I was going to name this “On mourning and loss” but that sounded SO boring. It may be. If you don’t know someone dealing with loss (by that I mean a death…. why don’t we just call it dying? or death? Why do we have to be so sterile and call it ‘loss’?) Oh, sorry, you are still here. If you don’t know someone dealing with death (of a friend or family member) then this may be boring. We’ll see.
I recently had someone say “I don’t mourn well” to me. I wondered, “How the hell do you mourn ‘well’?!? Do you just cry all the time and only wear black and never smile and don’t go out at all? Maybe you develop some kind of addiction to deal with the horrific all consuming grief? Or do you keep a stiff upper lip? You know, remain strong in the face of sadness… never showing a hint of weakness. Or do you keep tight reigns on your grief? You know… “never let work know”, “only cry when you are alone”, “by NO means burden anyone else with your inability to be happy in any given moment”. Or do you just “stay positive? It will all be good, so keep smiling and don’t worry about anything?” (I know my smart quotes weren’t very smart there, but I am blogging on a time budget)
I think what my friend meant was that he is normal-but may not know it. That he doesn’t do any of those awkward extremes, but some how thinks maybe he’s supposed to. (It was a passing conversation, so I didn’t have time to ask for clarification) What was interesting was the timing of that statement…
If you know me, you have probably heard me say that a day didn’t go by in 2012 that I didn’t cry. My dad died of lung cancer in February, my son and his family (with two beautiful little granddaughters with them) moved out of state, a long time co-worker / friend left the state, and various other seemingly less significant losses/stresses – not least starting a business. It was a HARD year. But what’s kinda weird is that I probably laughed every day too. (I laugh as I write that) That is, however, very common for me. I laugh a LOT. I told jokes, I went out with friends (but I took bathroom breaks to cry). I worked and I played. I don’t know if I mourned “well” but I mourned.
So the timing of my new friend’s comment…
October 5th marks the 31st anniversary of the death (and birth) day of my first child. She (Monica) was near full term (36 weeks) and had a 13th chromosomal trisome. (Downs syndrom is the 21st chromosome trisome). At the time I remember feeling overwhelmed by the sense that she really WAS in a better place. I felt like God kept her warm and held her close as the doctors tried to resuscitate her. What a scary time for a little newborn, right? When the Doctor came to tell me that they tried to revive her for 33.33 minutes I thought about Jesus and the estimated time of his life (33yrs) and felt, again so strongly, that HE was telling me he was there. I was strong at the funeral and full of faith and hope for the future. I cried a lot. My C-section hurt from so much crying. Life went on…. with all sorts of unrelated drama and joy. I had 2 adorable boys after that and my life feels amazingly full. I love life, my life. I don’t feel jilted or gipped or slighted or like I am missing out because Monica died. I just feel like Monica died. Sad, you know. But just that.
As I get older tho, surprisingly, it gets harder. Seeing all my kids (mine and his) grow up -being so proud of each of them – the pain of not having Monica in that group gnaws at me just a little – this time of year. Questions that I don’t even ask – because they are pointless. “What would she have looked like? Would she have had thick black hair? Would she love sports or music? Would we have gotten along?”… I know those questions loom in the back of my mind, but I don’t really spend time on them because, of course, they are unanswerable. I don’t even feel like I ‘want / need’ the answers. It’s just normal to wonder.
Here is another surprise. Every year, about this time I remember how much I love fall. I get all geared up to be in love with fall, the beautiful leaves, the brisk air… This time of year makes me feel so powerful and productive… but oddly, I am not. I notice that the brisk air causes me to forget stuff. Like where I am going, where to turn to get to the next place, when my next appointment is…. I sometimes ‘wake up’ at a destination I hadn’t intended to go to. People say things to me and it makes me cry, the very same things they may have said to me last week that didn’t bother me at all. I am utterly fragile. This happens for a few days until again, seemingly suddenly, I realize… “Today is October 5th.” Oh. that.
For many years this has taken me by surprise. I tend to live intensely in the moment, so that even tho I am aware of the ‘date’, I often forget that it means “Christmas is actually TOMORROW.” or “Guy’s birthday is TODAY.” (even tho I have planned for it for weeks) So the fact that October 5th sneaks up on me is completely normal. But my body knows. It remembers the smells, the feeling of the air, the hint of color, the music I listened to, the color of my bedroom and the green tomatoes my mom fried for me while I cried in the bath.
Is it mourning well to still be sad, every year, 31 years later? Or did I do a poor job of it the first time? (I laugh as I write that) I feel like it’s silly. I don’t get the ‘purpose’ of it. I mean, nothing is going to change, right? I am not even wishing it to, really. I love my life. But there is life in me that is sad, for one week in October.