October 29, 2017: Eye-Opening Book

A year ago today, we (our family of four) went to a Halloween-themed dinner with Matt’s parents. Afterward, I texted a friend and told her we’d had a nice night, but it was obvious that Matt wasn’t Matt—a son, father, husband, and business owner.

But this is a story I’ve told before. Matt wasn’t Matt and I missed him even when I was looking at him. Matt wasn’t Matt and despite my best attempt, I’m not going to be able to pinpoint the moment that he vanished. By October 29, so much of him was gone and the story passed without me spotting those lasts. So, what’s the story for today?

Truly, I don’t know.

The other day, I saw The Hate U Give, an incredible, eye-opening book turned incredible, eye-opening movie. Throughout the movie, my thoughts kept flashing back to March 2017, when Matt and I stayed for a week in North Carolina and Matt became one of the 61 people to participate in the Phase I poliovirus vaccine clinical trial. I’ve written about that week. In fact, the incongruity of living Post Hope while my thoughts constantly flashed back to that week was the reason I started this blog. But when I wrote about that week, I left out one inconsequential detail.

Seven months and two hundred(ish) posts ago, I plucked out the key moments from our week at Duke: the sushi dinner before the biopsy, the biopsy, the long wait for the pathologists to confirm the presence of GBM before the infusion could begin. I did not write how Matt and I passed the time during the 6.5 hour long infusion. We chatted. We watched television. And we read. He read The Hate U Give.

Matt was not a big reader. He would say he mostly read books while he was traveling, and if his travels happened to end before he finished the book—well, the book might remain unfinished. (As an avid reader, this idea horrifies me, but that’s irrelevant to this story.) He read mostly books by Lee Child (the Jack Reacher series), Harlan Coben, and me. (He liked to think of himself as my biggest fan and loudest editor.)

On March 30th, with 6.5 long hours stretching out before us, I handed Matt the book I’d just finished reading. I told him he absolutely had to read it. Yes, it was young adult (YA) and, no, there’d be no former military police officer investigating a kidnapping to save the day, but he had to trust me. He started the book during the infusion and kept reading even after we’d landed back in New Jersey. He’d been as moved by the book as I was.

I think (though I could be wrong) that it was the last book he read. I wish he’d gotten to see the movie.

I’m not sure what my point is. Watching the movie may have simply triggered a minor grief wave. Maybe I’m rambling because, as I admitted, I don’t have a new angle in which to tell the story of today. Maybe I just want to give the movie (and book) a plug. Maybe I’m still trying to understand loss, which is concept that may never make sense.

Eleven families in Pittsburgh are waking up this morning and also trying to understand loss. I can’t imagine their grief or the depth of their pain after a senseless tragedy. I can say only that I do believe love is stronger than hate, even on the darkest days.

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