After all, Harry Potter was a chess piece.

It’s so strange how often I find myself so wrapped up in things that really don’t matter, only to be shaken out of that egocentricity by bad news. Even though I come off as a sarcastic, confident, bossy person, I really have always had a strong sense of compassion for others. When my friends or family hurt, I hurt. When animals hurt, I hurt. And as strange as it sounds, when strangers hurt, I hurt. That’s why I went on so many mission trips. That’s why I can’t watch the news.

Tonight, I found out news that I wish I had been listening for two months ago. I found out that my childhood friend’s dad passed away in May. As soon as I read his mother’s message to me about how lonely she still feels and how it’ll never be the same, I started crying. I don’t think I cried because I remembered the man she loved so much, or because of what a good man he was. James (Jimmy) Schroeder was a good man and I do remember his kindness to my brother and me when we were young, but I know I was crying because of the people he left behind.

Loss is one of the most difficult things to face. I can’t imagine losing my husband, my parents or my brother. I’ve lost all of my grandparents, and that’s been hard enough on me–every song I hear makes me picture my grandfather’s face. I guess I just feel like every once in a while, I should venture out of my circle, open my eyes, and see what’s happening to other people.

About six months back, my mom ran into Theresa and found out that Jimmy had been battling leukemia. I didn’t search for the family on facebook or pick up a phone. I probably said a prayer, but that was it. If I had been watching or listening, I may have known about Jimmy Schroeder’s passing. I may have been able to attend the funeral, and tell Theresa how sorry I am that she lost the absolute and only love of her life. But sometimes, I’m just not paying attention. And I think sometimes, it’s not only selfishness, but fear that distracts me.

I don’t want the word “widow” in my vocabulary–I doubt anyone does. It was my husband Jimmy’s 25th birthday today. We’re young, we’re healthy. But someday, we won’t be. It scares me to think of ever having to live without my Jimmy. I can imagine that every day when something happens, whether good or bad, the first person Theresa wants to call is her husband–and he’s not there anymore. That feeling of emptiness may become more manageable with time, but it never goes away.

Life is just sad sometimes. But even though I haven’t spoken to Jimmy, Theresa or Joel in a number of years, I remember the strength and love that built their household. I know that some people, like Theresa, are meant to go on, to live on, to honor those who’ve gone before them, as an example of hope to others.

My mom and I were talking tonight about how we both want to learn to play chess. She said, “I know how the pieces are supposed to move, but I don’t know the strategy.” As cliché as it sounds, I immediately thought that what she said was a perfect analogy for life. My life. Theresa’s life. I know how to walk, how to talk, how to drive, how to do my job on a daily basis, how to function. But do I really know the strategies to life? Do I know how to love, forgive, cope, succeed, let go? Or am I just a chess piece?

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