"They'd crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn't."
~ A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny
A few years ago I read an essay by a young mother who stated that she didn't see any reason to mark her little son's death anniversary. "It's not as if he's more dead on those days, or less on others," was the gist of what she had to share.
Good point, I thought. I'll try that.
But you can't help it. The weather changes, as does the quality of the light and the length of the days. There's no mistaking the end of summer; I don't think there's any mistaking, really, any time of year and, therefore, no way of mistaking the inevitable memories accompanying the seasonal changes.
If you watched today, what would you see? Some errands, some gardening. A lot of reading. I have been gulping down Inspector Gamache novels. Because he contemplates the thoughts and feelings of those who murder and those who are murdered, and one who dies of suicide is both? Or have I turned into my grandmother, who read her way through Agatha Christie's mystery canon as a distraction from intolerable loss? You might think I look like an ordinary person on a day off. I suppose that is exactly what I am. Gardening and reading. Except that I am preoccupied and exhausted. I forget, sometimes, how draining grief is. Still.
My son died between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. on September 2, or so they told us. Chicago time. His death certificate says September 3, because he was found the next morning. I asked the funeral director about the discrepancy. "You're not dead until someone says you're dead," he responded. I think about that sometimes. It's not true, of course. When you're dead, you're dead, whether anyone knows it or not. What's true is that no one knows what that it means.
For whatever reason, a series of Compassionate Friends posts have been appearing on my FB feed this summer. Perhaps I needed to know that I am not insane? Or at least not insane all by myself? I read the reflections, so familiar to me now, but still unknown to many of my closest friends. The intense grief, years and decades later. The lost marriages, relationships, friendships, jobs. The guilt from wanting to die when so many others fight for their lives.
Did you think about foregoing treatment and just dying? asked a friend last winter, also diagnosed with breast cancer after her son died of suicide. No, I said, for me it was a uterine cancer scare a couple of years earlier. In seminary. How can you stand it? my best friend asked during the week I awaited the results. I shrugged. What difference did it make?
Should I hit the post button? I think I will. I want to say: This is what it's like.
I don't think I feel particularly sorry for myself. I watch the news. I get it.
And I try hard not to miss the beauty. I at least try to practice resurrection. I have so loved this life. That's what John Ames says in Marilynn Robinson's novel Gilead, as he knows he is dying. I have so loved this life. I try to recover that experience, that knowledge, that feeling.
But it's very hard.