Death of a Child

THE SILHOUETTE

sil·hou·ette
silo͞oˈet/
noun 1. the outline of a solid figure as cast by its shadow.

The silhouette moved slowly down the hallway. If only I could slow my manic mind down to this speed, she thought, as she began another day in the life.

She headed straight to the coffee pot. Her husband was the sweetest man, always having her coffee ready when she woke up. She sat down and stared at the TV, not listening. She wasn’t tuned into the weather or the tragedies that had occurred while she slept. Just as it had been every morning since her son had died, she knew she would be fully immersed in her own tragedy before her coffee mug was empty. Life’s routine was set. Wake up. Realize. Continue the perpetual inner battle with the pain. The Pain. The constant pain that so exhausted her.

The silhouette kissed her husband good-bye. Love you, hope you have a good day, she said as she hugged him and smiled. And then she sat down at the table with her oatmeal. She ate alone. She liked to be alone. No need to pretend. She’d been working on it for nearly two years, but she hadn’t yet figured out how to fix her disconnect. The further she moved beyond That Day, the more disconnected she felt. She didn’t know how to re-baptize herself into life. How can you re-connect when you no longer walk in the world you knew? Of course there’s a disconnect when you, and your heart, are bruised beyond repair and so very few understand, she thought.

While ironing her clothes for work, she marveled at how well her thoughts stayed together in the morning. They were cohesive. Is it because the brain gets filled with so much “useless stuff” during the day? She wanted to stay home, to be alone, to sort through those coherent, connected thoughts. She wished she had time to process the feelings, to write down her thoughts, but she didn’t. Responsibility had been instilled in her from an early age. She went to work.

The tears fell from the silhouette as she watched the rain drops hit the glass and bounce upward, not downward, on the windshield. Same place my tears are directed, she thought. Up toward where I believe my son may be. And she wiped her tears as the windshield wipers continued their rhythm, mimicking the relentless rhythm of her life. So much of me became lost when Ben died. So much of me is gone, she thought. But life’s sameness remains. The rhythm.

Morning, she said as she walked into her office, conscious of the fact that she seldom said “good morning” any more. She knew by the time she arrived at her office each morning that she had already been mourning all morning. How could she possibly say “good morning” after she’d already spent hours with The Pain? I’ll have to work on that, she told herself. Program “good” into your vocabulary. Maybe then you’ll feel connected to that world out there. Work to fix that disconnect!

The silhouette went about her day as usual. She worked. She smiled. She worked. She joked. And she focused. Responsibility had been instilled in her from an early age. Do they see what I see when I look in the mirror? Do they see that dead zone within me that I see if I happen to look in my eyes when putting my make-up on each morning? Every morning,  because I am mourning? Or do they only see what they want to see? Does it hurt to look at me? I mean really look at the real me? Are you afraid you too will hurt if you look into my eyes, beyond my eyes, and connect with my pain? They pretend as I pretend, she thought. She worked. She smiled.

Home. She threw her work bag on the floor. She sat alone. She liked to be alone. No need to pretend. She connected with herself. She kissed her husband as he walked in the door. She smiled, “Hi, dear. How was your day?” They share. They joke. They laugh. His heart is broken, as is hers. He knows. He understands. They love each other even more so than before their son died. He makes her laugh. He knows me, he is me, she thinks, so I feel most alive when he makes me laugh. She feels connected to him. They kiss good-night as he heads to bed. She sorts through the crazy thoughts, trying to find the coherent ones that must still be in there somewhere among the tangled mass of useless stuff that had accumulated during the day. Hours pass as she sits alone.

The tears fell from the silhouette as she moved slowly down the hallway toward the bedroom. If only I could slow my manic mind down to this speed, she thought, as she ended another day in the life.

“I love you and miss you with all my heart, Ben.” I whisper as I mercifully drift off to sleep.

The rhythm of a silhouette’s life. After death.

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THE GLASS CLOWN

We all have memories of the clown in our class, the kid who always made us laugh as he challenged the teacher with a joke or a prank. We all love a clown.

I shared with a friend last night how I feel like a circus clown most of the time. I’ve become quite adept at performing, at exaggerating my expressions and actions, as if I must prove that I have energy continuously gurgling to the top and that ambivalence does not control my whole being. Mimicking the actions of the old me, the woman I was before Ben died, is becoming natural–even though it’s so very unnatural to me. I pretend now. It’s expected of me.

I have already grown weary of living in a world that doesn’t understand my grief. I’m tired of feeling rejected if I allude to my grief. So, I’ll be that clown who plasters an over-sized smile on my face for you. And I’ll be the clown who turns away so that the lonesome tear trailing down my cheek cannot be seen by you.

Only I, and those who allow me to feel and share my grief in their presence, will understand how brittle and fragile I am. So very fragile and sad. I am the glass clown.

923,000 MINUTES AND COUNTING…

I spend a lot of each day in hiding, having realized that there’s a time and a place to share my sorrow. But I try to be real, at least with myself, in my private time. Burying my feelings only allows them to gain power and seep out sideways at some later point in time. Today I’m struggling with bitterness, the one emotion that keeps sniveling its way in, no matter how hard I try to battle it.

Love and time are the two most important concepts that I try to keep in the forefront of my life as I go forward after Ben’s death. One of my new friends from my support group has encouraged me to share her mantra, what keeps her going to get through each day while combating her grief over the death of her son. When she begins to sink, she tells herself: “Just keep going….take this minute to do the next loving thing.” What a wonderful mantra to live by, using my love and my time to make my little circle a little bit better.

Being a numbers freak, I’ve figured out that there are 1,440 minutes in each day. That gives me lots of opportunities to say “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you.” Ben died a year and 9 months ago. According to my handy little calculator that I pulled out of my cupboard, the clock tick-tocked 1,440 minutes in each day, 43,800 minutes in each month, and 525,600 minutes in the first year after his death. Get your calculator out and you can compute that over 923,000 minutes (yes, that’s nearly one MILLION minutes!!) have passed since Ben’s death.

I really need to take a few minutes to spew the ugly bitterness within, to allow room for more loving thoughts in my head. I treasure those who have willingly come into my life since Ben’s death and those who have willingly stayed. They have made me feel loved even on my darkest of darkest days, and they have taught me that it is possible to find balance between joy and sorrow. A little bit of that mixed in with a whole lot of that. I will never, ever turn my back on any of them because they have taught me what love is. In contrast, those who haven’t taken a minute out of their month or their year to contact me have taught me what a lack of empathy is. If I haven’t heard from someone in tens of thousands (or in some cases almost a million) minutes, it might be wise if I came to the conclusion that they just don’t care about me. They’ve chosen to avoid me, to miss a lot of opportunities to say “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you.” I am hurt. I feel abandoned by their inaction. It makes my heart hurt….even more.

So, you who came to Ben’s funeral and then walked out of my life or those of you who said “I’m here for you” or “I’ll call you,” please know that I’ve noticed. As I listen to your silence in another day, as another 1,440 minutes float into the past, I do notice that you never send a quick “love you” or “thinking of you.” It would take less than a minute, less than a second, really. But by not doing so, you have taught me an extremely valuable lesson. You’ve taught me that words can be shallow, but you’ve also taught me how precious time is. Not the time that we have left until our last day on this earth, but the time that we spend in showing others that we love them. I’ve learned how rewarded I feel if I show kindness and compassion and empathy to those whom I love. Each and every minute giving love counts. Your silence in these tens of thousands of minutes speaks volumes about you, while encouraging me to be aware of the circumstances of those around me.

I can’t remain bitter toward you who have abandoned me. That bitterness will poison me. Let me take my pain and my hurt and turn it around. Let me send out an extra whisper of love each day to someone who needs one. Let me take one minute out of the 1,440 minutes in each day and make a difference in someone’s life. “Just keep going….take this minute and do the next loving thing.” And then perhaps I can forget that you have forgotten me at some point during the last 923,000 minutes and counting.

DEAR GOD, KEEP ME INFLATED…..

I can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but I can’t fool me. Maybe it’s because it’s coming at me from four directions today that I find myself sliding again into that big black hole.

When we dropped Nick off at law school two weeks ago, I was determined that I would head out of Boston with a smile on my face, no tears in my eyes, happy that Nick was where he is meant to be and confident that his mom would not fall to pieces upon walking through the door of our now empty nest. Since Harvard had so kindly given Nick a year’s deferral after they learned that Ben had died, we were given a reprieve, allowing us an extra year to still be “hands-on” Mom and Dad.  Now Nick’s at college, Gina’s in her apartment a half hour away, and Benny is gone. It’s officially empty…for the first time since December 16, 1985, the day before Benny was born. So, here I am, bobbing about, with my mind in a whirl and my heart all jagged.

When we decided to cut our trip to Boston short last week so that we could get home to Jack as he was dying in the nursing home, I knew the next several days would be busy ones. I’d be OK. I wouldn’t be home long enough for the empty nest idea to register. And when I went to sign Jack up for hospice the morning after our return, I assured myself and the hospice people that “This is nothing. My son died. I can handle this. Jack’s 75 and “only” a friend. Nothing can be worse than my son dying.” But Jack was like family. Divorced and estranged from his only uncaring daughter, he had spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, baptism, birthday, First Communion, Confirmation, etc. with us, celebrating every milestone of our kids’ lives with us. I spent all day last Sunday with Jack in the nursing home and he died early Monday morning…in the same nursing home that my mother-in-law also lives in.  She’s been there for 3 years with Alzheimer’s, and two days ago the RN told me it was only a matter of time for my mother-in-law too since she had stopped eating.

The “sucking in” or “sucking out”, whatever you call it, started yesterday afternoon when I looked for pictures of Jack on my computer and in the big box of Benny’s pictures. The box that holds most of his pictures. The box we have to grab if our house ever catches on fire! After about a half hour of looking through pics, I emailed the funeral guy and told him I couldn’t find a decent picture of Jack. But really I didn’t have the strength, the heart, to look at any more pictures. My heart was breaking. So, I gave it up, feeling guilty that I had no strength to continue to look for a nice picture of Jack for his obituary. When we were shopping last night and I told Ben what I had emailed the funeral guy, he said he’d look through the dozens of other boxes of pictures we have so that we could find a nice picture of Jack and also a nice one of his mom since we would soon be needing one for her. Wanting to spare him that pain, I looked through about 4 boxes this morning. But I discovered there were lots of pictures of Benny still in them! So, hiding my pain from my husband, I gave up. I couldn’t look at pictures of my baby any longer!

And just now my husband, cleaning out a cupboard, came across a lunch box with Gina’s name on it and I said, “Oh, yeah, there’s one in there too with Nick’s name on it.” And then, struggling to get the words out, and debating whether or not I should do it, I told him about the two post-it notes that I had just found in the picture boxes.  Both written by me when Benny was about 2 or 3, quoting him:  “Mom, I are big now” and “Mom – did you ever hear ‘Don’t let your boys grow up to be cowboys – let them be nurses'”? So I told my husband about them and it was all over. Me as Mom and him as Dad, standing in our empty kitchen in our empty house, both of us sobbing, hugging each other, in tears, mumbling about how overwhelming this friggin’ nightmare is! “Oh, Benny! Oh, Benny!” my husband cried.

So, today the life is officially sucked out of me. I’m officially down and out. I’ve surrendered. The bravado mask I’ve kept plastered to my face has been tossed to the floor. Time to be nice to me as I sit in our empty nest….. no faking it today. So many pictures of my son!!! So many memories !!! And reading the email from my sister-in-law with a draft of my mother-in-law’s obituary… preceded in death by her grandson…..” Looking for a picture of Jack. And realizing that 9 years ago today Dad died. Dad, one of my best friends, who I could talk to about almost anything. Death surrounds me on all four sides. It envelopes me. Suffocates me. I miss my Dad and I miss Ben so much that I can’t see beyond today. What is life? What is death? How does one go on?

It’s like having a balloon, inflated, held tightly in hand, but un-knotted, air always seeping out of it. I know I have to keep going on. To search for strength when I feel I have no more. To find it somewhere, somehow. And to live my life so that, if there is a heaven, I can hug my baby again. But the air keeps seeping out of me, out of this “balloon” and it takes so much effort to keep it inflated and so much of my energy to keep puffing “life” back into it.  I’m trying so desperately to hold on tightly to “keep it inflated”, but it’s so damn hard. I can’t stay inflated all the time, I can’t keep smiling, I can’t keep fighting. Today I give in to my sadness. Death is wrapped around me today, closing in, sucking my spirit out of me, ripping my false bravado away. I am limp and lifeless and I have surrendered. I can’t fool me. I hurt!! My heart is broken, never to be the same again. Mom and Dad are home alone with the pieces of our hearts co-mingled in the wreckage of our dreams, our family. We bleed each other’s blood. Dear God, keep me inflated………..

I miss you, Ben, with every ounce of my being!

 

DEEP OR DEEPER DEPTH?

It’s been almost 9-1/2 years since my nephew Cameron died. My God!  9-1/2 years! Cameron celebrated his 5th birthday on a Saturday, became ill a few days later and died the next weekend! From innocence and happiness watching Cameron blow out 5 birthday candles to gut-wrenching sorrow for those of us who loved him…. within a week’s time. Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow….a lifetime of sorrow! My youngest brother Bill is Cameron’s dad.  Bill, of course, was devastated when Cameron died. Shattered! Being a mom, I thought I understood. I could imagine myself in Bill’s shoes…so I sympathized and felt deep, deep compassion for Bill and his wife, Karen. Utter horror! I thought I understood but I didn’t know. I barely comprehended the depth of Bill’s pain until I found myself devastated and shattered when Ben died. Two siblings out of the 8 kids in my family dealt a shitty hand!! Bill’s son died. My son died. One 5 years old. One 27 years old. Our babies.

Bill and I have been talking a lot lately. He, of course, is one of the people I feel the most comfortable around because I don’t need to put on an act with him. “Now” there’s only a handful of people in my life with whom I feel I can be myself. Bill is one of them. Few words need to be spoken between us. It’s just there. Few words…..yet understanding. I am more comfortable revealing more of my sadness to Bill than I am to my husband or Nick or Gina. They are already sad, and I fear making them sadder by forcing them to see and feel my deep, deep sorrow on a 24/7 basis. They know my sorrow is deep but I don’t show them its magnitude on a regular basis. I, of course, don’t want to make Bill feel sadder than he is, and always will be, but he is one step removed from my immediate family, making it easier for me to spit my feelings at him.

Bill says he is now ready to start helping others who have had to face the horror of the death of their child. He and I plan on attending our first support group meeting together in mid-August. A brother/sister team. Old pain/new pain. Young child/young adult. Different stories yet the same. He’ll help. I’ll cry.

Yesterday, while talking about attending the meeting, Bill said to me, “I was worse than you are.” But he felt the need to clarify that statement by saying he was not referring to the depth of our grief–he was referring to how we handle our grief. Bill shut down, shut out. I shut down yet haven’t totally shut out. Cameron was Bill’s only child so he didn’t have other children to maintain for. I have two other kids so I can’t allow myself to shut the world out, to sink to where I would be if I didn’t have them. I hide behind my eyes. Bill is more transparent.

So, in dwelling on his words, it’s as simple as this. There is no way to measure one’s grief or sorrow or anguish or devastation or isolation. No way to measure our pain or sense of loss or count how many pieces we have become after being shattered. It’s kinda like going to the doctor’s office and the nurse asking you to measure your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. There’s a cuff to measure your blood pressure, but there is no device to measure your pain. We throw numbers to the nurse without basis, without thought to concrete comparison. Because there really is no way to measure. And grief is like that. There is no way to compare. No need to compare.

Being in this situation, my heart breaks for myself, my family, and every other soul I know who is climbing this mountain. There is no deeper depth than where we are….or have been.  As I crawl along, I’m seeing that some function better than others. Some juggle joy with their sorrow. Others find a gift in the pain and inspire with that gift. Some seek light while others prefer the darkness. Crowd-seekers travel the same road as those that find comfort in being alone. And all of that is right.  As it should be.  As for me, I’m just now adjusting to the weight of my sorrow and learning to balance my pain on my shoulders so I don’t continue to fall on my scabbed knees. I’m learning, but this I do know…….There is no “deeper” to the depth of our despair and sorrow. It is there. It is endless. It is deep as far as we can see into the darkness. And we, the unfortunate who have lost our precious babies, carry our sorrow with us, ingrained deep within us, each day, every day. We may not feel comfortable allowing others to see our pain, or see our vulnerability….we have learned to hide our pieces, but that pain is a part of us and will always be….at least for me, until the day I die. A broken heart is a broken heart. The depth unfathomable, it cannot be measured. You hurt. I hurt. So many broken souls, missing our children and trying to find our peace, walk this earth. And my heart hurts for those I know that carry this immeasurable pain.

I continue to miss Ben with every bit of who I am.

FOUR IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER …….

My son Nick, who is 23, and I have made it a habit to have lunch together every Wednesday since shortly after Ben died, with Gina joining us whenever possible, depending on her schedule.  Last Wednesday, while eating at Sal’s and Al’s Diner, our conversation revolved around federal taxation and the nation’s infrastructure. Of course it wasn’t me that steered the conversation in that direction. Nick did. It’s his mind that’s always active with world events, politics and social and economic issues. I was complaining about the amount of taxes we pay, so Nick was pointing out the benefits of paying higher incomes taxes and how the interstate highway near our house is maintained with our tax dollars. His words – “Think about if we had to pay tolls to travel Route 2 and how much our family of 4 would have to pay since we travel that highway a lot.”

Boom! Our family of 4! It registered immediately, but I don’t think I even hinted at the impact those four little words had on me! I think my face remained “normal” as the words slapped me right upside my head and threw my gut into a twisted knot. Having had no expectation of the wind being knocked out of me, I sat there in a stunned state with my mind blank, except for “”Our family of 4. Our family of 4…..” The truth. I didn’t hear the rest of Nick’s words on the subject, and I believe he never even realized the effect his words had on me or the magnitude of the pain I felt upon hearing them. They sliced right through me–cut this Mom’s heart to the core. Innocent and harmless and ordinary words. It’s always been Mom, Dad, Ben, Nick and Gina. Not “our family of four!!” First time I had heard anyone say that. Those four little words still reverberate several days later, as that Three Dog Night tune plays over and over in my head…..

Four is the loneliest number that I’ll ever do….. Oh, it’s the saddest experience that I’ll ever know……. How I hate living with this OCD mind of mine! Quit it with the song, will ya?!!

 

SAD SKIN

I had my therapist laughing at my last visit, as usual. I am always direct, up front with her. It’s so refreshing to be honest with her. I was telling her about my conversation with my sister, about me not knowing how to do “this” and how I wish I could push myself up off my knees and be inspired. I told her how I have saved several hundred uplifting and inspirational quotes from various Facebook posts since Ben died and how my collection has grown exponentially over the last several months, saved on my laptop and my new smart phone. After I held up my phone for her to see, I tossed it down on my chair, chuckled and blurted out, “But that ain’t my life.” And she burst out laughing, at my dry humor and my honesty.

I am not there. And that definitely “ain’t my life.” I do want to be inspired. I’d love somebody or some words to pull me up. I really do. I believe there will come a time when that happens, and perhaps there will even be a time when I can inspire and lift up some other sad soul, but not now. So I’m saving those quotes for “later.”

In analyzing myself recently, trying to “improve my outlook” (meaning being less depressed and sad), I’ve gained some important insights. I know everything is in the interpretation, and I’ve discovered that as I’ve read these numerous “inspiring” quotes, I interpret them to say (to ME): “Quit sitting in your own shit! Get up! Move on! Inspire us!” I can watch others inspire, but I can’t inspire others. And I may never be able to…..because there is no blessing in my son’s death. Consequently, I feel like a failure…..because I am not able to stand up and proudly proclaim that I am strong and so powerful and so insightful and so appreciative of the lessons learned from my sorrow–I cannot overcome whatever life throws at me. I can’t. So, in lieu of being my own worst critic, I’m realizing that I am putting expectations on myself to be the Super Woman of Grief. Knowing full well that I can’t be. I’m learning it’s OK to admit this to myself: I AM NOT STRONG.

So, for the last few weeks, when I’ve read the words “Be strong!” I’ve been able to tell myself that there’s strength in admitting you are weak. And who in the heck even knows what “strong” is….after your son dies? What better way to eventually become strong and less sad than to admit that I am sad and miserable and 99.9 percent of the time “uninspire-able”? Is there a kinder way to become more inspiring, to yourself, than to be real? I don’t think so. So, because I can admit that I am weak and accept that I carry immeasurable volumes of deep, dark, ugly pain inside me, I can accept that I am the most comfortable being alone now. I don’t like being around people for very long, with the exception of the few people who allow me to be myself. And I am being kinder to myself and expecting way less of myself than I did just a few weeks ago. It’s not that I’m anti-social and fatalistic and not seeing any joy in this world. I am just being realistic. I like being alone. To me “alone” is a place where I don’t need to put on a performance for others, feeling as if I am being censored. It’s a place where I can remember sweet memories and grind through those troubling thoughts that take my mind captive. It is calming and therapeutic for me…..which is something I am beginning to realize, as I continue to lessen the expectations I put upon myself.

So, when I am alone, with my persistent grief around my neck, and I’m being introspective, I pat myself on my back, with a little bit of pride, because I am learning this:

I can accept that I am not just sad, I am devastated!!! My son died and I am damaged. There are ugly scars on my heart and slashes through the very core of me. But knowing that, I’m getting good at just being myself, feeling relieved when I don’t need to “perform” for others. I’m not fighting my sorrow. I AM my sorrow. And that’s what it takes, isn’t it? Taking a good look at myself and being honest? I’m getting to know who I am–where I am. And I’m lessening the impact and pressure I put upon myself when I feel like expectations are being put on me, by others and by myself. And, most importantly, I’m telling myself that it’s OK not to jump up and proclaim, “I am strong! I am invincible! Let me inspire you!” I am getting comfortable in my own skin.

So how about this for a post?

I am a mess. I am not OK. If you think I am getting better, you are wrong. I cry a lot….every day. I am just getting better at pretending. Often times I feel like a crazy woman! My only certainty in life right now is that I am going to die with a broken heart and there is nothing that can be said or done to change that! I cannot be “inspired” to run and hide from my grief. I miss my son with every ounce of my being. BUT……I am proud to say that I am becoming accepting of who I am and where I am….in this moment. I am being kind to myself. I am learning to live in my own skin. My sad skin, that is. Yes, you heard me……. I am learning to live in my own SAD skin.

Can honesty be inspiring?

THE GLASS

I’ve always been the pull yourself up by your boot straps, look on the bright side, praying for strength and grace, and encouraging others kind of person. I love many, many people, including my wonderful husband, and I am blessed to have had immeasurable joy in my life. But my life equals my kids. My three kids, Ben, Nick and Gina. It’s been that way since Ben took his first breath. I am a mom to my core.

(more…)

THE DEAD BIRD DID IT

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.

 

 

Kaleidoscope

I remember the little cardboard cylinders our parents would buy for us from the five and dime when we were kids. I’d pick one up and look in one end while light entered from the other. Always fascinating to me, I realized that a beautiful mosaic was created no matter which way the tube was moved. The result was always the same….different patterns and designs, but always beautiful, as the tiny flecks continuously rearranged themselves to create an awesome, symmetrical work of art.

I guess, without even thinking about it, I had figured my life would be the same. My husband and me and our three kids would continuously rearrange ourselves, sliding comfortably next to each other as time passed. As we all changed and our world turned around us. And the end result would always be the same. Different patterns and designs, but always beautiful, as it should be. But it can never be again.

I’m aware of what I need to do each day. I tailor my thoughts, playing mind games, frequently throughout each and every day.  Encouraging myself, as others do, to keep my head above the water, my eyes turned toward the light. But it is not so easy. No day is ever easy. I can, at times, see with bright eyes the light from the other side, and I can structure my thoughts to be conscious of the beauty around me….”be aware of the beauty of this earth, and of love given and received, and treasure the joys of life.” But at other times, times which are never predetermined, I simply cannot look through that chamber. Instead of seeing the beautiful design, the symmetrical work of art, the perfect pattern within, I know my eyes will see no light coming from the other side. What I will see will be only the black space that should be occupied by Ben, my first-born, my baby. Reflected back at me will be a void, as large as I feel alone, where Ben should be. Everything else will be filtered through that void. And the beauty around me will be muted….as I miss Ben with every breath I take.