Last Thursday, I sat with a friend and sewed felt ladybug Christmas ornaments for my girls while she needle felted and we talked and settled in silences and our coffee and chai grew cold. I told her I felt I was finally replenishing my reserves, that I was able to do things, little things like make a felt Christmas ornament for my girls, that I had wanted to do but just couldn't manage these past five years. I am stronger, better, not all better, but, perhaps living through this month rather than just surviving it. I'm able to look at, seek out the light, this year, even as I sit in the darkness.
Friday morning the girls and I ate pumpkin bread and played with friends. And then the news started coming in. Horror, sadness, fear, disbelief. And a deep welling of grief and sympathy for these parents who dropped their kids off from school and will never pick them up. These parents who will stand hollow beside their child's grave. I am stronger, better, but still in touching distance to that raw, early grief. I feel it—the searing-torn-asunder pain and numbness together, the wild-empty eyes, the hows and the whys.
I have purposefully limited my news consumption, but still I keep thinking of the lives cut so very short and of the parents of these little ones. I keep thinking of the Christmas presents hidden in closets or arriving by mail and the family Christmas cards with smiling pictures waiting to be sent. I keep thinking of the funerals that will happen in the coming week. I keep thinking of next December and how cruel the joy of the season will feel. I think of next December and the December after that and after that and how slow the light is to come back and how it is never the same.
I think of all this, and I do what so many parents have done the last few days and I hug my girls close. Do I do it more because of the killings? Do I do it more because tomorrow is five years? Do I do it because in this month when I mourn a loss I also celebrate two lives? Do I always do it this much? I don't know, but I snuggled up under blankets and played a bleary eyed peek-a-boo with my freshly minted two year old in the still dark morning. I helped my just-turned-four year old make gingerbread cookies and let her pile on the frosting. We read stories. We walked around the neighborhood. We lit a candle with dinner and ate birthday cupcakes. I cannot make sense, but I hold as much love and hope and joy as I can in the face of inside and outside grief, a tiny star in the darkness. And I wait to see what my own grief brings me as we approach the day.
Tomorrow it will be five years. Five years since Henry was last
alive. Five years since I sang out his soul. Five years since I let go
and walked out of the room leaving his body behind. Five years and I'm still surprised that this is my life. I look at the pictures on my mantle of my boy smiling and sleeping and sucking his thumb. I had a baby boy and he died. I can't make sense of it, don't want meaning ascribed to it, but I read these lines from Mary Oliver in a book I bought in June that has been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find it in December.
"If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
. . .
And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."
—from "Red Bird Explains Himself"
I am so thankful for the song that entered my heart back in 2007 and for all my heart as learned from him. Ah, but I wish I could have learned that lesson another way.
Loving, missing Henry, five years later.