It was overcast, the same way it was the day he died. There was a cold-front coming in, and I could see dark clouds approaching. As I walked towards the "babyland" I instantly resented the fake flowers everywhere. I wished that I had thought in advance to get some, but then again coming here is always a last minute decision. I never plan to visit.
I stood there and felt odd. The ground was wet so I couldn't sit, my body too weak to squat down, so I stood there with my hands in my pockets. I looked at his beautiful face, the engraved name, the "In God's Hands" and the ugly pink tulips. Not only were they PINK on a boy's spot, they were faded and frayed. The remnants of 2 pinwheels and a metal garden ornament were stuck in the front, and for a moment I regretted the fact that I am too reserved to just yank them out and fling them on the ground. I considered switching them with another urn, but the thought of another parent coming to visit their child and finding their flowers missing was enough to stop me. So I stood, and the tears began to flow.
It's always there, just beneath the surface. Lot's of people I meet tell me that I "have it all together". Yeah, I have to. If I didn't, I'd be a blubbering, incompetent mess most of the time. I've learned to block off (block out?) the pain most of the time. I don't want to remember, yet it is impossible to forget. As I let the grief wash over me again, I hear thunder in the distance. The thought came "perhaps today is the day I'll be struck by lightening and the pain will end." The wind picked up and the first stings of cold rain hit my cheek. Hot tears, cold rain. The voice of my 2 year old calling from the open window of the van where he was buckled in his seat.
Sigh... "who will be here for him if I get struck by lightening?" Another clap of thunder, the wind picks up, so I turn towards my van. The wind is now at my back and blowing my hair violently around my face. Hot tears stream down my face as I leave him. Again. Always leaving him. At the hospital, the funeral home, the cemetery. Each step down the concrete path takes me further away, and the tears dry. I pull myself together again. Brace myself to be "mom" and get back in the car. I roll up the window just in time; the sky lets loose and it rains. It was raining when I left the hospital without him. I told William "good - it suits my mood". The rain is still fitting.
That uncomfortable churn in your stomach, the gasp, the pain in your chest from the momentary loss of oxygen upon hearing terrible news. You know it, you've felt it when watching the news or reading someone's shared post on Facebook. You might even tear up, reach out to help, share the story, remember it the next day and have that gut-wrench again. But, it goes away. No matter how empathetic you are, in a few minutes or few days, you are "ok".
When I first lost Ian, the pain was visceral. Even the pain of instant weaning - my body's cold reminder that there was milk but no baby to suckle. And then I was numb, and then when I could feel again, it physically hurt. I would drive down the street with an ache in my chest that I felt sure was a heart attack. My eyes were often swollen shut from crying; puffy and crusty on the edges. Walking in public places was iffy - my legs weren't guaranteed to hold me steady.
Eventually, I learned to function through the pain. Waking up to another day as a bereaved mother no longer suffocated me. I guess this is the stage often referred to as "acceptance" - not that I have EVER accepted the loss of my son. My heart still wants to wage against the fact that it even happened. In fact, I often consider myself now, and wonder if it really happened to me. If I ever ponder too long, the facade comes down and I realize the pain is still there. Yes, it really did happen to me.
A strange thing happened to me. I got tough. Not tough like "Ima bust your face in!" but as in I'm no longer swayed by many things. Knowing that I have survived the unthinkable tragedy of burying a child, and knowing that I'm not the only person who has, makes me tough. I no longer sink into pointless chat room debates. I no longer tolerate negative people in my life. I don't participate in drama. I don't wish for anyone to come to this place by the same path I did, but I often feel sorry for people whose lives have not afforded them the opportunity to get tough.
October always brings memories of Ian for me. I can't even go to a pumpkin patch, because the last time I was at one, I had him with me. I spent 20 minutes trying to get a picture of him with a pumpkin. It was one of the last pictures I ever took of him.
So, I guess this is an "awareness" post. But most of all, it's a heart's cry. I miss my son. Every single day. The world sets this day to remember, and I'm okay with that, sort of.