Thursday, November 24, 2016

For Thor - 74 - Thanksgiving

There isn't enough room in my skin for everything I feel today. It's Thanksgiving Day, and I'm home alone, by choice. It wasn't easy to decide to stay here while Dad and Xanny are in Pennsylvania. But as this day drew close, I knew that I didn't have feasting and celebration in my heart. Myriad emotions and states of being tug and pull at each other in a constant battle. One moment my heart overflows with gratefulness and the next, grief smashes in to steal all the air and energy. Then I manically run from the pain; busy being busy, filling the moments with anything that keeps me from focusing on the one dreaded fact I cannot outrun, ever. No matter how many projects, people, plans, or holiday feasts come and go, you, my beloved boy, are dead. And I live on, rooted in the bottom of the well of grief.

My mind is at once my tormentor and my friend today. It takes me on a poignant journey through the memories I have from your nineteen years with us. I recall your sweet face, beautiful blue eyes, bright smile and the total love you showed to your family. You adored Thanksgiving; it's as if this feast day was made for you. Autumn, hunting, friends, family, food, laughter, joy, and appreciation of the bounty showered upon us, appreciating what is; enjoying what is in each moment. Then my mind turns darkly and pulls up the starkness of the empty chair where you should be. That glaring empty hole is not just in my imagination; it is in my heart. I visualized going through the motions of our traditional observance and it feels so hollow to me. I mentally walked through the preparation of a Thanksgiving meal, making the dressing, the gravy (your favorite!), setting out all the plates and silver and all the effort…without you. Every time my heart broke all over again. I ended up in sobbing tears, wracked with pain. It's too soon for me to set a feasting table, a celebration of bounty and plenty.

It's not that I'm not thankful. I practice gratitude every day as part of my way of living, again. Every day I write or recall the reasons for being grateful, and I touch on some of the millions of beautiful gifts for which I'm thankful. To be honest, this is the single most important thing I do to keep going day to day. When it comes to you, I am thankful, so deeply, utterly grateful for each precious moment we had together. I am working to forgive myself for not being "present" enough for many of them, living as I was in a state of complacent disbelief that anything bad could ever happen to us. I took too many of those moments for granted. I assumed I'd always have you, it never crossed my mind that life would throw such an ugly twist into the story. And now here we are. I'm mourning you with hot tears streaming down my face and my heart broken into a million pieces. There isn't anything of myself that I wouldn't give to hold you in my arms again, to hear your voice and kiss your cheek.

Dad and Xan headed to PA, I stayed home (with Chaz). I don't have it in me to pretend to be okay-ish, nor to be around everyone and cry all day, either. I want to hibernate deep in the bottom of the well and feel what I feel without distraction. I want to commune with you, Thor, for a while and remember the beautiful gift of your life with us. I want to be here, where I can look at the family pictures and say your name out loud and cry and wish and lament and just be sad, broken-hearted mom. Because this is what is, this is what I am every day, but more so today.

Yeah, there is too much to feel for my skin to contain. Stretched paper-thin any little thing pricks that surface and taps the grief that waits there, barely contained. The silliest, simplest, random things set me crying. Yesterday it was a stupid news story that made me angry, and I burst into tears. The day before that arguing about politics with friends on Facebook was a distraction that felt better than how I feel inside. This morning the day dawned into a family-based holiday, and I can't stop crying. My heartbreak is leaking out of my eyes. There's nowhere to hide or run. I have to endure the day. And I will somehow, I have options available for any moment. Opting out of the "todo" of traveling and preparing a feast makes it more bearable. I only have to worry about myself today and not how the rapid-fire emotional changes affect others. They say that it might be good to create new traditions in the wake of death in the family. Maybe it's time for that to happen.

Chaz stayed home, too. He was worried about leaving the Metro side of the family without any Stishes on this first Thanksgiving, and he wanted to be close to me, too. He's coping, too, with the company of his cousins and friends. What a sweetheart. He's been ready with a hug more than once already and held my hand for a while in silence. Lady is on high-alert, too. She is such a sweet little being. She cuddles her little furry self right next to me. And I can feel you, my beautiful angel, hovering nearby and wrapping me in your wing.

Oh, Thor! I can hardly write as I can't see the screen or keys for crying. I want you to come through that fucking door! I want you to here in our home, eating dinner with us and kicked back watching football. I want to hear you and Dad and Pap play guitars together again. I wish so badly that I could be irritated with you for wanting to spend most of the holiday hunting and then would be proud of you for getting a deer, too. I want to chide you for putting too much whipped cream on your pie and laugh as you goad me by adding even more. I want to snuggle down after the Thanksgiving revelry is all over to watch A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation with the family; a tradition I can't imagine keeping this year without crying the whole way through and laughing ruefully at all the jokes you loved so much. The glaring hole of your absence is too much for me. It swallows me whole and delivers me to that dark, breathless place where grief is thick and cumbersome.

The weather is supposed to be pleasant today; it may beckon me to take a long walk. Or we may decide to see a movie. Or we may just stay here and chill. Chaz and I are playing it by ear, minute by minute and he's cool with whatever the moment needs. I'm not sure what the day will hold, Thor, but you can be sure you are indelibly on our minds and in our hearts no matter what we're "doing."

Today I give thanks for all that is. Even if it's impossible to understand. Even if it hurts because I miss you so terribly. I offer thanks in the form of tears and remembered the joy and with an eye to life yet-to-be-lived, in each moment.

It is with a GREAT, FULL heart… that I offer thanks to Life for letting me be your mom, a happening that transformed me completely. For bringing you here to be my son, a relationship that continues, still. For the nineteen years of life and love, we shared here, together. For the eternal love that connects us, beyond the realm of the living and into the unmanifest realm of peace and divine love from which we all spring. I give thanks for my broken-heart that shines love through the cracks even as it weeps bitter tears. I offer undying gratitude for every single moment with you. I am so breathlessly grateful for the sweetness of life with your brothers and with your dad - our family. I am thankful for faith and grace that shower me with inspiration and strength in the moments when I'm unsure I can walk ahead.

I am thankful for the sun that shines through the front-door glass, a ray of hope that cuts through the gray clouds like a golden sword. 

I love you,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

For Thor - 73 - Starlight

I'm supposed to be working. Instead, I'm here writing to you. My new job started a little over two weeks ago, and while it's amazing to be a part of something so cool, in all the hectic activity I've missed you more keenly, more deeply. There is no place for my tears in my new day. And when I get home there is the rush of activity that naturally follows an intense full-time job; get supper on the table, debrief from the day and plan for the next, collapse and try to get some rest before doing it all again. I have two hours each day in the car, and on many days this is the time for tears to fall and for us to pick up our conversation. A conversation that is all too one sided for me, Bubby. But today, I have to set aside work for a spell and write. The whirl of emotions has reached a crescendo and is spilling out beyond tears and gut-wrenching agony to take the form of words on a screen. My to-do list will have to rest unattended for a bit.

The leaves on the trees glow with sunlight filtering through them in hues of amber, gold, and ruby. They dance and spin through the air in an autumn breeze. I watch out the window as nature once again shows me the total impermanence of anything in this world. A leaf that lay on the ground today, riddled with holes and crisp with frost was once the harbinger of a new season, unfurling to greet the spring. Our lives so very like these leaves celebrated in each expressive phase. Your leaf was a whole, healthy, bright green beauty, torn from life's branch by a terrible wind of fate. I long for you to have lived a long, full life greeting so many more sunrises before falling to the earth, my boy. My heart overflows with love, but also anger and regret. How is it that such a fine, strong son is struck down before he even gets going? Where is the sense or justice or fairness or reason or anything that tells me how to find my footing when you are gone? How do I reconcile a broken heart and a joyful life?

Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and I'm a wreck inside. I don't want to think about family gatherings. Our collective presence shines a stark light on the edges of the hole, the empty place, left by your death. Every day it's there, but on these holidays it looms larger and more painful, pointed up like long shadows cast by a bright light. Christmas ads, carols, invitations to parties, hints at the celebration that typically bring a smile and spark anticipation are like a million terrible knives cutting me all at once. I want to run away to somewhere where these holidays aren't in the culture. I checked airfare to Fiji and Bali, I don't have a passport, so it's a rhetorical exercise. The horrible thing is that no matter how far I run, I'll never outrun the fact that we are closing in on the worst time of the year and there is nothing to be done. I have to endure it, somehow. That's what has me short tempered, uncertain, quick-to-cry and lacking resilience.

Each day dawns with new promise, and I try to find footing to walk ahead into that possibility. I sit in meditation and visualize peace washing over and through me, I pray for Grace and vision to see the way. I long to see your face and hear your voice in my heart. Then I get in the car and drive into another flurry of activity, putting my heartbreak aside for a few hours. I've gotten away with it for a couple of weeks now, but today meditation brought tears that rose out of the depths of love and sorrow. The drive to town took longer because I had to stop along the way when I couldn't see the road for sobbing.

We had a work party putting the barn on the roof last weekend. The trusses went up, and the sheeting went on. Dad is thrilled to have his things under cover. We missed you greatly, darling. Chaz discovered that he could wear your Red Wing boots. My heart was in my throat as he laced them up and strode out with determined, proud steps. All day long, we could have used another pair of hands, and it went unsaid, but clearly understood that those hands should have been yours. You would have eaten that shit up! These are the things that twist my heart in new agony. It was a gorgeous day with friends and family working together, and yet, there is an undercurrent of sadness that just won't fade.

I went to the "launching pad" the other day and hung a new wreath on the tree. I straightened the myriad offerings of flowers, candles and little trinkets collected near the base. I still sit on that little patch of earth where you left us, where your heart stopped, and you breathed your last. I sit there because it is the last place you touched on the actual earth. I have a handful of this earth in a little jar at home. People wonder how I can stand to be there. To me, it's sacred, holy and eternally ours. Maybe I'm crazy, but I do what feels right at the moment.

One morning I went into the bedroom to wake Xanny. His face nestled under the blankets in just the right way to reveal only his hair, brow, and nose. He looks so much like you, Thor! At that moment I couldn't breathe. I just stood there looking, reveling in the gift of seeing "you" in the flesh, seeing how you live on in your brother. And you do live on in your brothers, in many ways. In memories, and music, hobbies and movies and most of all in the love we have for you.

I don't know what I'm going to do to survive the upcoming holiday season, Thor. I don't want to celebrate. And I don't want to let it all go, either. Maybe we need to change things up and do something different. Traditions seem to fly in the face of my grief this year. Gifts and candy and cookies and lights and decorations and parties. God, it all sounds so contrived. My heart isn't in it.

Maybe it's just going to suck, and that's all there is to it. I pray for the strength to walk ahead when all I want to do is fall on the floor and sob.  Maybe the joy will infiltrate the sorrow like stars on a night sky; it seems hopelessly dark, but if I give it time, those stars can show the way.

I renamed the constellation Orion to Thor and it rises high in the sky this time of year. Lead the way, boyo. I'll follow as best I can. 

I love you, Mom