I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated.
For me, death is a graduation. - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Flowers gathered in armloads.
Candles lit along walkways.
Purple ribbons tied round trees
Since the shootings in my neighborhood, I've joined in the spontaneous efforts to honor and celebrate the three young lives that were lost.
I painted my big red balls purple, and every evening, I place three lit candles - one for each lost soul - in front of them.
I've helped to wrap purple ribbons round the thirty-eight trees along the main road outside my neighborhood and keep a couple fresh hydrangea blooms tucked into each oversized bow.
So this week, as the one-month anniversary of the shooting came round, I began to wonder:
How long do I keep this up?
I peppered my family with questions and Googled proper mourning periods. No one gave me a concrete answer. And in the absence of any defining information, I began to tell myself that a month is long enough.
I mean, all this candle management and flower harvesting adds at least an extra half hour to my daily chores. And the cost of the candles definitely adds up over time.
So, I told myself, a month is long enough. I'll stop after that.
It was that last night, as I was setting the candles down on the sidewalk, that it hit me.
Three people are dead.
Their short lives are gone. Blown out in a snuff.
Their parents, siblings, families and friends will ache for the rest of their own lives with missing them.
And I'm complaining about lighting a few matches and snipping a few flowers?
How does the cost of a few dozen candles compare to a human life? Is it too great a sacrifice for me to cut out a few dollars from my budget in order to honor three human beings?
That snapped me out of my selfish little reverie. And while it's certainly true that I am not done grieving for Anna, Jake and Jordan, another idea hit me too: I want more time to celebrate their lives too.
These icons of shock and loss and death are also emblems of three shining lives.
So let the tears mingle with laughter, and let my daily remembering of Anna, Jake and Jordan continue for as long as it feels right.
* * * * *
I light a fourth candle each and every day,
but this one does not go on public display with the others.
Up on my porch, close to my front door,
this candle burns for the fourth life that is forever changed by the shooting.
This candle burns for Allen.
* * * * *
To read more about this tragedy and the healing in its aftermath, try: