It was a typical Saturday morning.
Running errands. Grocery shopping. Catching up from the chaos of the week.
As I ran into Kroger, with my unusually short list, I thought nothing of the items written on my notepad. Checking them off one by one, I ended at the dairy and frozen foods section.
As my hand grasped around the small orange neck of a Sunny D bottle, I was taken aback. Suddenly gasping for air, physically hearing and feeling the sudden suck in the back of my throat, I stood there for a moment – numb.
My hand on the bottle, body unsure what to do next. Paused, not knowing where my emotions would take me.
Meanwhile, normalcy surrounded me in busy shopping carts and strange faces. The lady comparing prices of the milk and cheese beside me had no way of knowing I was being transported unexpectedly to 2008 in my mind.
Sunny D was Austin’s favorite drink. It was a regular item on my grocery list for as long as I can remember.
And then it wasn’t.
I recall the first shopping trip after losing him, walking the aisles on autopilot, just throwing in our usual fare.
On that day, still raw from grief, my hand grabbed a bottle before my mind connected that we no longer needed it. I broke down sobbing and ran out of the store, cart abandoned.
For a long while, the grocery was a difficult place because it seemed aisle by aisle was filled with memories and triggers I never expected.
Combined with the looks of pity I received, or a tearful hug as I turned a corner, shopping was often more than I could bear.
So, one could imagine my fear when I found myself, hand on bottle, six years later.
The involuntary gasp was more in preparation for what would come than anything else, I think.
Would I break down again? Would the family filling their cart with fish sticks and fries, rush away at the sound of me sobbing?
Or, would I fight back the tears? Push them down and force a bad day on my own family once back in the car?
Instead, my eyes became misty but I stood there with a smile.
It was a bittersweet moment, recalling days of my towering teen eagerly meeting me at the driveway whenever I arrived home. Happy to help mom carry in groceries, excited to see what deals I might have found.
And always, a giant smile and hug when he’d spy the Sunny D, or other favorites in the bags. Just an ordinary drink, but it made his day whenever I bought it for him.
I left the store, uncertain how to process the growth and change.
There was a time, in the beginning of our grief, I didn’t imagine things ever being ok. In the darkest moments, when I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t imagine facing another day, I didn’t see our new normal on the horizon.
Even as a write it, there’s a twinge.
On this side, I see our progress, our healing, the moving forward after grief. And I’m grateful for the transformation.
But there’s a small part of me that will forever long for the yesterdays, the memories, the days when Sunny D was a regular item on my grocery list.
In 2008, my world as I knew it changed forever, with the sudden loss of our 14-year-old son, Austin. The journey to my blog (and attitude toward life) was bumpy and tearful, beginning at a memorial blog for my son. I later chose to take another path, challenging myself to find the JOY in every day, despite the sadness I still felt. I love and miss him daily but I’m living my life to honor him – and celebrating every moment it brings. My goal…to find and share the joy in every day. You can find me at Joyful Challenge