Memories of loved ones are like songs in our soul.
|Waimea Canyon, Kauai|
Tomorrow (October 22nd) marks three years since Matthew died. I think if there is one word to describe how I am feeling as we approach this dreaded date, it's disbelief. Disbelief that it's been three years since we talked to him, heard his contagious belly laugh and listened to his opinions on politics, movies and life in general. Three years since we gave him a hug and watched him drive back up to school. We miss him so very much. Despite wanting to make time stop and go back to when he was healthy and living his life as a college student, time has continued to march on and we've had no choice but to continue on also. But there are days when it's hard to believe that he is no longer here.
Last year I wrote about how I wasn't really sure how we would mark the second anniversary. And here we are again, one year later, still unsure how this is done. I fully imagine that twenty years from now we will be asking the same question, and we will muddle through it the best we can. One thing that I am confident of is that being outside is the most therapeutic cure for me. So while last year we headed off to Colorado for a combination work and pleasure trip, this year we headed to Kauai. For nine days, my husband and I hiked, swam, kayaked and sat on the beach. We were lulled to sleep by crashing waves while the wind gently blew through open windows. Everyday we were outside more than we were inside, and felt the vastness of the world surround us. Somehow things are put into perspective when you are hiking down a place like Waimea Canyon and feel the geologic passages of time; it makes you realize what a blip in time this all is. I wish I had been able to capture on camera the white-tailed tropicbirds as they wove their way from side to side through the canyon. It made me feel a part of something much bigger than we can fathom, and I was comforted by it. And, of course, I felt Matthew's presence.
So now as we slog our way towards the anniversary, I hold on to those memories like a child grasping a favorite teddy bear. I also take comfort in knowing that people are holding us close in their thoughts as we pass this unwelcome milestone. For bereaved parents, life is never the same after the death of a child. We continue on and in many cases re-define our priorities with a newfound perspective on what is truly important. We continue to have meaningful friendships, work, and family time. We laugh, we cry, we exercise, we volunteer for causes we believe in, we socialize. Basically, we try and live our lives the best we can. But our hearts, which were broken open, are still broken open. They never heal. So when a friend remembers to mention our child, we are so grateful. We are grateful because we don't want them to be forgotten just because they are no longer here. You see, we carry them with us always and we hope that you, too, will remember them. I guess if there's any advice I would offer someone who knows a bereaved parent it would be this. Don't be afraid to mention their child. If you know the birth date or the anniversary of the death, tell them you are thinking of them. It helps. That small gesture can have a huge impact.
I want to end with a poem. Last year on the second anniversary I closed with a poem written by Parker Palmer for Matthew. He wrote it when he heard of Matthew's death. This year I want to close with a poem by my friend Michele who is a gifted poet. She wrote this poem (actually it's a ghazal) for Matthew and I love it. Thank you Michele.
by Michele Bombardier
Still a shock to say it: he died. Shocks every time.
Died at the beginning of daylight savings time.
Is that where he is? In that extra hour? Lost time?
Seemingly close, out of reach, grasping dream time.
We buried him in the rain, tears, monsoon time.
Twenty-one years old, not nearly enough time.
One month earlier, playing baseball, sweet summertime.
Then the avalanche of illness came, folding time.
Long hospital weeks, blue-lit waiting room time.
Hope pushed against the windows, prayer time.
Now in the very early hours, thinnest dawn time
a hovering, a presence, then gone. Every time.