I'm starting to learn some things about pain.
Sometimes, it's important to throw your head back and howl. Just let that gut-wrenching cry creep way up from the pit of your stomach, your heart, your spine, your spleen...wherever it is that that stupid scream has been lurking (for two weeks, two years, two days...), let it fly. It has been two weeks since my son died and it feels like two decades and two hours and two minutes and it also feels like right this second.
There is an abatement that comes. A relief sometimes. I was writing to someone... can't recall who... that it was like waves. As an English person, I'm sure that I have read a poem somewhere about grief being like waves-- it's such an obvious and true comparison-- but not until this season have I known. It comes-- you can be floating along on a raft (in my mind's eye it's always this heavy-duty canvas raft that Nathan and I talked my parents into buying in Gulf Shores when we were little-- it was perfect for the ocean because it was tough, and it was this faded denim/Confederate flag thing. It's always the float I see in my mind when I'm thinking of floating at the ocean). Anyway, you can be floating along and all is fairly peaceful, but you know that it can't last-- I mean, you're floating in the ocean. If things get too peaceful, then you know that you've accidentally gone to sleep and floated waaaay too far out to sea and you're in deep doo-doo. So you're floating and you see the beginning of a ripple. You see the start of a swell. And you brace yourself.
The first swell might not be too bad. Knocks you a little to the left, but you're still on the raft and pretty stable. Your hair is still cool.
But then here comes the booger big brother wave, following behind.
And you have some choices. You might choose to just go ahead and jump off the raft and hang onto it from a sort of standing position-- it seems more stable for some reason. But you're definitely toast that way-- your hair is positively going to get wet and you're going to have eyes full of salt water. OR you can try to paddle away from it, or down from it to where it seems the wave will peter out. Or you can do what my dad always used to do: dive straight into it. Face first.
I mean, you're going to get wet either way, right?
Diving into the waves of grief that have begun to rage around my heart has been the only way to do it. There have been moments of keeping it to myself, certainly, but mostly I have just given up trying to fight them: Ben was real. He was mine. He grew in my womb, kicking and rolling and responding to me and to music and listening to my voice drone on every day. He was alive. He was alive. He was alive. He kicked my hand, he kicked his father's hand, he woke me up, he pushed against me... he was real. He deserves as many tears as my body will make. I had no idea that there is an endless store of them...
So that's one of the things I'm learning about grief. That it's stupid to fight it. Some of you were concerned that I was far too chipper at first-- maybe that was denial? Coping? Mostly, protection of this incision-- too much crying, too hard, put too much pressure on my tummy. Plus, I was exhausted with physical pain and just...well... being tired. And also, I was on lots of medication. And also, I didn't want to look down at this empty spot in my arms for too long. I didn't want to look to close at where Ben wasn't.
There's so much that I want to write, that I want to think through-- all of my thoughts seem so jumbled up together: my husband and his persistent, gentle love; my parents and their tenderness; my friends and their non-stop compassion and aid; my God and His kindness toward me in the face of my silence. I want to write about all of these things.
But mostly, all I think of when I think of writing is the weight of his little body in my arms as I truly held him for the first and final time. Oh my God, he was perfect. So perfectly small, the way a baby is-- all warm and still against my chest, and the perfect weight... I had dreamed for months of holding him, and here he was, inches from my face, perfect and still and beautiful like his father. I have this strong image of him with drops of water running down his left cheek from where Pastor John had just baptised him. In that moment, he was a living baby who had just calmed down from a crying fit. I could have sworn that he breathed. I touched his chin. I felt faint. I just knew I was going to drop him-- so much pain medication in my body. I asked Don to take him from me, but I didn't want to let him go. I drifted in and out of awareness for the rest of the time. Someone told me that they sang-- I don't remember. I remember my husband holding my son and hearing the crack in his voice as he said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," and somewhere in the back of my mind, I silently echoed in agreement, "dammit." We will, we will, we will.
Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.
Yet will I praise Him.
Yet will I trust in Him.
Yet will I worship Him.
Yet will I serve Him.
I never had any idea what those words really meant. Though He slay ME, I always thought. Though He take MY life. But it's a different verse when it reads, "though He take my only child, I will serve Him."
Because there is nowhere else to go. It's like after THIS hard teaching, the Lord would ask us, "do you also wish to go away?" And we have to reply like Peter, "Lord, to whom will we go? Only you have the words to eternal life." We're ruined. He has taken our child-- or allowed him to be taken or whatever, I don't care, but he is gone-- but we cannot and will not leave Him because only He is good and only He understands any of this. Even if he's not saying. Or not in any language I can understand.
I know that I am not the first mother to be ripped apart this way, and I will not be the last, and there is so much to work through, but this is where I am today. Tired, in love with my husband, longing for my child, sad that my milk has dried up (but happy, too, that there were no complications there), blessed with so much love all around and so many people praying...but always thinking of Benjamin. Always springing leaks at the weirdest moments.
And I'm just two weeks into this thing.
That's the hard part.
How can I live my life missing him like this?
So I cry out to my God and will trust Him for the rest of the story. And we're going to squeeze it til all the beautiful stuff comes out-- whenever that is. I know that there is joy on the other side of this night. I know it.