Saturday, December 31, 2016

For Thor - 79 - 365 Days

I've seen 365 sunrises arc across the sky and melt into sunsets through tear-stained eyes. I slogged through fifty-two Monday through Sunday schedules filled with the mundane, the spectacular, and the unbearably sorrowful. I flipped twelve calendar pages one by one as we slid through four seasons in turn; winter, spring, summer and fall. Our earth spun one orbit around the sun marking a full year since that last amazing and tragic day of your life.

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,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

For Thor - 78 - Kintsukuroi

Well, Bubby, I survived. One more holiday milestone has come and gone. I worried and cried and hurt over the idea of a Christmas morning without you here. I retreated deep inside myself to weather the storm of emotions that raged inside of me. I made a plan and went about executing it step by step, with all the determination of a space explorer; follow the flight plan and survive, don't follow it and risk being blown into oblivion. This morning as I sit listening to the soft patter of rainfall outside, I see that I did more than merely survive it; I nailed it. I enjoyed celebrating life and love and being together with your dad and brothers, and with all the family and friends. I didn't spend the whole day teary-eyed and sad, missing the moments with my loved ones who are still here for mourning the death of the one who isn't.

This is not to say I didn't have excruciating moments where I felt hollow like a gutted fish and was sure I looked just as glassy-eyed as one of those finned creatures laying on the ice in the grocery store, staring blankly at nothing with nothing to look forward to but a frying pan. But that hollow-fish feeling didn't rule the day. The big sunshine-yellow shot of JOY that you dropped by to give me several evenings ago, the one that lifted my heart out of sorrow long enough for me to smile widely and laugh from the depths of my toes, that JOY is what came through in the end. It oozed in and around all the cracks in my broken heart and melded them together with delicious warmth. Like a Japanese Kintsukuroi pot, except all the cracks are filled with golden LIGHT instead of molten gold.

Of course, the survival plan had it's part in keeping me buoyant, too. And this plan was designed to ensure complete mental, physical and emotional occupation, and to get something useful out of the deal, to boot. After all, Thor, your mama is nothing if not pragmatic. I was worried that the long weekend would allow too much time for us to fall headlong into the Thor-sized hole in our lives. We needed something we could all do together that didn't allow us (okay, mainly me) to sink deeply into the morass of grief. And so we decided to remodel the kitchen. It's something we were planning to do last January, and with everything that happened after you died, we never got it done.

We started the demolition on Christmas Day, in the afternoon, after the gifts were opened and we'd drunk our traditional mimosas and noshed our traditional bagels. (This year, Chaz made the mimosas for me, willingly taking on the task you used to do so well.) We emptied the cupboards and ripped out the counter tops, took out the sink and lowered the light fixtures. Then we began putting it all back together in the new configuration. Mimi and Pap came for their annual Christmas visit and helped us get it finished. Then Nana came over to help me re-organize all the cupboards and throw out boxes full of accumulated things that I no longer need. By the afternoon of the 28th, the project was DONE. Oh, Thor! You would love it! It's a beautiful labor of love.

In the middle of all this chaos, Lady had to go to the vet for emergency surgery to remove some bladder stones, one of which had become a blockage. Driving in the car is when I'm tested, for real. Rolling down the road with the countryside sliding by in a spectacular wintry display of pinks and blues is when the busyness ceases, and I'm peaceful enough that my feelings can rise to the surface of my consciousness. There within that bubble of steel and glass is where I face the day-to-day stark reality and horror that you are dead and gone. It's also where we get to hang out together. I listen to the music that feels like the soundtrack of your life and conjure your beautiful face in my mind. Some days I cry a lot. Most days it's the greatest comfort in the world to spend that time thinking about you.

Xander rode along with me to keep Lady calm and even with the worry of Lady looming large on my mind, the sorrow over your loss found footing and began to rise. It's fingers wrapped around my neck, choking me with unshed tears. I tapped my fingers and breathed great puffing breaths, sharply exhaling and then biting my lip to keep from falling into the wracking sobs that I knew were coming. We dropped the pup off, leaving her in the capable hands of Doc Auten, and got back in the car to head home. I turned on the car and as the stereo started up, the first bars of "I Love This Life" came on. I lost it. I stopped the car and let the tears come. They felt good and right and would not be denied for even one more second. I know you don't want me to cry too much, but sometimes it's good to lance the wound of this grief and let off the emotional pressure. As good as I'm doing at times, that wound weeps constantly. I think you showed up in that song, in that moment with a cue to cry, like a pin prick releasing the pent up sorrow that I've kept in check for your dad and brothers' sakes. For my sake.

And for your sake, too. A couple of friends mentioned that seeing us happy and finding our way out of the wrenching pain of acute grief would give you great peace, too. One of them told me that a departed soul has to spend time absorbing the lessons of the life lived and also to see and absorb the suffering left behind. And that seeing their loved ones finding their way back to joy, peace, and love would help them with this process. I don't know if it's true, none of us does, really. But it's a beautiful thought, that our healing here is somehow helping you there, wherever that may be, Thor.

Last night you woke me with the wind chimes, again. I sat in the glow of the eternal candle that flickers next to the urn holding your mortal ashes. My mind was still churning with to-dos and musts. So I sat wrapped in the warmth from the woodstove and rocked gently in the chair. Gradually my thoughts quieted down, and my mind stilled, like a lake surface that is no longer whipped by the wind. Thanks for reminding me that I need to carve out these times of sanctuary, not so much to feel grief, but to cultivate an experience of peace. As this first year without you ticks to an end, I find that grief is more often replaced by peace. There is peace in knowing we are forever connected and that our love will never die, even when my life is over, the love that brought you to me as my son carries on. The comings and goings and doings of the earthly realm are not what that matters most. And while we can experience many things here, the love that emanates from the soul comes from that endless source, the wellspring of life itself. Tapping into this peace and love is what matters most. Living from this peace and love is what matters most. Experiencing and sharing this peace and love is what matters most.

Keep waking me up so we can sit a while in the wee hours of the night, Thor. I'll be listening. We'll have a cup of tea at the new kitchen table.

I love you,

Friday, December 23, 2016

For Thor - 77 - Comfort & Joy

Dad and I have been wrapping gifts, buying the groceries and planning a project for our time off, but I go about these activities with a pall of sorrow. I feel like a jewel-toned watercolor painting that someone washed over with gray. It's still me; I'm still here, but all my colors are subdued, muted. Functional (mostly), okay-ish (mostly), happy-ish (sometimes), grateful (always).  As I drove home from work yesterday evening, I ticked off the last few shopping things I needed to do before allowing myself to settle in and experience whatever this first Christmas without you has in store for me.

After supper, last night dad and I wrapped a humongous gift for Chaz and were quite the pair of giggling conspirators as we tried to figure out how to cover this box that stands 7 feet tall! There was joking, all on Dad's part. To get me to smile, he is willing to be ridiculous, silly, bawdy or anything else that might make me grin. And it worked. I'm not sure what happened, but I know you rode in on that joy like you'd be waiting for the shell of heartbreak to crack, again, as it has so many times this year. Every time I allow myself to be broken, open --- melty, I am able to rest in that state of being that allows for a greater experience of love.

Later last night, the insistent tinkling of the wind chimes outside my bedroom window caught my attention and drew my gaze out across the darkness to where the constellation that I now call, Thor, sailed high in the sky. Under the steady gaze of those stars, a feeling of giddy happiness bubbled up from inside as if my whole heart had swallowed the buttery-warm tonic of the sun. I laughed out loud in what can only be described as an expression of pure joy. This is your gift to me this Christmas, Thor. You came to visit us as we prepare for the holiday and literally warmed my heart, touching me with your spirit; bestowing an angel blessing upon me. There are many Christmas memories to treasure from the nineteen magical years together, and this is a new one from our new way of being. Now we're separated by the veil of the unknown, but we are also connected by what we do know in every cell of our Selves: Love.

We took our places in the living room to watch A Christmas Carol, and as we settled in, I made a joke, that was very much at your Dad's expense, but it was so funny that I cracked myself up. Xan and Chaz cracked up, your dad took it well even if he was stunned that I would make such a joke. But I think he appreciated the fact that I was laughing. I mean, I really laughed for the first time in a year. I attribute this to the shot of Joy you hit me with when you called me to stand by the window and listen with all my being for what you're trying to tell me; Live in Joy, Mama!

Grief is an expression of love, pure and simple. Grief grips me tight because I cannot hold you in a big hug and I will never get to see the father you would have been. I won't get to see if your children favor you in looks and charm. I grieve because there is a hole in my heart that cannot be filled because it goes all the way through to the core of me being, back to where we all come from. I grieve for your life cut short, for our journey together this life ending the way it did. I grieve for your brothers and dad and your Starr. I grieve for your friends who miss you terribly and feel uncertain in life, now, not sure about what can be counted upon. I grieve for so many reasons, but they all come back to one root, love.

I grieve because it's Christmas and you're not here with us in the flesh, eating, drinking, laughing, plotting about gifts and making plans to celebrate with your friends.

If all of this is love dressed up as grief, I say that Joy is an expression of Love, too. I am joyful because I am your mom and we share a love and bond that even death cannot break. I feel joy for the memories and the stories I carry that keep you alive in my heart. There is the joy for the way you changed me from being a woman to being a mother, your Mama. I find joy in loving your Dad and brothers, and you. I express joy through tears as I am overwhelmed with love every single day. My broken heart is open to the simple beauty of seeing the full moon setting in the West while the sun graces us with a soft glow in the East - a sight that sparked joy in my heart. Joy can live next door to grief because it is the same love that expresses in each. And if joy is an expression of love, then it can fill the Thor-sized hole in my heart, because if you are anything to me, you are joy and love combined.

When I bought my new car in September, I also got new license plates. I picked out the Protect the Pollinators style that has hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies on it. And then I personalized it with a message not only for me but for anyone who happens to be riding behind me on any road; LIVJOY. I admit, Thor, this is a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of statement, allowing myself to LIVE in JOY and to LIVE JOYFULLY eludes me at times. Grief and sorrow will not be denied, they have their way with me, wringing my heart and sweeping it clean with tears. But it's okay, I don't mind the grief. It is ours, together. But now we are sharing Joy, too, and that is the biggest gift of all.

I'll try to remember your visit as we roll closer to the anniversary of your death. That is a sad, sad day for me. But I am staying open to what you might reveal in the wee hours of the night; of how I might find my way out of pain and into Joy more fully. I'll be listening for you to ring the chimes and sing to my soul, sweet boy.

It's Christmas Eve, Eve and we'll be going to the party with the family. It's going to be hard to be around everyone with that empty spot where you should be standing, in the picture, in the conversation, in the making of new memories. But I'll do my best to tap into that ball of yellow, sunshine, JOY you hit me with.

There will be tears.
Tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. Both bring comfort in their turn.

I haven't been able to wish anyone a Merry Christmas this year. The words get stuck in my throat and dry to dust in my mouth. I think this is because I don't feel merry inside. In order to bestow a wish, one must feel the thing being wished for; happiness, merriment, etc. While merriment might be out of the scope of my experience this year, comfort and joy are certainly in my grasp. I can wish Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy!  I'm grateful for this gift, dear boy. Thank you for staying close and for helping me find my way. 

I love you,

Monday, December 19, 2016

For Thor - 76 - One Step. Then another.

This was a heck of a weekend, Thor. The holiday rush is upon us in a cascade of red and green, of gifts and festive gatherings, of traditions made rich with the love of friends and family. And we wonder moment by moment how we do this without you here. I find myself at odds with the expectation of carrying on and the desire to experience some joy here among the living. Some moments can be called good, these days, but most are hindered by the choking weed of sorrow that has taken root in the garden of my heart.

Dad and I went on a grand adventure yesterday. We decided that we are going to "do" Christmas this year as we have every year. There will be presents and a visit from Santa. I'll bake cookies and will prepare all our traditional favorites complete with ambrosia and mimosas on Christmas morning. There was shopping to do, so we sojourned on our annual trip to "the North Pole" as we always say, braving the crowds and moving shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Christmassers through store after store. It was a good day and also a very rough day. Many times I conveniently got lost for a moment or two so the tears that pooled in my eyes could slide down my face unnoticed by dad. I thought of you, and my heart broke over and over as we moved about the day and through the motions of preparing for this holiday without you.

Little things triggered a smile and fond memory alongside the tears. Monster Trucks in the toy aisle were especially moving for me. I have many memories of you and your brothers playing with the Monster Trucks, and then of watching them one TV each night. You and I liked Max-D while the rest of the family stuck with Grave Digger. Remember when we went to Monster Jam live? And the Monster Truck birthday cakes? And Christmases with Monster Truck tee shirts and pj's and remote control vehicles… I laid a finger on one little die-cast truck yesterday, and it all came flooding back.

Putting things in the cart in sets of two instead of three was another tough one. A million little paper cuts sliced my heart as we didn't have a list to fill for you. It was a silent omission as Dad and I selected things for your brothers, like usual. Stocking stuffers and sets of pj's, normally bought in threes all reduced in number by one-third.

We've had other milestones this year, the firsts of many important days that found me aching over your death more than words can say. But Christmas is different, it hurts more and in deeper places. It's so entwined in my memory with the magic-like happiness of my youth and, later your youth, too. We pass the joy we knew as children on to our own in the handing down of our favorite traditions, the ones that make our hearts sing. Christmas is pregnant with romantic illusion, it can elevate us to great heights of joy for those who are able to keep that spirit alive, or it can crush us under the weight of sadness when the chambers of our hearts are full of sorrow. I'm mostly in the latter state, I'm sorry to say. But I'm soldiering on, one step at a time and then another and another.

It's the grinding, ever-present grief and heartbreak that wears me down. I feel like I'm being ground into dust and that one good gust of wind could vanish me. And yet, somehow, inexplicably, I'm still here. My body still breathes the cool, clean air of a new morning and my heartbeat still quickens when I see something beautiful. I have hope that I won't live my whole life feeling like moon dust inside, devoid of life.

As if to prove this to myself, today I baked Christmas cookies. I made Russian Tea Cakes, poppy seed and nut rolls. Later this week I hope to roll out and ice the sugar cookies. But we'll see. I'm just glad I baked some cookies. All these things are so hard to do this year, and yet doing them is helping all of us feel a little better. Somehow, I feel like if I'm able to do Christmas by our tradition, it's doing so much more. We're looking for joy at a time when we could be easily consumed by a dark and sucking sorrow. So, I'm glad to have the fortitude (and Grace) to carry on, even if only in the modest action of baking some cookies.

Your cousin, Rani, graduated from JMU this weekend, too. What a great accomplishment for her. She struggled a lot during the spring semester after your accident. But now she's done and is preparing for the next adventure, in England. There was a gathering of family and friends at Nana's house this afternoon. I went over for a few minutes, but even if I didn't need to get back home, I couldn't have stayed. The tears I held back all week and then all day yesterday so we could get the big shopping done, finally started. The trigger, of course, was being in that roomful of the family who knows me so well and is hurting, too. They know I'm barely hanging in and there's no point in hiding it…cue the tears. Life is moving on for everyone, but it's your brothers' and cousins' new adventures that are so bittersweet. You should be here with them, celebrating, lending a smile, teasing and joking around. Mahi got married, Rani graduating from college, Madhuri is in school and working. The Bertram's are moving to England. Xanny has a girlfriend and Chaz is a published journalist for the college newspaper. So many things are happening that you aren't here to see and experience with us. That's one of the biggest things that guts me, the knowledge that we won't get to share more experiences together in this life. That just flat sucks.

I sense you being "here," but it's not the same you know. We're living on, continuing to play this game, whatever it's point, while you've slipped into a different dimension. You're here, and you're also everywhere. I'm not sure how that works. I suppose we all find out, in time.

Starr and Kenzie came over today. I hadn't given Starr her birthday gift, and I wanted to be sure she had it before she got her Christmas present. Kenzie brought your dad and me some sweet little gifts. I got a pair of cardinals that now sit near your portrait. As Kenzie said, they represent my visitor from Heaven; you! I also got a beautiful sign with the saying from Christopher Robin to Pooh Bear. "Don't forget, You are braver thank you think, Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think and Loved more than you'll ever know." Blew me away. I am going to take it with me to work so I can see it all the time during the day. We had a good visit. It feels so good to hug Starr Baby. It's like you are there hugging us both. We watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Kenzie, shared some laughter and some tears, too. This time of year is really hard on us, Thor. Kenzie is really hurting, I know you know this already. Keep close to her, she's so young to have dealt with so much.

We're on the downhill slide toward Christmas and are closing in on the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I just don't know how to hold all these feelings in each moment, but I'm trying. I've felt you around me so strongly, lately. I swear I can hear your voice talking to me at times, encouraging and helping me find my way through the devastation. Sometimes I know you are trying to tell me something and my broken heart gets in the way of hearing. That's when you seem to find other ways to send me a message. Thank you for those, they help me keep the faith that we will continue to have a relationship in this new form.

The glow of the Christmas tree gently holds space for all these feelings and thoughts to surface. In the middle of the night, it's just you and me. Glad we found some time to chat, Thor. I miss you more than I can say.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

For Thor - 75 - Hide and Seek

Good morning, Thor, my darling, darling boy.

It's a cold December dawn that has me out of bed and writing to you while I sit in front of the wood stove sipping a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Lady is curled up next to me; a warm, solid, little mass of furry love. She keeps me company in these early hours. The Christmas tree lights glow softly, reflecting off the ornaments we hung there last week. Many of them "yours" or your brothers'. Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob, Spider-Man and about a hundred Santas with tractors, trains and race cars bedeck the tree. This carefully curated collection, amassed over the years, tells a story of my three boys, what you loved, and what dad and I thought represented you each year of your precious boyhoods.

I'm glad the tree is up, but I didn't know if we'd even get that much of "Christmas" going this year, so I'm giving myself a pat on the back for getting this far. It's so hard for me to think about this annual celebration of family, and friends, and life and JOY when we are closing in on the first Christmas without you. And worst of all, we are closing in on the dreaded anniversary of the day you died, and my heart broke. It's the heartbreak that has me crippled, you know. It's always right here inside drawing me deep, like a drain plug in the bottom of a lake was pulled and no matter how much life tries to fill the lake it just keeps draining out. I feel like I've plateaued in the progression of processing your death, Thor. And maybe that's because I must focus on the business of living again. Work and the daily tasks of running a home call me away from the intense soul-work I was doing so steadily.

My whole life my personality leans toward the introverted side. I have a rich inner life that I find comforting and fulfilling, insightful and energizing. So, I like to have quiet, and I enjoy time alone when my thoughts and feelings can surface like colorful fish in a still pond. I retreat inside myself to recharge, reboot, find inspiration, and ask my inner knowing to show me what's next. Even so, I've always also had not just an ability, but a desire to engage with the world. I wanted to interact with others, work on projects, dream big dreams and make plans. I sought out conversation, collaboration, and camaraderie. Extroversion suited at times and balanced my life.

Dad and I had a good talk last night. He made an observation that I think is spot-on; he sees that since the trauma of your death, I've retreated inside myself totally, now. I am introverted completely. He sees that I've lost that enthusiastic willingness to engage outside myself, preferring and choosing, the relative safety, calm and breathless depths that exist in my personal retreat.

I have to say he's right on some levels. I'm going through all the motions, emulating how I used to live, but my heart's not in it. There are meetings to keep and lunch-time strategy sessions, and the daily banter with my team at work and every day I am there, doing it; getting it done and I even have a smile on my face. I really do like what I'm doing! But the truth is, I am only partially there. Most of me is still down here in the well of grief, hurt, sad, and utterly bewildered by the violent loss of my beloved son. Most of me is unwilling to allow the noisy world to run roughshod into this sacred space inside myself; where my broken heart still bleeds freely, and I can mourn your death without reservation or censure. I am the walking wounded, and on some days when the grief is particularly heavy, I feel like I'm the walking dead. No one can really know how much I hurt, how sorrowful I feel. It's sorrow that sets me apart from everyone else because it is so pervasive, influencing every thought, word, and deed.

It's like I'm looking through a glass, living from the other side of a barrier. I can see everything, and I can interact enough to keep up appearances and obligations. The gaping wound in my heart is a vast expanse which I am trying to reach across. My hope is that there will be time enough for it to heal. That I'll feel whole enough to step fully into the world, again and engage with joyful enthusiasm, the way I used to do.

Unless they know me really well, most people don’t even know this is what's happening. But your dad does. He feels my retreat most keenly because he cannot follow me there and therefore can't help me there, either. I think that if couples don't survive the death of a child, that this is why. There is no way for them to find each other when grief drives them to places where the other one cannot go. The saving grace is empathy and maybe a lot of patience.

One night this week I came home teary-eyed and downtrodden. I had cried almost the whole way home from work and my heart hurt so badly. We ate dinner, and I had a restorative glass of wine and settled in comfy clothes on the sofa. I still felt raw and disconnected by grief. Dad came into the living room carrying two shotguns; one was mine - which used to be his, but he gave it to me even though it's one of his favorites - and one was yours, Thor. So, dad asked if I wanted to trade my/his gun for yours. I lovingly held the gun and worked the action with a satisfying "schunk". It's a beautiful shotgun, all the more beautiful because it was yours. I made that trade as tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes. Then dad disappeared again and reemerged, handing me your deer gun - this time both of us had tears in our eyes. This is the gun we gave you for Christmas and that you used to put a heck of a lot of venison in the freezer. They now rest in my gun rack along with my pink plinkster which you were known to like to borrow. It was a sweet gesture that meant a lot to me, to have dad give me your guns. Of course, he said that now I'll have to get my tukus out there and shoot! Well, that's an easy thing to do. I love shooting. More importantly, he found a way to reach me where I am, here in the depths of sorrow. 

Being in the depths of sorrow has a purpose. I'm playing Hide and Seek inside myself. I'm in here, deep and seeking something. I want answers, I want to know where you are, Thor. I want to feel your presence and listen to the wind for a whisper that tells me you're around. I hide deep inside myself to protect this fragile broken heart, while I seek solace here in the same place. I rest the bottom of the well where I can reach out and touch the source of the stars and seek their timeless knowledge of who we are and why we're here. Is there any sense, purpose or reason to all of this? What is the point, exactly, of living a life on this planet? Why do we go through the motions of all this activity? What matters, in the end? What's the bottom-line calculation which, when analyzed at the end, means anything?

I dive deep and hide out, listening with all my senses to understand.

I seek, with an earnest query to What Is, I trust that the truth will be revealed. It might be time to earnestly seek a way back to living in joy, too.

One day, the seeker shall find.

Until then, I will try to live beyond the utter agony of heartache and step into life. One breath at a time. One step at a time. One interaction at a time.

I love you,