Grief by Numbers

3 a.m.
  • Numbers dancing in my head.
  • Today is the 13th.
  • You died on the 13th
  • You died 4 months ago today.
  • You died on the 6th month of the year.

You’ve been dancing in my head, too. Probably because we’re standing on that October ridge again. You know the one. We peer into the peaceful October valley, but in the distance, they gather, the thunderheads of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Soon, despite all of our intentions and efforts, many of us will lose our footing on this ridge, and tumble into the poverty mindset of the season.

  • Not enough time
  • Not enough money.
  • Not enough food.
  • Not enough…

Not you. Ever the coordinated athlete, you never seemed to lose your footing, the air of your home always rich with cinnamon, ginger, and baking, abundant stores of cookies, candy, and treats.

How did you do it?

I’m guessing you didn’t linger long on the October ridge, allowing dread to build.

“Let’s get this started!”

You spent Octobers gathering the butter, flour, sugar, chocolate, and spices.

You shelled pecans and cleaned cookie tubs.

Was that you waking me this morning? “Let’s get this started!”

If so, thanks! Because I need to.

Pivot By Treat

You won’t believe what a friend of mine asked me to do. She’s organizing a luncheon for retired teachers from my children’s high school. In lieu of dessert, she asked me to bring some of your cookies and candy, “because all the teachers looked forward to receiving those treats each year.”


Tables and tubs of over 2000 cookies and candies, that we packaged in holiday zip-locks and bundled in glittery tissue and ribbon? Coveted favors of the season at school.

You are remembered beyond the ridge overlooking the valley, in corners that surprise even me.

So, let’s get this started!

I’ll collect the ingredients, and your grandchildren and I will bake our way towards the holidays, make a few retired educators reminisce. Maybe the task will distract us a little, help us focus on all the beautiful gifts, help us pivot, pivot not away from our grief by numbers…

3 – 13 – 4 – 6

We’ll pivot with our grief, in a dance of memory and melancholy. And sugar. Lots of sugar.

We may not fill as many tubs, but we’ll fill our hearts remembering you (Is this how she did it?) and sampling snicker-doodles, oatmeal cookies, divinity, ginger snaps, sugar cookies, pralines, trash, gingerbread men, and buckeyes.

By the way, I need extra help with the buckeyes. How did you do it? I’ve already failed twice.

Thanks, Mom, for the nudge this morning. Thanks for getting this started. It won’t be the same without you, but we’ll do our best.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022