Did you know that death is real life is altogether different than the one you've thought about time and time again? Think about how many times you've considered the possibility of death. Everyone has done it, even if only subconsciously. It floats in and out of your thoughts just like anything else. It can be triggered by a recently tragic event, or just while grocery shopping one day. You conjure up some story in your head, and imagine, for the briefest moment, the feelings that would be associated with that. But, luckily, death isn't something that happens to you. Not really, anyway. It's this really sad and awful thing that happens to other people. Meanwhile, you can get back to picking out that grapefruit and dismiss the idea until the next time.
Death in real life is personified in a way that makes you want to attack it. You want to beat it over the head again and again until the screaming stops. You want to squeeze the breath from it's lungs to ensure that it never comes back. But, you can't because it's everywhere. Perhaps if it were just in the walls, in the floor, in the air you breathe, you'd have some way to combat it. But you can't, because it's in YOU. Did you know that death in real life is forever? It isn't just for that brief moment in your brain, or for a week, or a month, or a year. It's forever. Unless of course you believe in a life hereafter, but even that isn't a comfort on some days. It's too intangible. In the words of my 5-year-old, "I know that he's all around us, but I want him right here in front of me so I can play with him."
It's in the toothbrush hanging on the mirror next to mine. The one with the Sesame Street characters that hangs in it's little cow holder. It's in the smell of baby lotion that now serves as my only perfume. It's in the ache in my chest in the middle of the night when I've forgotten for the briefest moment as I climb the stairs and look over into the empty crib. It's in the memorials that line my house. They're beautiful and magnificent, but they are also death. It's in the flowers sitting next to a high chair that will someday be removed from our kitchen forever. The carseat in my van, with the crumbs still clinging to the cushion, is left to remind me of the life it held, but is also, inextricably, a constant reminder of death. It's in the automated emails I receive daily from publications that sold his medication. I never open them, but I can't unsubscribe because that's one step closer to erasing him. I can't move any of his toys, because what if he was the last one to touch them? What if his fingerprint lingers here in my house and I feel like it's the only thing I have left?
It's my husband going to work, and my kids going back to school and the sudden panic as I pull away and realize that I'm alone in the van. How can it be such a surprise when you knew it was coming? How can it be unexpected when it's the very thing you've been dreading for a week? But still, it stings. That's when you find the tears you thought you'd completely run out of. It's going Christmas shopping and reaching for the little toy train, but then letting your hand fall before even touching it because you know that there is no reason to put it in the cart. It's seeing other babies his age recognizing the excitement in the air and considering hugging them for a moment, but knowing that it will never ever feel the same. They won't smell the same. They won't wrap their arms around your neck in quite the same way. And it will only last a second anyway, because they will eventually pull away and look for their Mommy.
This is the day when everything feels like it's "over." The day when everyone goes back to life. I don't know how to do "living" when death is everywhere. Is it even possible? I suppose someday it will "get easier" as I keep hearing, but since I know that death in real life is forever, I think I'm going to have to learn to let living and dying grow right alongside one another. They're going to have to become friends, because, for right now, neither one of them is going away.