An excerpt from Pushing up the Sky, a memoir by Terra Trevor

“But I’ve walked so many places in those shoes.” My five-year-old son said. “Do I have to get rid of them?” “Aren’t they too small for you?” I asked. He shrugged, and then he hobbled towards me. “I can still fit into them, only I can’t stretch out my toes.”

Jay was a little boy who never wanted to part with his outgrown shoes. “What about the pair you outgrew last summer, can we toss those out?” “Mom!” He blinked up; his eyes were watery pools.

He sat motionless for several moments, staring into his lap. I lifted him onto my knee, studied the gold flecks glittering in his tense dark eyes. “OK, you can keep them.” I agreed, and I scraped off some strawberry jam that had dried like a brilliant cut ruby on the toe of his shoe.

In time, my son began collecting rare coins and stamps. His hobby interest in old vintage cars developed, and he stopped saving his outgrown shoes. Yet the shoes of my son’s life are a scrapbook in my mind.

The light blue rubber baby shoes he arrived from Korea wearing, a first-grader with brand new school shoes, kicking them off to cuddle with me as I read to him. The boy with suntanned legs who fished mountain streams wearing knee-high rubber boots, the sleepy child who wrapped his arms around my neck, feet dangling.

And the new pair of tennis shoes Jay wore to Korea and then six months later walked out of the hospital wearing, to face a Hospice death at home, at age fifteen, days before his body finally wore out from cancer.

The night before he died, in 1999, he loosened the laces and kicked his shoes off at the foot of his bed for the last time. Now those shoes stay in the closet and comfort me in long nights of remembering. I pick them up and press my hand into the place where my son’s feet once stood.

I stand quietly and remember waking him up in the morning and starting the day, sitting at the kitchen table together, cups of cocoa in hand, Jay’s foot kicking the table leg while he told me about his latest favorite book.

There were difficult moments too. Those shoes witnessed arguments and angry outbursts, but mostly they were surrounded by love and caring.

Years pass and still I keep Jay’s shoes. Older grief is softer. It’s about piercing pain channeled, reshaped and rounded into tender grace. I hold my son's shoe and feel him smiling at me, running barefoot in my heart.