As I was getting off the phone with my sister last night, she said, "It's been really good to see you lately." She meant that she enjoyed the fact that we've been able to get together more lately, but also that when we do it is me that she sees, the Sara she has known all her life, the Sara she lived with for years after college, the Sara she knows better than anyone else in the world.
She was quick to add that while she wanted me to know how good it was to see that me again, she was hesitant to say it because she didn't want me to feel like I couldn't be sad or angry or anxious with her. Because she gets that mourning and missing don't end in a year, that having a new baby fills me with love and wonder and awe but does not fill the gaping hole left in my heart by Henry's death. And she knows that there will be times when this new me gets buried again, but lately she has seen me, and she's liked it.
I've kind of liked it too.
I've liked being Kathleen's mom and watching her change so fast. I've liked laughing and smiling. I've liked spending time with Brian, working in the garden, picking berries, playing cribbage, running, making jam. I've liked singing and reading. And I've liked being happy without reminding people that I'm sad too.
I'm loosening my grasp on my need to remind people that Henry is gone, that we still miss him. It's not so much letting go of Henry as trusting people to remember him. I do still speak of him. I do sometimes still compare Kathleen to him, but some days I simply say, "Listen to her laugh in the tub," instead of "She loves her bath, but Henry hated his." I'm tentative about easing up, though, because I want people to remember Henry, because there are still days when I am crushed by the weight of the foreverness of his death, but I need to let go a little.
My five-year-old niece was riding through one of the tunnels in Boston last weekend, and she said, "I remember this tunnel. I went through here the last time I saw Henry." She's five and she remembers this. I can ease up a little.
My sister and my aunt were talking about being second born, listing the people in our family who are. My sister added Kathleen to the list, Kathleen who will be the oldest in my family, but still my second born. I can stop holding so tightly to the reminder.
Yes, there will continue to be the awkward moments of people who don't know about Henry and the hurtful, unintentional comments that gloss over him, but mostly people remember. They remember him; they recognize that Brian and I are shattered but recovering and rebuilding.
I'm not the me my sister knew for years, though she thinks she sees me again, but I have incorporated some of the pieces of the old me into the new me, the me who is still emerging. I'm still getting to know her, this new me, as she steps out into the light and begins to open up again to the world.