Sometimes no matter how far we have come, a moment occurs when we are blindsided again or subtly reminded that grief does not end. A moment that no matter how hard we try cannot be ignored. A moment that will reoccur again and again until we acknowledge its presence. Or a buried memory that resurfaces, insisting we remember it once more.

Who would have thought shoes could hold such significance?

We were moving for the first time in thirty years. I knew we had a lot of stuff, too much stuff, but I found out how much when I began sorting, giving, saving, and packing. I started three months before we moved and even that was not enough time and I found myself haphazardly throwing leftovers into boxes with no rhyme or reason.

One moment I was going strong and then my hands closed around a pair of shoes I had forgotten about.. It was a pair of old and well worn teenage boys tennis shoes, and I was catapulted back in time.

My son had worn these shoes and many others like them. It seemed like every three months, he needed a new pair. He loved sports so either he wore them out quickly or his feet grew. For some reason unbeknownst to me he always kept his old ones. I thought I had thrown them all out years ago but here in my hands was a whirlwind of memories. Basketball, football, wrestling. Happy times for him and for me seeing him happy.

After he died at 14, I found about six pairs in the bottom of his closet. For some reason, I could not bring myself to throw them out. After the numbness started wearing off and the reality of his death began sinking in, I found a new use for them. When the pain would become too much for me or the anger at the senselessness of his death I would pick up a pair and head to the basement. For a few minutes, I would throw them against the cement block wall, some days crying, some days swearing,. Some days, the only sound was of his shoes hitting the wall.

One day, I knew I didn’t need the shoes anymore and I threw them away except for one pair. This pair. I hadn’t seen them in so many years, I had forgotten all about them. Sitting there shoes in hand, I smiled more than I cried. I looked at the shoes. I looked at the box. I looked at the trash. I wavered. Then I threw the worn-out shoes in the box to go along to our new home, and my heart smiled.

Deb Kosmer

© 2012

Deb Kosmer

Deb has worked at Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice for ten years, the first two as a hospice social worker and the last eight as Bereavement Support Coordinator supporting families before and after the death of their loved ones. She provides supportive counseling, developed and facilitates a variety of grief support groups, including a well-attended group for men only as well as other educational events. Deb received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UW Milwaukee. She received her certification in Thanatology through ADEC. Her writing has appeared in New Leaf Magazine, We Need Not Walk Alone, Living with Loss, Grief Digest, numerous hospice publications and EAP publications. Some of her poetry on death and dying will be included in a college textbook for social workers in end of life soon. New Leaf has also used some of her poetry for a line of sympathy and anniversary of death cards. On a personal level, Deb's 14-year-old son died after being struck by a car. Her 31-year-old sister had died in a car accident eight months earlier, and her 56-year-old father died from a heart attack exactly three years before. These three unexpected deaths within three years started Deb on a journey she never wanted to be on and she learned first-hand the importance of having the help and support of others. In the years since, she has experienced other losses, the most recent being the unexpected death of her 44-year-old step-daughter who died from complications three months after routine surgery. Deb's passions are writing, reading, education, nature, and family. She is currently working on a book of her grief poetry. She recently moved with her husband to Waypost Camp, Hatley WI. Her husband accepted a job there as Property Manager and his position allows them to live on-site with acres of woods and a lake. She anticipates the quiet beauty to be a strong catalyst for writing.

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