I was having a “good” day today. Work in the morning, lunch with Nick, a little nap. When dinner was in the oven I headed out to mow the lawn, rushing out the door so I could have most of the lawn done before my husband came home for dinner. While starting the push mower, I remembered my daughter telling me when she’d called me on the 4th of July that I should move down south where it’s warm because “you’re a different person when you’re working outside, Mom”. I’ve always loved to work outside, so I knew she was comparing the me of this summer with the me of last summer….right after Ben died when I couldn’t and didn’t do much of anything. I know it gives her comfort to see me functioning. Doing. So, I was a bit upbeat and energetic as I started to mow the lawn, thinking “Gina’s right. This feels good.”
I did several passes in my front yard and then I saw it. A dead bird on the pathway next to the garage. I was instantly taken back to the “orange circle” I had seen painted on that lonely road in Kansas where Ben had taken his last breath. Like that bird. Was this a mama bird? Or her son? Do birds grieve? Was a mama missing her baby as much as I’m missing Ben? I avoided looking at the bird again. I couldn’t look at it. But I knew it was there. Like my grief. There. It never leaves me. With me every second. I mowed around the flower garden I had put in last summer…..Ben’s Garden….the spot where I was standing when the words “love you” and “love you too” were last spoken between Ben and me as we ended our phone conversation less than 24 hours before he died. Sacred ground.
I got on the riding mower to mow the field behind our house. And that bird made me see it all back there in my backyard. Me putting Ben’s 5-month old butt on our ground for the first time ever…in the early spring with our elderly neighbor telling me, “Don’t put him down. The ground’s too cold.” The fire pit and bonfires and marshmallows on sticks. Ben and his teenage friends ending their “party”–running out of the woods when Mom and Dad came home unexpectedly. 2-year old Ben in our swimming pool with his daddy. Endless summer days playing in the sandbox and swimming in the pool with friends. The holes in the tree used for target practice. That rusty 55-gallon drum that Ben and his buddy Matt had to “get off” someone’s property so they put it in our woods, promising they would remove it. The barrel is still here. Ben is not. The two new huge flower pots that Ben helped me fill with dirt. Ben laying in the grass by the back deck sleeping. My husband and me building the wooden play set for the boys when Ben was about 7. Torture, torture, torture every which way I turned the lawn mower. Snapshots of 27 years with Ben. Sobbing and talking to myself out loud. Mopping my tears with my t-shirt. Thinking I can’t do this. I can’t do this any more. I hate it. I want to die! I hate being sad. I hate knowing I’m going to be sad every day for the rest of my life. Varying degrees, I know, as time goes on, but every day. Sad every day for the rest of my life! Why Ben? I shut off the lawn mower thinking, “People are crazy if they can’t see that I’m crazy. I’m a crazy mother.” I went into the house and got my dinner out of the oven and set our table.
The dead bird did it today. That’s all it took….a dead bird trigger.