Use what is in your cupboard.

Sunday was my goal for a second blog post. But it is now Monday, and I am past my deadline. My editor can be a hard ass, but I think she’ll understand considering the circumstances.

Battling with what to write about, I reviewed so many thoughts and ideas about quality of life, empathy, acceptance, tolerance, just to name a few. None are clicking. I promised myself that this would not turn into a “let me tell you about my grief, loss, and pain” blog.

Today I had the thought that struggling emotionally can be compared to being stuck in a blizzard or a hurricane. There is hunger, but I must use what is available to feed myself and those I love. Until the storm passes, I must simply use what I have. What is available in my emotional cupboard right now is mourning…sadness…sorrow. Pull up a chair and grab a plate.

I am truly struggling this week. Rick and I both are. When will seeing strawberries, the Celtics logo, or Casey’s number in our phone contacts no longer bring us to tears?  We wonder when it will get better; when the pain won’t feel so deep and raw…and yet we fear that same moment when the sting will subside. Will it define a moment of obtaining some relief from our loss? Or does it signify a movement of Casey’s memory further into our past? For now, we make it through a moment at a time.

In the book The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, the following passage offers thoughts about the relationship between sorrow and joy:

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

I know this to be true.

The picture you see at the beginning of this blog post is from Casey’s viewing. This was taken at the end, by me, as Casey’s siblings and partners still in attendance, were all saying goodbye to his earthly body for the last time. This picture captures the saddest, most difficult moment we have faced as a family; that most of us have faced as individuals.

But, look closely.

There is an undeniable aura of unconditional love and profound joy for the connection they share with each other, and will share eternally with their fallen brother. As tenacious dandelions make their way through the cracks in the asphalt, abounding love and joy will blossom from immeasurable loss.

I smiled wide as I took this photo and then began to sob. Rick came up beside me, gently put his arm around my shoulders, and we cried blended tears of joy and sorrow, together. Truly we wept for that which has been our delight; that which will remain our delight.

Love always wins. And so, it goes…

Love always wins. A beginning.

The 2005 sports drama film Coach Carter was played, and watched, in our house more times than I could ever count. Based on a true story of Ken Carter, the Richmond High School basketball coach, who made headlines in 1999 for benching his undefeated basketball team for poor academic performance, Coach Carter and his exploration of ethics and values, on and off of the court, made a significant impression on our boys…most especially our son, Casey.

Casey died in a car accident on July 30, 2014. Just a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, which is today. He died, in one single moment, after one very poor choice of combining alcohol with driving. For 7286 days he laughed and played, fought and cried, lived and loved, with an unmatched intensity.

It is this, his life and his light, we will celebrate. It is his death and the way that he died, we will use for good and try to educate and inform, so that we might spare others the pain brought on by such a simple, human, but tragic choice that took his life, and that of his cousin. We have learned so much already.

More at home on the court than anywhere else, Casey’s passion for basketball began when the space between the length of his arm to the ball, and the ball to the ground, had little room to spare. Nonetheless he quickly became a phenomenal ball handler by the age of 6.

The second youngest, and yet the smallest boy, in our big, blended family of 6 brothers and 2 sisters, Casey never let his lack of stature hold him back. He took on his brothers, twice his age and size, with a fierce “bring it on” determination, time after time, in front of the hoop that stood tall in our driveway.

A naturally agile athlete, throughout his school career in sports he continually challenged himself to do better, work harder, and think smarter. Ever striving to share this value with his team mates, his efforts exemplified and embodied his favorite quote from Coach Carter, spoken by the character Timo Cruz,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The poignancy of these words were not lost on Casey. Casey never played small, and he always encouraged others to shine their light, even at times when he struggled to shine his own. As a point guard on the basketball court,  a position commonly referred to as the ‘coach on the floor’, or ‘floor general’, Casey always had to know how to run the offense…help keep the focus for the team. He had to know when to go for the basket, and when to run up to the block, pass the ball, and settle for the assist.

Offering the assist, and giving the glory of the basket to another for the good of the team, is how Casey Dalton rolled. He fully understood there was no room for ME in WE and no I in TEAM. His sense of responsibility for the success of the team, over his own stats, was way beyond his years. He showed this both on, and off, the court.

In the days that have followed Casey’s death there have been so many tears…and yet the tears are not all of sadness. In fact, I would dare to say that more can be traced to an origin of joy. So many blessings lay amidst the space created when our beloved Casey Dalton moved along in his journey.

In the wake of the enormously fierce energy he left us to share on this Earth, many bridges have been repaired and rebuilt on both sides of Casey’s family. Some seem to have found their place where they once felt lost; others have been offered the undeniable chance to face their fear to fulfill their life’s purpose. Babies will be born. Dreams will be realized.

New relationships and friendships have been formed as a result of Casey’s many friends meeting some of his family members and each other.  Those ties which were weak and needed tightening have become strong again, and those already strong have now become unbreakable. And a few that were tattered beyond repair have now fallen away completely, allowing for freedom to those who felt bound.

Casey was not without flaws. He had his own battles he was fighting; this is undeniable. The true depth of his struggles died with him. But what I know for sure is this:

We have learned that it is not the love of the win, or of even the game, that drew Casey to so fiercely bounce that ball on the court; it was his love of the team… and his love of his place on it;

in basketball, amongst friends, amongst family.

He has taught us that this is what the real game is about…

so no matter the score, love always wins.

Love always wins. And so it goes…

Stories, ideas and creations of faith, hope, and love. And the greatest is love.