It's amazing how long this process is. So long, it doesn't even feel like a process. It just feels like life going on, day after day, only different from before. Before I didn't have this constant ache, like an albatross, getting in my way whenever I try to do something. I lean over, I look around a corner, I touch a soft blanket, I hear a certain song, I remember that I can drink a margarita, I walk past his room, I hear a baby laugh, I turn left on the road, I feel grass under my feet, I drink water, I take my prenatal vitamins, I go to bed, I get up.... any one of these things might remind me of the gaping hole that I carry with me.
And then again, I might go a whole day not feeling especially bad. And I know that that's healthy, too. This week, I went two or three days feeling kind of normal (really, all that has changed-- I will always have a son who died. Whether I feel it or not, it is now who I am: I am a mother, and I am a mother whose son has passed away. Always). I went to the grocery store, laughed like crazy at my hysterically funny husband, cleaned the kitchen, hung out with my baby niece, put off thinking about school for a few more days, went swimming (hooray!!), got dressed-- accomplished all of these things without feeling sad or depressed.
And then, out of nowhere, BLAM. It hit me. I couldn't see to drive. And all I could think of was that I needed to stop driving. I didn't even really want to see anyone-- I was on my way to mom and dad's, where Don already was, but I didn't want to be with anyone right that minute. I just needed to weep and weep loud.
Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh Goooood-- and I will not apologize for still feeling this. One well meaning friend patted me on the shoulder and told me that she was glad that I was "finally starting to come out of this" and I wanted to hit her in the face-- it's only been 8 weeks! I was pregnant for thirty more weeks than that. I held him in my arms. I carried him full term-- he was supposed to be BORN that day, not die! He wasn't early, he wasn't late-- he was on time! He was perfect. He was supposed to be in my arms that day but instead was in a hearse on the way to some facility in Gwinnett to have his organs harvested. My son was alive and in minutes was dead. My arms will be filled with other children-- I know it-- but they will never hold Benjamin alive. I am not in despair, but I am not over it or through it or okay with it. I will grieve and I will grieve both quiet and loud and I will wallow in it and thrash around in it and shake my fists and cry and cry and cry....
And there are all of these reminders of him... a couple of weeks ago, his social security card came in the mail. Great. There's a conversation I want to have. To call them and say that he is deceased. The paperwork that will likely accompany it. How did they even get his name? I didn't sign him up for a social security card. Does this mean that he does have a certificate of live birth? Though he never breathed on his own? Ugh. I don't want to do this...
And then a letter came, telling me that he was a "high risk" infant and that the state was providing a nurse to come to the home to "help improve the health of your child." I'd say he's a goner in that department. How in the heck... how could a child who did not live be referred to such a service, and two months after his death?
And then a precious package arrived from the organization who harvested his heart, LifeLink. They had already sent us a book about grieving and the things that go along with knowing that your loved one's organ has helped someone else, but then came a beautiful card and a large, heavy medal, thanking us again for Ben's heart. Don and I smiled and kind of laughed about Ben's one and only medal-- we had hoped for soccer trophies and first place ribbons-- but it helps to imagine how another family will be comforted by the gift of his heart valves. But oh, how I wish my son was using them right now....
The other things that have come since Ben left... I'm not the same. I know that there is a sadness about me that wasn't there before. There's a sobriety. I know that this might fade with time, but something about this loss and the way the grief is always sort of standing around the corner, ready to mug you at any moment, kind of makes me a little nervous about groups. Where there was a deep joy that inspired poetry in the months of pregnancy, today there is something else... I am able to touch that joy while worshipping, I've noticed, or in quiet times with Don, but other than that... I'm not crippled with it-- I know that part of this is post traumatic stress-- but I'm aware of it. For now I'm not the extreme extrovert I always have been. It will return, but for now, I choose to be quiet.
I'm sorry that this post seems so...I don't know. Regressive? It may appear to be, but it isn't. I still believe what I've written about Ben worshipping before my God, and about new fruit springing up from this season of death. I believe all of that, and so many other beautiful things that only occur to me when I'm driving and I never remember to write about. It's just, it wouldn't be honest to say, "Okay, well, I'm done with that! Grieving over!" No. Just...no.
I'm almost at the time of year when Ben was conceived and my heart is sad about that. I don't know why. We celebrated our anniversary last year (engagement anniversary-- more on that later) with the knowledge that we were pregnant. I remember that I wrote in a letter to him (part of our tradition), I wondered if we would bring the baby with us on our annual pilgrimage or if we'd leave him/her with my parents. But I distinctly remember wondering, what if there's no baby? What if something happens...? It was just newly pregnant jitters, but I remember being so afraid to hope.
So I give that fear of hoping to the Lord. Because it threatens to hang its hat on my door and move in. It asserts itself with proof ("see? no baby, just like you thought!") and dares me with mockery ("you idiot-- you can't do anything to prevent this. you don't even know how it happened. what's to say it won't happen again? loser.").
But my hope isn't in myself anyway, now is it?
8 -11 Just as each day brims with your beauty,
my mouth brims with praise.
But don't turn me out to pasture when I'm old
or put me on the shelf when I can't pull my weight.
My enemies are talking behind my back,
watching for their chance to knife me.
The gossip is: "God has abandoned him.
Pounce on him now; no one will help him."
12 -16 God, don't just watch from the sidelines.
Come on! Run to my side!
My accusers—make them lose face.
Those out to get me—make them look
Like idiots, while I stretch out, reaching for you,
and daily add praise to praise.
I'll write the book on your righteousness,
talk up your salvation the livelong day,
never run out of good things to write or say.
I come in the power of the Lord God,
I post signs marking his right-of-way.
Psalm 71:8-16 (The Message)