My empty nest means I’m rarely crazy busy even around the holidays.
I no longer have to fit in shopping whenever I can manage it because little eyes might be watching or Christmas choir performances and church programs fill the calendar.
Most of my shopping is online and I don’t even have to worry about whisking gifts off the porch before anyone sees them.
I’m a different kind of busy now.
I’m busy making sure I’m not overexposed to Christmas commercials, Christmas movies or Christmas carols because they are likely to open the floodgates of tears I keep behind a dam of determination.
I’m busy drawing deep breaths when I pick up the phone and it’s a relative that never calls but needs an address for a Christmas card and, since I’m apparently the Keeper of the Addresses, always calls me.
I’m busy looking away from the childhood photos lining my upstairs hallway so I can stay focused on the vacuuming that needs doing.
I’m busy pinning down fruitless thoughts of “what if” or “if only” or “I wish”.
I’m busy getting things ready for the brief time my remaining family will be gathered around the dining room table. I’m trying hard to accommodate schedules and preferences and favorite foods and treasured traditions.
I’m busy pushing back sadness that threatens to overwhelm me in the dark of the year when clouds and rain make it even darker, even earlier. I’m lighting candles, plugging in lights and adding cheerful touches here and there to drive out the shadows that come creeping.
From the outside looking in, I’m awash in free time and easy choices.
And some folks wonder why I don’t answer the phone or join in the party.
After the flurry of activity surrounding the funeral, our house was so, so quiet.
Even with the five of us still here, it felt empty.
Because Dominic was gone, gone, gone and he was not coming back.
And the silence pounded into my head and heart until it became a scream:
How do I DO this?
How do I keep on living when all I want to do is give up and give in? How does a body carry this pain-is it even possible?
When I dared look past the moment to the days, weeks, months, DECADES that stretched before me, I was undone.
Even now, if I look too far ahead, my heart pounds and my head explodes.
So I don’t.
Honestly, THAT’S how you do it.
One day at a time.
One moment at a time.
One breath at a time.
I keep reminding my heart that the only thing I have to do is right now. I hold my attention to this very moment and refuse to let my thoughts wander.
Sure I mark dates on the calendar and am even able to plan ahead a bit now. But it was nearly three years until I could do that without shaking as I wrote them down.
So dear mama, dear daddy, give yourself permission not to try to figure out what a parent’s heart was never meant to calculate-how to live without the earthly companionship of the child you love-and just breathe.
There had to be a secret path, a magic word, a hidden key that would make this awful child loss journey more manageable.
But there is none.
It seems unbearable to think ahead to the possible years of doing this hard thing. And it is- UNBEARABLE. If I look at the missing writ large across the rest of my life, I will crumble beneath the weight of it.