This is a picture of James and I from his photo shoot. It's one of my favorite pictures of us.
It still seems strange that it happened. Absolutely true, but utterly unreal. The same way you might expect to feel if confronted with a martian taking your order at Starbucks, green skinned and with a passion for the perfect macchiato. I know it happened, that it clearly is happening, but the reality seems distant sometimes, surreal. Like my life is some sort of waking Salvador Dali painting. Last weekend I went to lunch, the cemetery, and Costco, in that order. One of these things is not like the other. It's like the entire experience was plucked from some distaff universe and somehow landed in my reality, where it has no place. I keep asking myself where it goes, or what to do.
There's no context for a dead child. That's not to say it doesn't "hit home" or something like that. It certainly does, but it's not quite sure where to hit. Where do you put something like that in the catalog of life experiences? School, work, growing up, travel, deceased child. You can't categorize it and you can't somehow limit its scope. It's insidious in that way, seeping through the pores of everything that is otherwise unaffected and the same. Someone the other day greeted me by saying "Sorry for your loss." I must have looked confused because they clarified "The Baylor game" referring, of course, to a Baylor game earlier that day. A few months ago, I would have intuitively made the connection between myself, a huge Baylor fan, and Baylor losing a game. Now, the only loss I ever think of is James, no matter what the circumstance. It's the only loss that matters.
It's not that the world changed suddenly or became a different place. It didn't. It's the same as it always was. The sun rises in the east and all of that. It's just that I don't know what place James has or had in it anymore. That's part of the reason why I find I can't get rid of anything related to him, no matter how trivial. It's part of why his room sits just as he left it, and I can't even bring myself to take some memento from it. I'm afraid if those things he left are disturbed it will somehow sever his connection with this world, with us, entirely. I know that's irrational. I know that James' legacy isn't in the car seat base I stubbornly insisted on keeping in my car for months after he died, or in the clothes still laying in his hamper. James' legacy is in us, his place in our hearts.
Knowing is not always feeling though. Sometimes I get into fits of "moving on" and try to do things to expedite the process. These are almost universally poor decisions. I've actually come to the conclusion that moving on is a fairly terrible phrase in general- at best, I think we don't move on from something, we move forward with it. I'm sometimes guilty of trying to rush the process, trying to find where I'm going before I've figured out where I'm coming from. I still feel the weirdness of it keenly, the unreality of it all. Sometimes I think I must be a bystander in my own life, as if I witnessed all of these things rather than experienced them. I know that's not true of course, and the emotional resonance isn't anything close to that. It's much more devastating. It's just so unexpected. James died less than a month after he got sick. There was no contingency plan for him dying, and certainly none for surviving him. The nature of parenthood is that you plan on leaving, not being left.
So I don't always know what to do with it, and though it's been months now I'm still surprised. Eight months now and I'm still asking myself what comes next. I don't know the answer. But I'm glad I keep asking. I'm slowly coming to understand that it's not ever going to be something "normal." It's not going to harmonize with the rest of my world and experiences, a neat little "James" file tucked away in my mind. I shouldn't expect that. I'm coming to terms with it, but that does not make it any more pleasant. That said, I am thankful for every moment I was blessed with James. I am grateful for the time we had. The grief of his passing does not alleviate the joy of his life.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.