Pain is the wrong word. It is grossly inadequate and also simply incorrect. Pain glosses over the unique and special ways that exist to hurt, it neglects the finely tuned nuances of each individual experience. Because the great loss, James’ death, masks a thousand smaller horrors. Sick James. Not dying sick, just sick. A year ago, we wasted a weekend in an emergency room combating a phantom summer bug. The bewilderment that accompanied his diagnosis. The helplessness of watching him suffer a seizure, his little body writhing with a team of doctors around him, me standing uselessly in the corner. The debilitating thud of his initial diagnosis, the tumor so obvious on the MRI I could have sworn it was mocking me. The last days we spent together, that certain sorrowful calm that seemed to settle in.
The events paint too neat of a picture of course, the things that happened, while horrible, do not form the entire picture. There are frustrated dreams and ambitions as well. Silly things, really. The dashed hopes of watching him play any sport. The unfulfilled “I wonder” questions. I wonder what James’ voice sounded like. I wonder what his first word would have been. I wonder when he would have walked, and how fast. I wonder what color his hair would have ended up. I wonder if he would have liked to swim. I wonder what he would have looked like in pre-school/school/junior high/high school/college/work/on his wedding day/at any age over eight months and seventeen days.
Each hurts in its own way and inhabits its own special little void. Negative space where something whole should be. Pain implies something too positive, too overt. It suggests that you are being acted upon. Grief defines itself by absence and an overwhelming sense of want. It is the lack of any action that defines it. There is a hollow quality to it. One of the things people tell you when you have a child is that when you become a parent, a piece of your heart exists outside your body. I never liked that. I found it trite, one of those things people always go on and on about for the sake of saying something meaningful without saying anything. But there’s some measure of truth to it.
I am not the man I was before James died. I am not that man because I am missing a part of me—the man I was will not be returning. I am not going to wake up one day and suddenly be ok. I will always miss James, I will always love James. This is perhaps why pain is such a particularly wrong word. I do not expect to spend the rest of my life in the state I was the first few months after James died. I also do not expect to ever return to “normal.” I expect to always miss him. But I do not expect that to define me, nor do I expect that “pain” will be the lasting legacy of what James meant. This month and the next will be challenging. It’s not the “pain” though, and it’s none of those things I wrote above. The main thing is that he’s just not here, and I really wish he was. I always do.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.