My first Mother’s Day was in 1987. I was three months away from giving birth to my first baby. The anticipation about who this little baby would be, what his personality would be like and how his arrival would turn a couple into a family was exciting.
Everywhere I look in my home I am reminded of his existence in our family. I open a drawer and I find a CD of a music artist he liked. I open a closet and I see remnants of a life that included baseball and tennis trophies, high school art portfolios, and clothes that will never be worn again. I open small boxes that I have stuffed with Wolf Photo envelopes full of photographs from his childhood and it transports me to a moment in time. It is virtually impossible to look in any corner, cabinet, or closet without seeing a trace of his life. He is literally everywhere I look. I don’t go looking for these things; they just pop up at me and catch me unaware while I am prowling for some object I might be looking for. Just this very minute as I was typing this last sentence, the cardinal just landed in the window in the den and started pecking at the glass. “Hey, Mom!” “Hey, Will.”
So as I wake up every morning with the intent of living my life and adjusting to my new normal, I am blindsided by these objects that his life once touched. I am trying to move on with my life. I really am. It’s just so hard to move on and not think of my son in the present tense. He is everywhere. So are my other three children. The only difference is that I know that they still are able to burst into the house while dropping purses, backpacks, and duffel bags in the entry hall. They will call out my name, “Hey Mom, I’m home!”
It is surreal to me that this new life is even happening. How did we get here? What happened that set the wheels in motion for this cruel twist in our family’s story? If we had done this instead of that would the story have moved along without interruption?
In the past three weeks, three families that I am familiar with have each had a child pass away due to cancer or auto accidents. All of these children were in their 20’s. In each case, the parents have been shocked into a new world they weren’t interested in moving to. But the choice was not theirs to make. My tears for them are different than the ones I cried for myself. I cry for them because my heart hurts knowing what the energy in their home feels like that first week. Even if the sun is shining brightly outside, the inside of the house feels dark. All of the furniture looks familiar but it doesn’t feel the same. Family members are in the house on a weekday which seems odd. People who normally don’t come over are ringing the doorbell bringing hugs, tears, and food. It feels like your are walking shoulder deep in a swimming pool filled with water and it is taking so much more energy to walk. There are hushed tones, noses sniffling, and so many tears. There are more tears in one day than you can imagine in a whole lifetime. I would never wish that experience on any family.
The whole family dynamic shifts without warning. Suddenly, the middle child becomes the oldest child. The siblings are grieving while simultaneously trying to comfort their parents. Everyone’s role in the family is changed in the blink of an eye. Nothing is the same and it will never be the same.
I am trying to create a new life. I really try to not bring up his name every hour. But it is impossible when everything reminds me of being his mother.
My husband and I went to the beach last week for time away. Even that was hard. First of all, we had to eliminate four different condo communities because we stayed there with Will. Restaurants were eliminated because we went there with Will. Even the yoga studio on 30A that he visited every day of our last beach trip was painful to glance at. I was willfully bracing myself to not glance at it as we passed it at least three times every day. But I couldn’t not look at it.
My husband and I strolled after dinner one night in Seaside. As we passed under the Obelisk Pavilion for a view of the beach, my chest got tight. I feigned the cold temperature to my husband as an excuse to leave ASAP. I didn’t want to ruin his evening by commenting that I was having a flashback of our last trip with Will and our daughter at this very spot. My son had a new camera and he was asking her to pose under and in front of the Pavilion. That memory flashed through my mind. I could see him in his navy J. Crew shirt, his white jeans, and grey Topsiders. I remembered how absolutely joyful he was taking photos of his sister. It was such a sweet memory that was too painful to endure without warning. If I had known it would be our last family vacation with him, I would have gone for a walk on the beach with him. I maybe would have chatted with him instead of being immersed in some book that I can’t even remember the title of.
So this is what being a mother is. The anticipation of a child’s birth, rearing him, dreaming for him, hurting for him, and God forbid, grieving for him. So much joy followed by so many memories. This time last year the art portfolio and trophies from his childhood were simply things taking up room in a closet. Now this closet represents a time capsule full of love.
When a heart is broken it doesn’t feel like a crack. It feels like an egg that has been broken. All of the inside is laid bare and open. The content spills out no matter how careful I try to contain it. It becomes harder to hide emotion even when I know others may feel uncomfortable. I can’t not talk about my son’s life because his life is wrapped with mine like a Kudzu vine, coiling, climbing, and trailing around my heart.
I’m getting there.
Love and Peace.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
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