Kassandra finds her wall – it’s on a big shed a few miles outside of town, owned by a local farm family. The mom had been a coffee shop regular, stopping by each morning after bringing the kids in for school. For the last year, they’ve been remote schooling, cutting the trips into town to a minimum, accommodating their fears regarding the mom’s autoimmune disorder. Kassandra had run her favorite coffee – triple shot mocha – out to the mom a few times, handing the steaming cup over to the dad or the oldest kid from a gloved hand, offering best wishes for the family from behind a mask, always refusing payment. Once, the dad paused to say how much these occasional gifts meant to the mom, how hard remote school was for the middle kid, how much the mom took it to heart as a personal failure.
All Kassandra could do was listen, nod, murmur words of comfort, we’re all doing what we can, no one’s perfect, this is temporary, the kids all know the most important thing: their mom and dad adore them. She drove back into town weeping that day.
This is one of the marks of grief: the tracks of tears shed in sorrow for the loss of normal.
On another visit in early spring, the dad asks Kassandra about her art. She mentions the spiral, her idea to paint it on a shed or garage. She calls it her “birth-death-rebirth” piece, thinking of baby Penny and the loss of her mother in childbirth.
“Can you wait here a minute?” the dad says. “I’ll be right back.” He returns after spending about ten minutes inside the farmhouse, bringing the middle kid with him.
“Everything okay?” Kassandra asks, puzzled, looking at the kid. “Your mom okay?”
“Yeah,” the kid says. “She wanted us to ask you something.”
“Your death spiral,” the kid says. “Would you paint it over there?” The kid points to their big old shop-shed, its main broadside facing the road.
Kassandra bursts out laughing. “It’s not really a death spiral, you know, at least I hope not. But sure, that would be awesome, if it’s okay with your folks.”
The dad nods.
On her drive back into town, Kassandra weeps, again.