As I crested the hill, I saw him — a little boy with dimples, walking with his parents and their dog — a copper-colored golden retriever. I, too, was walking with my dogs — Koda and Tango, our golden retrievers. Like long lost cousins, the dogs wagged their tails at one another, as if they recognized that they came from the same breed. As we got closer to one another, the little boy smiled up at me. “May I pet your dog?” he asked.
And just like that, I was seeing Dragon. Chubby hands, bright eyes, soft smile. Dragon at five years old. Curious. Mischievous. Friendly.
And now, it’s August. This coming August 14, it will be five years since the day we lost Dragon and Justin. It is hard for me to believe. I don’t know where the time went. Somewhere in there, Hannah started and finished high school. Somewhere in there, we launched the Dragon Kim Foundation. At the end of the month, we’ll take Hannah to college. It will be the end of an era for us as parents. Our lives, already changed, will continue to change irrevocably.
I’m proud of how we have moved forward. Hannah once told me about how, for her, dealing with grief was not about moving on, but about moving forward. “Moving on,” she said, “sounds like we are leaving Dragon behind. ‘Moving forward’ is about continuing to live life, but taking Dragon with us.” We have tried to do that as honorably as we can.
But still, it hurts. It hurts so much. It hurts more than I will ever be able to describe.
Hey, Dragon, you know, I still don’t think I’ve dealt with this. I still can’t believe you’re really gone. The most I can comprehend is that you’re on some really long trip, like you went to college early and forgot to write home to tell us. The dogs, Dad, Hannah, and I — we’re all doing okay. I was walking Koda and Tango the other day, and we met this little boy who reminded me so much of you at that age. At the same time, I wondered how you would look now, almost 20 years old. Probably taller than dad, maybe 6′ 2″. Would your shoulders have filled out? Would you still have that water polo bleached hair? Would you have a girlfriend? Oh Dragon, I’m so, so sorry you didn’t get to live your life. I’m sorry you’re not here. I miss you.
One day at a time, my son, that’s what we are still trying to do. Just take it one day at a time.