Twelve years ago, a phone call was transferred through to my classroom. On December 9th, 2009, standing in front my very young students, I learned of my dad’s unexpected passing. No one knew that was what the phone call was going to be. And no one really knew what to do next.
There are many things I remember from that day. In fact, I remember everything. But three things are still so clear – the clock on the wall…11:15am exactly, the look on the faces of the kids as they all watched the wind get knocked out of me, and the yellow sweater I was wearing.
If you know me, you know I’m a very sentimental person. I have certain routines and rituals I can’t break. I attach sentiment and meaning to many things. That yellow sweater was forever a reminder of that day. After what felt like the longest day of my life at the time, I finally made it home. That yellow sweater went into the closet – never to be worn again.
For years it remained hanging in the closet. I couldn’t part with it. It even moved houses. Twice. But it lived, hanging quietly, in the back of the closet. At some point it found its way into a Goodwill pile. I was ready to part with it. But that was all I was ready for. I bought other yellow sweaters over the years. But I could never get myself to wear them. They too found a permanent home in my closet. A month ago, I bought yet another yellow sweater. I actually put it on one day. I even wore it to work. And while it seems so trivial–it’s a piece of clothing after all, not a literal ball and chain–for me, it was a weight, a reminder. A heavy one. What it symbolized was so much more than anyone could ever understand. That night, it too went into the closet. It’s still there. It might see the light of day again or it might join all the other yellow sweaters that came before it.
Everyone has a figurative yellow sweater. It may symbolize grief and loss; it may symbolize strength and challenges overcome. Maybe it symbolizes both. It’s different for everyone. What remains the same however, is the story we all carry. The stories of sadness and strength and resiliency. Be kind to those whose story you don’t know. Maybe today’s the day they were brave enough to wear their yellow sweater.
We all have a story. It makes us who we are.
Whatever your story, keep writing it.