Guest Post by Laura M.
Thirty-four years. It was thirty-four years ago I stood in the emergency department waiting room and watched the doctor telling me that you were gone. I watched his mouth moving, but his words made no sense. How could you be gone when you were the liveliest, funniest person I knew? When you were the magnetic center of my world? The Earth tilted off its axis.
In the days and weeks that followed, nothing made sense. I could not tell up from down, day from night. It was summertime, but I don’t remember it being hot. Food had no taste. I sometimes put my shirts on backwards by mistake: where was front, anyway? Even today, when I meet people in those first throes of grief, I cannot imagine how they are coping. I am awed by their ability to walk and talk.
Every moment of just continuing to live should count as a victory.
Thirty-four years. What do I get in exchange for thirty-four years of grieving? Such a high price: what is the return on investment? For me, there is a peace that comes with thirty-four years– a resigned peace, edged with pain. At thirty-four years, I know from tough experience that I go on living because life goes on.
Time passes without my permission. Whether I want it to or not, the Earth keeps spinning, the seasons change, other kids keep growing. There are groceries to buy, laundry to fold, bills to pay. Those things seem so senselessly petty compared to what I have lost, and yet they are a refuge as well. At thirty-four years, I am pretty sure it is not a betrayal of you to live my life. Rather, the life I so desperately wish you had lived is sacred, and I should not waste the sacred time I have.
At thirty-four years the impotent rage is gone. Anger was never going to bring you back, nor was its cousin, guilt. Anger came so easily; it felt like being in control. Anger at the driver who killed you, certainly, but there was plenty to go around. Anger at my sister who forgot your birthday, at the friend who gave her newborn your name, at my co-worker who thought three months was long enough to grieve. Rage at myself for not protecting you and at your father who didn’t grieve exactly as I did. Irritation at a driver who cut me off in traffic or the old woman counting out her change too slowly in the check-out lane. It was so exhausting, that anger, and so isolating.
At thirty-four years, I know that I will never forget you. I remember you so vividly: your sparkly brown eyes, your brown curls that you called your “bubbles.” Your slow smile and small fingers, the smell of you asleep in my lap. At thirty-four years, I choose to remember your life rather than your death. I get to choose. You would be thirty-seven years old now. Thirty-seven! Oh, how I wish I could see what kind of person you would be at thirty-seven.
At thirty-four years, I have experience enough to know that feelings come and then they go again. At times, the pain of losing you knocks me flat. Earlier this week I was reminded of you in a particularly emotional way, and I literally went to my knees from the pain. The feeling and the thoughts were as familiar as my own palm: “I cannot go on without you!” But there was another thought alongside the first: “This is grief, and it will pass.” I can live that moment in the grief, missing you desperately, knowing that it will not kill me and that I will carry on. And I do.
Above all, at thirty-four years I am honored to have been your mother. I miss you so dreadfully, and even worse, I am so sad that you are missing life. You brought immense happiness to the world in your short time here; you made my life so much richer for knowing you.
Is thirty-four years of grief too much to pay for three amazing years of knowing you?
Not at all, Ben. Not at all.