My Little Sunshine

We lost our sunshine when I was a freshman in college. I was rushed from a world of worrying over what was on my next Biology exam and plans for Friday night to worrying how my family would survive the loss. All of this changed over a three hour plane ride. The first week after losing Audrey I spent at home with family then I was met with the fate of returning back to school.  There I was greeted back at school with hugs and sweet notes, what should have been my first sign of the work of Audrey. Physically people were there for me but the pain was still looming in my heart.

I spent the next few months coping with this, alone, as we all picked up the pieces and made sense of what had happened to us. Later in spring I received an interview with our student run business. A job interview that I was neither expecting or prepared for. As I sat in front of the three interviewers they hit me with a question that I may have not been prepared for but had an answer for. They asked me “What is your favorite day?”. I said “Well this is easy, I have already lived my favorite day.” I pointed to my pin and explained as shortly as I could the life of Audrey. I described then that my favorite day was a Saturday afternoon with her at the Whitecaps Baseball game. As I finished I was sure I hadn’t gotten the position, I believe there is a rule about oversharing in interviews and I had done just that. Spoiler, I received a call a day later that day that I had received the position and those three people across the table from me grew to be very important in my college experience.

As summer came I returned home and the grieving started again. Part of grieving I have learned is allowing yourself to share. Audrey I believe has always shined through what we share. Her presence is felt and she is allowed to continue to make an impact. This has allowed me to heal. When I return to campus I go to a world that does not know Audrey, they have never or will never feel her hugs or hear her giggles. All that they know is what I choose to share. 

I had trouble returning to this world where I did not actively see her. The only thing taking me back was this new job at Heritage Coffee and that my first semester of classes was paid for. I was clear about this with my parents that I was not promising I would finish out my four years at University of Dayton. At this time the Red Glasses Movement was off the ground and I was doing my best to repost all I could to get it out in the world. Part of my coping had also become posting about her and sharing stories because for me it was keeping her spirit alive. I guess some of these stories had spread by the time I returned and during one of our first meetings back it was asked if Red Glasses could become our charity at Heritage Coffee. I was overwhelmed by my co-workers thoughtfulness and willingness to let me in. This gesture meant that our tips for the year would go towards the Red Glasses Movement and hopefully one day we would give to our own school, spreading the message in Dayton. I was overwhelmed by the measure and agreed it would be the perfect way to honor her. 

At the end of the year, there had been almost 900 dollars raised. They had also asked if we could have a Red Glasses day in which a cut of the day makings went to the Red Glasses Movement. It felt good to know we were giving but more importantly for the first time I felt her there with me again. As I looked around the coffeehouse I saw my peers in red glasses sharing her story as on the big TVs pictures of her played. 

This was her doing not my own, this was her telling me I was in the right place with the right people. She was reminding me that even though she is no longer physically here she has never left us. Our song is “You are my Sunshine” and if you know any of the words of the song you know she had motives here. It started as the only song that I could remember when I put her down to bed and became the only song she would let me sing to her as she rubbed my back and we swayed around the room. My favorite line of the song is “please don’t take my sunshine away” for this line holds all that she is to me. She has never left us and will never let go, though her presence might fade this doesn’t mean she is gone. 

Long you long time ALou. 

-Maleia Hartman