Things Are Not What They Seem

One of the things bereaved parents would like you to know is this:  Even though they may seem pretty together and functional; even though they smile, though perhaps not very brightly and not for very long; and even though it seems like they are moving on with life, there are many, many things going on inside them that you cannot know about.  Things you cannot see; things that are not possible for you to notice.

For instance, a simple drive into town for groceries can be an emotionally exhausting experience that churns up a lifetime of memories and feelings.  You have no way of knowing that, for me, almost every street in the whole city has some sort of memory associated with it.  This is comforting, yes, but painful, too.  You see me looking out the window at passing cars and buildings.  But actually, I am looking for Hans’s car or hoping to see him coming out of a store.  Going into Fairbanks for the day is an emotional workout for me.

A Day Trip to Fairbanks, Alaska

Imagine if you will, you are with me in the car and we are spending the day shopping and running errands.  What you see and what I see as we drive around town are two very different things.  We are looking at the same scenery, but we are not seeing the same things.

We pull up to the Safeway gas station and you see pump #1 is available so you stop the car at the pump and hop out to pump the gas.

I, on the other hand, have my gaze fixed on pump #2 and my heart begins to hurt.  Pump #2 is where Hans gassed up his car exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes before the crash.  I know this because I found the receipt in his jacket pocket: 1/11/16; 02:48:54 PM; 8.126 gal. for $22.18.  I imagine him there at pump #2 wearing the black and white jacket and sunglasses, so handsome, happily pumping gas, not knowing he had a little over three hours to live.

I turn away from pump #2 and look straight ahead.  You would see a fast food joint, a traffic light, and a couple of scrawny birch trees.   But I see something else.  Between the Carl’s Jr. sign and the Fred Meyer entrance sign, beyond the scrawny birch trees and the traffic light, I see a funeral home – the very one where I last saw my son’s face.

I shift my eyes to the left.  You would see a hotel.  I see a hotel, too, one that I know has a very nice restaurant upstairs.  I know this because our family has eaten there many times.  In fact, Manfred and Hans ate breakfast there often while working on the last house of the season a few months before Hans left us.  I know exactly which table they sat at – I can’t seem to take my eyes off this table when we eat there now.

But back to the gas station and the shopping trip.  I force my eyes to look beyond pump #2 to the Safeway store itself.  You see a grocery store.  I see the parking lot in front of it where Manfred and Hans used to sit drinking ice tea on their lunch breaks.  This is the parking lot from which they always called me to ask if I needed anything from the store.

I swivel my head a complete 180 degrees.  You see another grocery store.  I see through the walls of it into the toy department where Manfred and I used to let the children blow off some steam before getting back in the car for the trip home.  They had a T.V. and a couple of little chairs in the toy department in those days and that is where I would sit nursing the current infant and then change the current infant’s diaper behind that rack of clothes where the boys’ clothing department adjoins the toy department.  Hans bought a lot of caps for his toy guns here.

Finally, we leave the gas station.  We are hungry & decide on pizza and pizza means Geraldo’s over on College Rd.  We find a seat and you hear the usual Italian restaurant tunes: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, etc., but without really hearing them.  However, right after ordering, my ears pick up on a song I have never heard before.  It is:

“To Where You Are” by Josh Groban

There is no escape.  We have already ordered.  I try not to listen too closely and start reciting Social Security and bank account numbers in my head to distract myself.

Then, up next is:

Nat King Cole singing “Smile”

Why do Italian restaurants play such gut-wrenching music?  Do sad people eat more pizza?  I am doing pretty well with the SSN’s, managing not to drop a single tear though I am hungry, tired, and ready to go home and just sit in a chair.  I try not to look around too much because I see the empty chairs where Hans once sat.  The pizza arrives and then we eat and finally get out of there.

Onward to the Co-Op Market to get something to drink.  This happens to be where Hans liked to shop for snacks and personal grooming products.  Hans was big on personal grooming products.  On the way, we pass a closed up mini-mall.  You see a dilapidated vacant building.  I see the old model store where we bought so many Christmas presents for Hans.

We leave there and the ordeal is nearly finished.  We cruise up Airport Way.  You see the Two Dice Pawn Shop, Coin King, and a Napa Store.   But I see the place where Hans found us a generator when ours was history and we couldn’t afford a new one.  I see the laundromat where I washed his baby clothes and where he later pushed his little brothers around in laundry baskets on wheels when he was a boy.  I see where he bought parts for our vehicles as a grown up man.

I am exhausted.  I look around Fairbanks at peoples’ faces.  Some of them look like they are hurting.

I wonder what they are seeing?

The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.  

Psalm 34:22

31 thoughts on “Things Are Not What They Seem

  1. Pingback: Blind-sided at Sears – You Can Trust Him.

  2. Forgive such a late response, I am just seeing this beautiful piece. You describe it so well, and with “To Where You Are” as the soundtrack, heartbreaking. I wish I could give you a hug right now. Reading this makes me want to be more sensitive to what bereaved people are going through, not wanting to be that insensitive jerk just shopping for groceries, oblivious to the pain right next to me. At times like these, would you want someone to mention Hans? Does it help to have an occasion to talk about him, as you write about him here? I’m afraid others often don’t know what to say, so they say nothing and make it seem that they don’t ever think about him. Thank you for writing this blog and helping us to understand and be better friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Book Excerpt: Things Are Not What They Seem – You Can Trust Him.

    1. When I relive the memories, some make me sad and nothing will ever change that. But, more and more, I can think back and catch myself smiling at a memory. I can’t say I am not sad, but smiling is becoming a little easier. I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry you are missing your Samuel, now especially. I am sorry-just sorry. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Re-post: Things Are Not What They Seem | You Can Trust Him

  5. Sally

    It has taken up to now five years where I can come up for air and finally breathe again, and believe life goes on. everyone has their own time table, but it does get better, not easier, just breathable. A new normal…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Coming up for air…” That’s just how it is – not easier, but manageable. Thank you for commenting – I always like to hear from “veterans.” I am sorry for your loss and I am glad things are better for you now.


  6. My son died a year ago today in an accident. The knock in the night saying he was gone. Could not see him nor hug him one last time. I guess my mind has finally come to grips with he is gone. Doubt and unbelief have been my constant companions. I know God is faithful to forgive and He has upheld me this far. Oftentimes I would rather not think on things, but this is just so hard. Going through the motions of life. Holding on to the promises of God. Constant reminders everywhere, you are right. Thanks for your posts and your openness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so very sorry for the loss of your son. I know today is an especially hard day among many hard days. Keep holding on to the promises, even when they seem unreachable. They are already yours and our faithful Father will deliver. Because that is Who He is.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your heart.


  7. Kim, your post brought tears to my eyes, I can’t even imagine. I do know what you mean about memories because almost every street in the city we live in has a memory on it with regard to our now grown up children. I would hug you if I could. I’ll be 72 in April and my wife and I have gone through some hard times. One of our daughters deals with mental illness and I had cancer about ten years ago, key word being “had”. No platitudes, all I do know beyond all doubt is that God loves you, more than you can imagine. Wish I had an answer for the loss of a child but I don’t. I’m adding you and your family to my prayer list. Stay in His Word, pray whenever you can, He will meet your need, He always does. Blessings.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. joanmariewriting41457

    ❤️ Is it not strangely interesting how sights and sounds, smells and tastes can immediately invoke so many thoughts, memories, emotions, soul – responses ? Comforting and difficult at the same time…and yet I, too, truly treasure our capacity to remember and “see” so much more, even though it aches… Kim, I ‘see’ that you heart is so enlarged with compassion as you wonder about the other precious hurting souls and what they are ‘seeing’ as they gaze upon their world💝 ….loving hugs and prayers for you and your precious family each day .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. joanmariewriting41457

        .hmmm, even with whatever challenges there seemed to be at the time… It certainly was a time of ‘everything alright’ in comparison to now. 😥

        Liked by 1 person

  9. rogerholmack

    The randomness of events can be heartbreaking at times, but exhausting for sure. Normal every day tasks become a marathon. Beautifully written. Thank you. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh, my! This is it, exactly Kim! People don’t realize how hard it is for me, still, to go some places or to hear some songs or to be reminded of certain mundane aspects of our lives before Dominic ran ahead to heaven. I am so sorry that you share this road with me and so many others. I have sat reciting things in my head as well-anything to distract me from the painful memories or thoughts that otherwise threaten to drown me and unleash a torrent of tears. Thank you for our honesty and vulnerability.

    Liked by 2 people


    This is an eye opening post. I know it takes forever to get over the loss of a child. You have chosen to keep Hans’ memory alive and that’s a great thing. Hang tightly to those precious moments. They’re God’s gift to you.

    Liked by 2 people

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