Up there


11 years ago I decided that my lenten obligation was going to be different.  For as long as I could remember I had given up ice cream.  Instead of giving something up I was going to do good…I was going to do the Penguin Plunge which raised money for Special Olympics. While my brother didn’t participate in this organization it still was a cause that was near and dear to my heart.  A few days before the plunge though my brother passed away.  After a little debate some family members, friends and I decided that we would participate on Team Justin.

For many, many years after that I participated in the plunge as it always fell around Justin’s anniversary.  Our team grew and grew.  It was a great way to remember him and spend time with family and friends, raising money for a great cause.

Since then I have taken a few years off.  Some because I didn’t feel like it (the weather was awful), others because I had different obligations.  This year’s plunge though fell on my birthday (a month later that usual).  So my sister convinced me it was a great way to start my new year.

Team Justin was 4 members this year.  As we lined up, shivering and wanting this to be over, the announcer asked us what our team name was.  “Team Justin” we all replied simultaneously.  All eyes were on us.

The announcer then asked “Who is Justin?”

Again, simultaneously, the answer was “my/their brother.”

“Where is he” the announcer asked into his megaphone.

No one said anything for a moment.  We didn’t know how to answer.  Of course we knew where he was.  But we were trying to think of “the right” way to answer that question.  After what felt like eternity I said “Up there (pointing to the sky)” while my sister said “he passed away.”

Without skipping a beat the announcer said, with a smile on his face, “well let’s do this for him!”

And with that we plunged into the ice cold, 40 degree water of Long Island Sound.  Dunked our heads underwater. Screamed!  Turned and ran straight to our towels.

Yes, I’d say that was one of the best ways I could have celebrated my birthday!


6 thoughts on “Up there

  1. You built up to “the question” slowly and purposefully! I couldn’t wait to hear/see the answer. The announcers answer sounded celebratory….for Justin! Love the history and love in this slice! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I could ever do an icy plunge… no matter what cause! It is good to have “celebrations” that are like thresholds where we pause and remember before we enter the new. And sometimes we can look back and count the thresholds, clear back to the first one. The plunge sounds like that. Thanks for sharing. You crafted your story well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the way you answered that question. I was nervous for you and for the announcer, who might have felt like he really stepped in it. But you handled it with grace and in a way that made it okay for the announcer to avoid the awkward silence. I sometimes struggle with the question “How many kids do you have?” I don’t want to say one,
    which is less awkward, but which seems a betrayal to my daughter who passed away. But when I say two, there’s inevitably a follow-up question that leads to more awkwardness. So, I say two. One who’s still here with us, and one who’s in heaven. Now, maybe I’ll just point to the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

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