It is a rough day from where I write today, not feeling well. Some combination of probable strep throat (the quick test showed an exceedingly faint extra line), nausea from the penicillin tablets which resemble dinosaur eggs, and general malaise which has arrived in time for April. This month it will be three years since we lost my beautiful Susanna. I believe there is remaining grief as well as “re-living it all” grief, both settled and regurgitating in my body. Chances are I can ride this out and get past it soon. The nausea and headache soon, the regurgitated grief will take longer.
Three years ago, not April but early May. That is where my mind sometimes takes me lately. Long days of trying to occupy myself before I was ready to return to work. After the service in the pretty stone chapel where a priest talked about Jerusalem for some reason, and I threw in a pink rose hastily so everyone else could throw theirs and we could escape. (Forgive me for having experienced my daughter’s funeral in this way, but I was nowhere near ready for such an event). My son’s kind first-grade teachers, who had visited and brought toys, assured me that I could bring him to school and let them take care of him, while I cared for myself. That May I established a pattern of walking outdoors as a meditation and a mode of survival. I walked to the shopping mall. I pretended Susanna was holding my hand up and down on the escalators, as she had done the month before. I bought the nightlight which flashes colors, and now lives in Susanna’s room and lights the way for her as we sleep. I walked to Manhattan Beach, dipped my fingers in the salt water and tried to see my way into surviving for a future. There I saw a man holding a little girl on his shoulders, and noticed that his T-shirt read “I Am Here”.
And, on some days, my son did not go to school. He found it unfair that we had not returned to life yet he had, and I agreed with him. We went instead one day to Central Park, where he made friends with a little girl. When her mother, who was a Canadian traveling on business, started a friendly conversation, I readily spilled the new truth of my life, that my little girl died last month. She spent the whole day with us, as if she felt responsible for helping because we are all human beings. She was strong enough to not recoil, which gave me some strength on that day.
It seems strange that I can find something to miss about that first month or two, but I do. I miss not having to think about going to work or being “normal” again. I now have a life which has expanded some. I have one child who is three years older and has grown five or six shoe sizes. I have been through menopause and gone back to graduate school. Should I need to stay home and sit out a responsibility because I am sad, this may be accepted but is less often understood.
One day, that May, I went for a walk in another direction and noticed a beautiful fragrance coming from some trees. I stopped underneath and inhaled. “Honeysuckle”. Even the name implies that nature loves me, that there is still beauty in this harsh world. Sweet honey, maternal suckling. To this day, there are two things which help when nothing does, and my soul just hurts: nature and children. These are the reasons to stay here, without Susanna living in her body, and try to contribute as best as I can. Susanna and her brother made me this way, this much. A person who can last and love through hell. I stay afloat because I want to bear witness to what is right in the world, what needs to be protected for children in spite of the evil happenings in the news each day. There is a rampant disregard for honoring the earth, and people in need, and compassionate living. I am not the same as I used to be but I understand better why I have to be here.
Another reason I perhaps think of May is that it is not April. If I relive May, it is full of sadness but less full of hospitals and funeral homes, of discussing coffins and plots and autopsies. If these words shock you, that is okay, they still shock me too. I recently came across a poem by e.e.cummings. “Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward”. We can get through this, with love and together.