It's astounding to me that a whole year has flown by, all this time, all these days and experiences without you here. You didn't breathe a single breath of air in all of 2016, exiting as you did at 9:45 pm on New Year's Eve, 2015. I arose before the sun today and watched the sky turn orange and then peach and pink through teary eyes. There are not enough words to say how my heart hurts at the thought of this year coming to a close. As hard as this year has been, it was all so new and I felt close to you. The year of firsts is intense, but special, too. And now I find myself on the threshold of the anniversary of the worst day of my life - the last of the firsts. The Big One. After today it will be the year of Seconds which feels infinitely farther away from that pivotal point in our lives. There is a precious, tender poignancy to the Firsts that doesn't carry forward as they turn into Seconds. I imagine this will make the year of Seconds (and Thirds and Fourths and so on) that much harder. There is a terribleness to the process of growing accustomed to something as awful as the death of a child.
One full year has passed since I saw your sweet face; since you had that last fantastic day of your short life. What a day that was! Hunting, hanging with your pals, enjoying the freakishly warm day in a tee-shirt, riding around in the truck with the windows down and music blasting, spending time with Starr, eating all your favorite foods, laughing it up with your brothers, singing and dancing to the soundtrack of your youth with the family. When I reflect on that day, it makes me smile and cry at the same time. It makes me wonder if somehow, on some level, it was a gift of God knowing that the end was nigh and so you were granted a perfect, glorious last day with us. It gives me something to hold onto, something that allows me to forgive myself for parenting mistakes, missed opportunities, causing you harm in any way. I have this last day to remember you by and the treasured last pictures of you; me and you dancing in the kitchen.
As much as I don't want to believe it, the calendar doesn't lie. Tonight some of us are gathering at the launching pad (the tree), to light candles and remember your life and passing, Thor. We all are changed by your life and love, and because we love you so much, we are transformed by your death, too. It will be so terribly difficult to stand in that spot, on the anniversary of that moment when your truck screeched around a bend and hurtled through the December night air to end its flight in an abrupt stop at that tree. It will be impossibly hard to stand there on that piece of ground where your body lay as the warmth of life leeched into the leaves beneath it. But there is nowhere else for me to be. I must be there on this last of the Firsts - the First anniversary of our last day with you. This is our story with its tragic twist. It's the way it unfolded for us, and the path of grief is the path I face. I could choose to sidestep, ignore, downplay or deny what is, but that, somehow, demeans your life and that's something I can never do.
And what a life you had, my darling! What joy you brought to me--to us! I miss you so much. I long to laugh at your infectious playfulness. You had a quick wit and funny sense of humor that brought laughter to anyone, even if they were feeling sad. You were willing to make a fool of yourself for the sake of getting a laugh. Sounds a lot like your dad, to me. I hear time and again how much your friends relied on your kind and empathetic listening ear. You had a wisdom about you that belied your young age, and you shared what you could with others when they asked. You embodied and shared many of the spiritual lessons you learned during your young years at the Yogaville school. Mr. Mahen and Mrs. Raji, along with the families all helped to fortify and give voice to that inherent goodness you were born with. Even so, you were rascally and wild and free, (sounds a lot like your mother…ahem!) you lived each day like it was the last and didn't have many regrets, in the end, I think. Maybe you would have like more time here, but I don't know if souls have those kinds of longings. I hope not. Regret sucks.
Recently, I chuckled to myself when I thought about how many times you skipped school so you could do whatever it was you wanted to do. It makes me wonder if, on some level, you knew you had a short time here, and it couldn't be wasted in a classroom. Still, you managed to graduate and could walk with your class (thank you, Sue Miles!). I snapped a photo during graduation where you have the sweetest expression on your face, it melts my heart.
I loved cooking for you. Since you started eating food you gobbled up whatever mama made - heck, you loved breastfeeding for that matter! Ha! I miss your appetite and appreciative Ooohs and Mmmmms! I baked you epic birthday cakes that took hours to decorate; your wish was my command. Monster Truck cake? Sure! Hot Wheels cake? No problem! I still prepare your favorites, chicken & dumplings, chili, venison chops, pork chops, gumbo or jambalaya, often and think of you as I do it, offering it up from my heart to you, wherever you are.
I would give anything to have you come storming in the house full of excitement because you had landed deer or were heading out to go fishing with Travis and Aaron or any your dozens of friends. The outdoors called to you, it was your favorite place to be. Well, it might be a toss-up between the great outdoors and cruising and thumping in your truck along a country road, both were right at the top of your list of Awesome Shit To Do. Also on that list was: riding four-wheelers, mudding, drinking a cold one, hanging with friends, spending time with family, working on motors, building something, helping anyone with anything, loving a pretty woman, picking and grinning with dad (and showing him up, a little) - not necessarily in that order.
I long for the hugs we shared. I think about your little arms when you were small wrapped around my neck for comfort or security. As you got older, those hugs became a somewhat more sporadic but no less sweet. As you grew into a strong, young man I treasured the days you'd come to visit, and you'd wrap me up in those big arms and plant a whiskered kiss on my cheek with an "I love you, Mama." I wish so badly that we'd get more of those days.
Most of all I miss your physical presence, your vibrational energy that was larger than life; a vibration that we echoed in each other since before you were born. It was suggested to me that you and I might be operating as twin souls; we are brother and sister of the spirit taking new life with each other to further the experience for each. This notion fascinated me and resonates as true, it speaks to the inexplicable, deep connection we share.
Last week, at work, I heard Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison, and I broke down and cried. One of my favorite songs since I was a girl, Grandpa let me listen to that 8-track tape over and over and over again. You told me that you wanted that song for us to dance to for the Mother-Son dance at your wedding - whenever it would be. Even if I don't get to see you get married, at least I have this, we had our plan. Every time I hear that song now, I imagine you and I dancing; me a proud mom of a handsome groom and you, happy and excited for your life with your new bride. Some might think that's just crazy to think that way, so painful and sad. But not to me, it's an imagining full of wishes and love that squeezes my heart just enough. I think that if I wish it enough, we'll get to have that dance someday, maybe on a day when we're both angels.
Yesterday I reread many of the letters I've written to you over this year. I wanted to see if I still feel the same way. If I've made progress (whatever that means). I discovered many things about myself and about love through the profound and crushing weight of grief. I plunged myself into the pain, suffering and sorrow to explore and understand what lessons they could teach me. I read my words where I poured out longing and confusion and frustration and anger. It's amazing to me how often I found Grace and Peace and Love as a salve for my bloodied, battered and bruised heart. This year of firsts brought more heartache but also more open vulnerability to experience Love from a deeper place. As the weeks folded into months and the winter melted into spring, I dove to depths of my heart to find what matters.
We've all come so far on this road. Your dad, brothers and I traveled to mountain and shore together, learning how to BE without one of our limbs. We let the wind and the waves wash away the agony of heartache and let the sun warm sink it's healing energy through our skin and down into our bones. We learned how to smile and laugh, again. We see you all around us in the beauty of nature and hear you in the chimes that sing in the wind. Over these months we've leaned heavily on each other and on our friends, calling on the prayer-energy and love that surrounds us to keep us afloat. We delved into new hobbies and homestead projects to keep our hands busy and our minds from stewing too long in the agony of grief. Our hearts are heavy with loss, but also light with love and the happy memories of our life together. We smile through the tears and somehow find the will to carry on.
I am a broken shell, (aren't we all?) beautiful in its imperfection; the symmetrical whorls cracked to reveal a new, unique pattern. I can live with brokenness. It's not a death sentence, but rather an invitation to explore a different way of being. It takes guts to embrace the jagged edges, own them, walk ahead with them as part of my new arraignment. I am adorned with the crystalline pieces of my heart strung like a necklace about my neck and shining like diamonds from the waves of my hair. If I pause to look at these shards I see the love we have for each other reflected there; it shines like a million suns and dazzles in dancing rainbows. I am broken, but remade, rearranged and attuned anew to a higher vibration.
The experience of mourning your death has transformed me into someone I hardly recognize, but whom I kinda like, Thor. A purer, lighter version of me emerges from the crucible of sorrow with much of the calcified layers of opinion, ambition, self-doubt, insecurity and fear burned away. I am content in my own skin. There is still so much work to do, Thor, so I can stay rooted in and living from peace and love and joy. As far as I've come, I still slip and fall on this rocky terrain. For the road is not smooth nor predictable. And for all the inner work I've done, the fact remains that I will live the rest of this life with the terrible knowledge that I've lost a beloved son. That's a hard life path, baby. I feel more equipped to travel this path through the rocks and crags now. I am delighted to find surprise oases of pure Joy and Light; for while the road is impossibly hard, the treasures along its way are unspeakably rich and rewarding. My job is to keep moving and stay open to what the journey reveals.
A year has flown but the number of days between us can neve diminish the love I have for you. It only grows stronger.
I love you,
I love you,