DC widow Marjorie Brimley at her husband's gravesite
Missing Shawn

Falling Trees

It was the first day of Sunday school yesterday, and my children happily went to their classrooms which meant I had 45 uninterrupted minutes to drink coffee and talk to other adults. I hadn’t been to church in a while and so the time passed quickly as I caught up with all my friends. Soon it was almost time to go get the kids. All of the sudden I heard a loud noise and the power went out. “I’m going to get my kids right now,” I said to my friend Kristin.

“I’ll go get the big kids and you get the little kids,” she said.

I went downstairs, but the teachers decided to finish the lesson using the natural light. Everyone seemed content, so I waited in the dark hallway. Kristin came down after a few minutes. “I sent the big kids outside with Liam’s grandparents,” she told me.

Eventually, the little kids were released and Kristin and I parted. I went to the playground to look for Claire. Then, out of nowhere, there was a huge “BOOM!”

It sounded like a cannon went off. All of the kids started screaming. I picked up Tommy and grabbed Austin’s hand. “We need to find your sister!” I yelled at them. I was panicking.

I ran to the other side of the playground. Where was Claire? I sent a text to everyone I knew with the words, “WHERE IS CLAIRE???” on it. Then I saw Kristin. “Claire’s across the street,” she said, and I ran with the boys.

I saw her standing with Liam and his grandparents. They were jumping up and down. There was a huge explosion!” they both shouted.

I grabbed her. She was okay. So was everyone, it seemed. Liam’s grandparents explained that the big tree in front of the church had fallen and taken down a utility pole with it. Minutes later, the transformer had seemingly exploded. From what I could see, it didn’t look good.

Just then, a woman came towards us, yelling, “move down the hill! They are worried there may be more explosions like that. We need to all get out of here.”

“This is serious, kids,” I said to Claire and Austin, “and it’s time to go quickly to our car. Come on!”

We made it home okay, and our power came on shortly thereafter. The kids were really excited to tell Grandpa Tom about the drama of their day. To them, it was the best thing that had happened all weekend. Honestly, it was a God-damn miracle that no one was hurt.

I could barely hold it together. I laid down on my bed and looked at the ceiling fan and tried to understand why I was so shaken. I guess it should have been clear to me, since I’m sure it’s obvious to my readers at this point in the story. But it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

I started to cry. Why wasn’t Shawn there? Why wasn’t he with Claire? Why couldn’t I text him?

It had been a 2-minute drama, and it shook me to my core. I texted some friends and got playdates for my big kids that afternoon. I knew where I wanted to go.

A few hours later, I loaded up the car and Tommy and I drove out to the cemetery. “Everyone here died!” he announced as we arrived.

We walked over to Shawn’s grave. Of course, Tommy can’t read yet, but he loved looking at Shawn’s grave anyway. I sat down and stared out at the cemetery. “There are balloons way down there,” Tommy said, “and I’m going to go touch them!”

“Okay,” I said, laughing a bit. He ran amongst the graves, down the hill to a balloon that was tied to a grave. When he got there, he batted at the balloon and waved back up at me.

It was such a beautiful sight. There was my baby, happily playing with a balloon in one of the most picturesque places in Washington. Tears streamed down my face. He was delighted to be in the cemetery. He ran around in circles and then and chased the geese that gathered nearby.

“I wish you were here today,” I said to no one, really. I know that Shawn is gone, and I know that even if he’s somehow still a part of the universe, I don’t have to be at his grave to tell him I’m thinking of him. But sometimes I feel like the cemetery is the best place to tell him how much I miss him.

Yes, I am slowly coming back into myself, but there are still many times when I miss Shawn with a level of desperation I can’t quite explain.

Yesterday was one of those days.