Sunday, December 18, 2011

Together

I do a good job hiding it, but I'm bit of a procrastinator. It's very rare that I actually won't do something, but the longer I have to dawdle on something, the longer I'll take to do it. If anything, I'm better in a crisis, managing events that require rapid responses. This is a weakness of mine I'm aware of, but it does get me into trouble from time to time. In law school, I developed a bit of a routine to keep up with things. Monday through Friday I'd do my daily work, briefs, notes, etc. Friday nights off. Sunday evening for Monday's work. That left Saturday as a "free" day. Except it wasn't. To really get ahead and do well, Saturday needed to be an outlining day. For those of you fortunate enough not to have attended law school, outlines are like your own personal Cliff Note's for any given class. A brief summary of what's important and what you should study. The distillation of your notes. For me, Saturday was always a day for outlining, but as I mentioned, I'm a procrastinator.

The result typically was that every quarter after my first few (when I was too terrified to skip anything), once I thought I had the hang of it down, I'd occasionally skip outlining for a week or two. Like taking a second cookie or a second helping mashed potatoes, it's not something that bothers you at the time. Do it enough though, and eventually it adds up to a problem. So a few weeks in I'd find myself facing a particularly punishing Saturday, set up by my own laziness. Slowly, a sense of panic begins to set it in as you realize just how much work you've put off. I'd let it fester for a day or two, but always at some point it would end with a moment when I just decided to do it, to go in, kill a day, and just get it done. This decision was usually preceded by a little mental pep talk along these lines: "Pull it together Sikes. You need to calm down, relax, and get your stuff done. This is a waste of time. You will get nowhere doing this. Get it together. Now." For some reason my internal monologue calls me by my last name when I'm angry, much like a gym teacher. It always worked once I made the commitment.

The "pull it together" advice line is something I've used in other circumstances. Ones more important than my procrastinating on a few outlines. The first day of the bar exam, the kid on my left trembling, his fingers a nervous tap tap tap on the side of his laptop. My grandfather's funeral, sitting straight up in the pews with my eyes fixed on the casket, frightened that I'd miss the minister's cue to give the eulogy, even more scared I wouldn't finish it once I started. Before each and every one of my surgeries, fighting the nagging conviction I wouldn't wake up afterwards, even though I always did. A minute or two after we found out about James. I stepped full away from the doctor, knowing he didn't have any answers I wanted to hear. I stood by James' PICU crib, resting my hands on the railing and staring right at him, certain if I let go I'd fall down. Most of the time, it worked. The pep talk came and went, I got through it, and everything was fine.

The pep talk doesn't work anymore. Actually, that's not true, it works just fine on a lot of things. Not for James though. It's almost as if there's nothing to pull together, no core to form. The memories I have are scattered, woven together with everything and too distinct to coalesce into something I can hold together in a single moment or by an act of will. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to. I can't summon willpower and finish this off to move on the next thing. It's been five months and I'm functioning. I've come a long way from the first few days and weeks where everything beyond my nightstand seemed too far away. I just haven't moved on. I haven't pulled it together and conquered. Maybe I won't. That's what they say in all the pamphlets, the ones the hospice sends to you once or twice a month. You don't "move on." It's more a reconciliation process. Or so they say. I just know that this isn't something I can will away.

Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers. The holidays are hard, and it's good to know we have people to lean on.

26 comments:

  1. Still here and still praying. Hoping you can find a bright and peaceful spot during this holiday season! Big virtual hugs ( ) ( ) ( ) for strength and support to you both.

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  2. My grandpa's 2nd wife (he remarried when he was in his late 70s - isn't that great?!) tied a crocheted giraffe ornament to my baby boy's Christmas gift. She doesn't know how important giraffe's have become to me since I've been reading your blog. It's hanging on my Christmas tree now, reminding me every day to be so thankful for my children, and to pray for you an others who have had yours taken away so early. May God bless you.

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  3. You should consider writing a book about your journey through your grief. You are a beautiful writer. It would be like a great big prayer journal and would bless so many people. Proceeds could go to James' fund. It seems writing is an outlet for you already? Just a thought.

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  4. Haven't read your blog in some time, but wanted to let you know that perfect strangers are still keeping you in their prayers. Wishing you peace, comfort, and healing this Christmas.

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  5. Continuing to praying for you both. I can't imagine how difficult this time is without James present. My prayers will be with you that you can feel God's peace and comfort this Christmas.

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  6. ((HUGS)) Praying for you now and always.

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  7. There are so many times that I start a comment for you and Kara and I end up backspacing all the way to the beginning because it seems that no words I can construct seem good enough to let you both know how heavy you lie on my heart. There is not a day that goes by that I do not stop and dedicate a prayer solely to you, Kara, and James. Wishing you peace and comfort this Christmas.

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  8. Matthew, I will be praying for you and Kara this Christmas.

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  9. I love your posts. You write elegantly, poignantly, and I always learn something valuable from reading them.

    The death of my child incapacitated me, although I still functioned when I absolutely had to as if nothing had happened. Alone, with no demands on the weekends, I stayed in bed without planning to for one entire year. Sleep was a blessed escape. Finally, a year after his death, I made myself get up on Saturdays and spend half a day walking dogs at the SPCA. After two years, I taught a Sunday School class for homeless women, though I learned more than they. After three years, I taught at toddler class in an inner city church. After four years, I am watching my husband slowly die of cancer. Somehow we keep going even when it seems impossible. It happens one day at a time.

    James will always be a part of you. There will be good and bad days. One day you will be surprised that the good days have started to come more often.

    Grieving is hard work. Go easy on Sikes.

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  10. My mama described it this way. The pain is always there. Always. One day you wake up and you realize it just doesn't hurt as much. Slowly you begin to realize that the things that early after death brought the most pain now conjure smiles and warm, glowing feelings. in time you reconcile your life with a gaping hole and you settle in. Little by little the gaping hole shrinks until it is smaller enough to not let all the joy slip out. There is no way over, under or around this pain. There is only through it. And why wouldn't you go through it? Because the love is so much bigger that getting through it honors that love. Slowly, in time you will realize it just doesn't hurt as much. My mama is a smart lady. Our David has been gone 47 years. God bless you Sikes family! Praying that the promise of Christmas is the first moment that brings relief to the deep and abiding pain.

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  11. I am a total stranger to you and in no way can relate to your loss. But I do feel for you and your loss.

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  12. I don't comment very often, but I read every post and I have you on my blog roll.

    I think of you and Kara all the time and of your little boy. My boy turned 9 months old the other day and I kept thinking about James and his journey.

    He has touched many lives and we will never forget him.

    I think you are brave and courageous and an inspiration. The thing I personally hate about Grief is that it is a never ending journey, not an event. And it changes you.

    So many people are thinking about you, and hoping that you will just keep going.

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  13. I'm one of those complete strangers that thinks of you often. Somedays I have the courage to read your blog, somedays I don't. I lost my son at birth and have since had another. He's 7 months now and CANNOT imagine what I would do if something happened to him too. That's why it's hard for me to read your words. Maybe they hit too close to home. Since I have been through something similar, I can tell you that the intense, world-shattering grief will give way to something a little less acute. It took about a year for me...and now I have made peace. I stopped questioning 'why' because I knew I would never get the answer I was seeking. I'm not good at praying buy I certainly will hold you, Kara, and James close to my heart for a long time to come. Hang in there. There will come a day when it feels like you have a firmer grasp, as opposed to hanging on by your fingertips. Sending virtual hugs your way...

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  14. HUGE hugs from Kansas :) Praying for you and Kara to pull it together enough to get through Christmas!

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  15. Sending love and comfort and grace from Pennsylvania. Prayed for you during Christmas eve mass.

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  16. I have thought of you and Kara so often this week. I don't comment often, simply because I know nothing I say can truly ease the pain of your loss. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers daily. James has touched my heart in a way I can't begin to describe and that is just from reading his story.

    May you find comfort in each other this Christmas day.

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