Sunday, May 20, 2012
After James died, I ran. I ran away from conversations, polite nods and eyes crinkled in sympathy. Sometimes when running I even faced them, mastering thank yous and polite handshakes before immediately changing the conversation subject, my aggressively ok facade offering an escape of its own. Just pretend it's not happening, I thought, and it won't. I ran as far away from these things because it seemed for a time if I ran fast enough, I could in some way manage to escape the roiling terror of the reality nipping at my heels, that in reality my son, whom I loved before all others, was gone. In his place there was nothing in a particular, a life indifferent at best. A solar system with the sun snuffed out, the planets carrying on as if nothing happened, orbiting a void.
But I got tired eventually. The hours in the day added up, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not fill all of them. The trouble with running is that you need somewhere to go, something to do. When I ran out of things to occupy my time, James inevitably filled the void. When something lingers in the back of your mind all the time, it takes very little to draw out. Four or five months after James died, I began to run out of steam. My distractions proved increasingly less effective. James started to creep out of the boxes I'd made for him in my mind, even as he did in life, popping up in unexpected places. An avocado popping out my sandwich, neatly sliced and perfect for his fingers. Television shows I used to "watch" with him returning to the airwaves, everything back from the summer but James. Holidays, over and over again. More blocked facebook feeds of kids exactly his age than I can remember.
It would be incorrect to say I stopped running. It would be more appropriate to say I collapsed, exhausted. My self-induced fog began to lift, and I saw the world clearly. I cannot say I particularly liked what I saw. The fragmented bits of my world matched up much less clearly, and with less purpose, than they had before. Having the entire context of your life shift suddenly and without warning is disorienting and not particularly pleasant. I spent a long time angry about that. I spent more time sad about it.
In the end, it settles. Not settles in the sense that it's ok, or not horrific in some way, but settles in the sense that it is not actively debilitating when it hits you. Loss of any kind, especially the loss out of order of someone you love, is not a wound that heals. Closure is an impractical and misplaced goal. James is not a torn ACL, something a surgery and a few months of rehab will set right without further ado. You live with it. Your only choice is how you choose to do that. Twenty years from now, I will still love my son and miss him very much. It is very likely that I will think about him everyday until the day I die. I can choose either for that to be the saddest part of my day or a bright spot. James never brought me anything but joy. I wouldn't trade having him, even for the short time we did, for the world.
I receive a lot of messages from people who are losing, or who have lost, their children. I cannot say I understand their pain completely. Each child, and each loss, is different. I would never presume to know their experience. People sometimes ask me what I did. So I thought I'd say. I'm not particularly proud of running. Given a chance to start over, I'd probably do a lot of things differently. Of course, no one chooses this in the first place.
Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers.
Posted by Matthew Sikes at 7:55 PM