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Sunday, May 24, 2015

One Whole Hand

I remember when your brother turned five. He was so excited to be "one whole hand." Five. It seems so much older than four. I wonder what you'd look like? Would you be excited about starting school in the fall? What bookbag would you choose? Would I fall in line with all the other mothers who are "mourning" the last days of their youngest baby being at home with them? I'm certainly mourning, but I wish with my whole heart that it were for that reason.

Sometimes it's hard not to be angry with you, to feel cheated. I know that isn't rational, but grief doesn't really care about that. I'm hurt that you left. I know you had no control over that, but I guess the pain has to go somewhere. I'm angry that instead of feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of returning to work now that my last baby is in school, I'm trying to figure out whether I'll ever be stable enough to do so again. Lately, I've been thinking that answer is probably yes. That doesn't necessarily feel good though. But then I remember that very few things feel wholly "good" or "right". Everything brings this underlying layer of pain or in some ways even worse, ambivalence. It's difficult to be passionate about anything these days. The attempt to do so seems futile.

However, I will say to you, as your fifth birthday approaches, that although we may have no idea what to get you for your birthday, the gifts you've given us have been immeasurable. As we were all crammed in the car the other night, coming home from various activities, I was struck once again by our good fortune. We had been running around all night, chasing your brother and sisters. And why? Because we can. They're healthy. They have friends.

Without you, I would still be trying to "control" nearly every aspect of my life. I would still be obsessed with making life as easy as possible for your siblings. I would still think it was my job to protect them from everything. You changed that for me. That's a gift one can't fully accept on their own. That came from you. Because of your life, your existence, your illness, your death, I KNOW that it isn't my job to "control" anything. Instead, I just get to live. I get to watch your siblings grow and learn, and I do so without fear. I do so without the idea that I need to protect them. All I do is love them as they go along. I watch them as they learn some of the things I already have, as well as teach me the things I could have never learned without them. I thank you for that.

I realize more and more with each passing day how very lucky I am to be your mother. You've taught me strength, generosity, humility, pain, and absolute, unconditional love. I would give it all up to smell your soft curls as I wrap my arms around you one more time, but knowing that this can't be, I'm simply grateful.

Your birthday always brings with it, a new type of pain. It burns and stings and I barely make it through the day. The support of friends and family, and their understanding that this day simply has to be set aside for that pain, is what gets me through it. So tomorrow, as we try to navigate the day, as we send up your 5 lanterns, as we hug and hold one another, send us a sign that you see us and feel our pain. Let us know that you're celebrating too. Know that we miss you with every breath, that we love you with each heartbeat, and that we celebrate your gifts to us on this day that you turn, "one whole hand."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Broken Mother's Memory

As per my usual, I've been awake for hours and it's only 5 am. My mind has my body trapped in that place where the past meets a future that will never exist. It's  a funny thing, the grieving mother's "memory". At first, all I could think about were those last hours. The sights, the smells, the traumatic stress at its finest. Eventually, mixed with those gut gripping moments, came memories of happier times. But all of that somehow gets jumbled now with thoughts of a future that my forever baby can never have. It's as if time doesn't exist in the broken mother's memory, at least not time as we know it.

He's going to be 5 soon. Five sounds so much older than 4. That probably has something to do with the fact that a 5 year old is now a school-aged child. I've  never seen my son at 5 years old. And I never will. I won't see him try to carry a backpack that's bigger than he is. I won't see him learn to tie his shoes or read his first sentence from a book. That doesn't make any sense, so I think my mind creates those moments for me. It's like a "memory" from a future that will never exist. Just as I get flashes of the past, I see moments that have never happened as if I'm remembering them in some bizarre, reverse order.

Today is Mother's Day. I'm not a fan of this particular day, but add it to the list of days I wish I could sleep through. I need one more macaroni and fingerprint portrait to make it complete, but it won't come. I need a dandelion bouquet full of ants thrust in my face from the pudgy hand of a preschooler. Maybe today, my broken mother's memory will flash to a time when that happens. Maybe for a split second, that curse/gift of life without time, will take me to a place where I don't have to question my status as a mother of four.

My stomach turns in knots as I write. My brain races forward and backward and forward again. It's a broken mother's memory. It bends the rules of time. In an odd way, I'm grateful for this broken memory of mine. It goes well with my broken heart, and my lungs that don't quite take in enough air. It reminds me of the journey I'm taking. It reminds me that I am a mother in two worlds.

If only macaroni art and fingerpaint handprints could be delivered to both...