Ninety miles an hour-that’s how fast my mind can go from here to there.
From what’s in front of me to what’s behind me.
From laughter to swallowing sobs.
We sit in a living room surrounded by toys and playing with children, talking about life and love and plans and people. The little brown face that turns his eyes to mine looks so much like Dominic I have to suck in my breath.
Giggles. Squeals. Cars running up and down my arm and around my feet.
I originally shared this years ago-when grief was newer and nearly every day meant tears.
I’m stronger now and better able to carry this load called “child loss”. But if I’m honest, the missing is greater, the longing keener than it was in the early days when memories were still fresh and easily retrieved.
Still, there are places and things that draw my heart right back to the fresh faced little boy, the smart aleck teen, the ambitious, courageous and accomplished young man that was Dominic.
Every room holds memories. Every footfall echoes past days. Every window frames some precious vignette in my mind’s eye.
Most days I’ve learned to turn down the volume.But today it would not be denied.
The calendar is relentless. There’s no respect for seasons of mourning or grief anniversaries or weeks of sickness or unexpected early births of grandchildren.
The sun rises, the sun sets and another day is crossed off into history.
So somehow-without my permission-I find I’ve woken to mark the ninth anniversary (do you call such a horrible thing an anniversary?) of Dominic’s death.
It’s humbling to realize I (and my family!) are not only still standing but flourishing. It’s horrifying to comprehend I’ve continued to live and breathe for 3285 days since Dominic left us.
Most days are pretty good.
Today is hard.
When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.
I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.
But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.
We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.
Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.
Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.
THATis impossible to ignore. Even nine years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.
So we carry on.
Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.
My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.
But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.
I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.
I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.
Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again.
I fell asleep last night thinking about that Friday evening nine years ago when I closed my eyes on the world I knew only to open them to a world I wish I could forget.
It’s odd how these anniversaries play out-there’s the actual date (which, if I’m honest isn’t usually nearly as hard for me) plus the litany of days that lead up to the date and reconstruct the weekend that ended in tragedy.
The Friday night/Saturday morning combination bring me to my knees even nine years later.
Only someone who has endured the doorbell or the phone call can truly understand how dozens of tiny prompts create a mental, physical and emotional response that can neither be ignored nor controlled.
Every year is different. Every year brings more recent memories that don’t include Dominic intermingled with what now feel like ancient ones.
Every year has new challenges to face with a worn out heart that sometimes simply wants to fall asleep and dream it all away.
Friday, April 11, 2014:
Julian and I went to a college honors banquet and came back to the house to find Fiona home for the weekend. I called Hector and texted with James Michael.
I turned out the light and went to sleep.
No warning shots across the bow of life rang out to let me know what was coming.
But that Friday was the last day I spent misunderstanding the awfulness of death and the absolute uncertainty of life.