before me. Each day you will find strength....somehow getting through all of it makes you stronger, makes you love harder and makes you fight longer. Blessings to you always.