Thoughts of loss cemented in brain cause worry

This past weekend brought a big milestone to our household. Our daughter, Vivian, celebrated her first birthday. We had a household of family and friends on Friday night and Saturday. It was great to have everyone visiting and not be the ones driving.

Usually, it’s Greg, Vivi and I who load up a vehicle and travel three or more hours to see everyone. But this time, they came to us.

After the presents were opened and the cake was demolished, everyone decided they’d hit the road. I was wishing everyone would have stayed overnight, but there were combines to fix, lawns to mow, other plans that were in place.

Following these past few weeks, covering what seemed to be one tragedy after another, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of trepidation about sending my family and friends back out on to the open road.

All of us here in the newsroom have been shocked and saddened by the number of people killed in accidents involving moving vehicles. From the loss of two toddlers to those in the Blue Hill crash, each fatality accident has shackled us in a state of disbelief and grief.

Working for a small daily newspaper is usually about covering ballgames and community activities. Never in a million years did any of us sign on for this job believing that we would be making so many dreaded phone calls to give voice to the victims and share their life stories with our readers.

As reporters, we don’t like making those calls, but we do them in order to pay tribute to those who passed. It’s a way to start the healing process for a community reeling with sorrow and a way for the survivors to find a small amount of joy in sharing their memories of loved ones. Despite the sadness, with each story we tell, we take comfort in the fact that the communities we serve and live in are very good at holding each other up and lending support.

While I have been fortunate to not be directly affected by any of these tragedies, they still resonate deeply. Whenever something like a fatality crash happens, I put myself in the shoes of the family left behind and I am full of grief and worry. Now, with a 1-year-old daughter, the losses move me even more. I can’t tell you how many times the thought of one of these horrible occurrences has moved me to grab my daughter or husband and give them a hug.

Times like these cement themselves in our brains and don’t seem to disappear, so I worry every time my husband walks out the door to drive 15 miles to work and I worry every time I part ways with family and friends.

This weekend was even more difficult, as the stress and sadness of the last few weeks is taking up a lot of space in my brain.

My hugs for each of them were a little tighter and the goodbyes were a little longer.

I always tell everyone to drive carefully, but this time, it sounded more like I was pleading with them to be vigilant and cautious. Fortunately, they all obliged.

Deann Stumpe

In her weekly column that runs Mondays in the Hastings Tribune, Deann Stumpe gabs about relationships, movies and TV, and life with a baby. She is the Tribune’s special sections editor.

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