Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not About Me

It's hard to think that it's not about me. Her cancer that is. My dear and best friend's cancer. It's her's. The road, the journey, the chemo, the fear, and the hope, and yet, it's hard not to focus on what I might lose, again. Another close, soul-mate kind of friend who gets the struggles and the joys that make me me is walking a path that serendipitously intersects with my own. The times we've walked together we've shared in big and small life revelations. I suppose it's no different than how it was before, only now the wonder of where her steps may take her is laced with fear. It's about her, supporting and staying positive, making phone calls, sending a meal, a card, a text, a hug, and avoiding the "you shoulds," the "whys," the "god's plan" and the like. It's about her, but it feels like it's about me. She's decided to "choose joy," and has asked me to do the same. I'll try. Though, I feel like defeat, not joy, has chosen me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Problem with Emissions

It began with noting that Caitlin's tree has no flower buds. The tree had a growth spurt and the trunk it thick and strong, but the flower buds should be there and opening this fall and I see no buds for those flowers. It's been disconcerting.

In reflection, I avoided the cemetery this past summer. Each time I thought I should go, I couldn't make myself. I knew it meant something, but wasn't willing to look inside to find out what. Sometimes coping means avoiding. When it was right, I knew I would go.

I went. Today. I wept as I remembered the day her father and I walked towards the hospital elevator after the "It's time to come" call. I thought that if I didn't get in the elevator at the hospital she wouldn't die. And today I hoped when stopped at the red light that if I didn't see her grave, she wouldn't be dead.

I worried that the angels and frog toys I left at her stone would be gone. Anxious that new dead babies would be there. I arrived and parked. All the baby graves seemed to be swallowed by grass--only the crosses, plastic flowers, and angle statues whispered that beloved children lay in rest there. It seemed a metaphor for my summer absence. I tried to exhale, but choked on my tears.

I sat staring at her stone and absent mindedly picked the grass away blade by blade. I listened to a few of Caitlin's songs on my phone and cleaned the stone from the dirt kicked up by my grass pulling.

Hugging my knees, I sat and rocked myself to the music and closed my eyes trying to recall holding her during her life.  The sun burned through my eyelids with a frightening red glow until I relented and opened them for relief. The breeze refused to cool my hot cheeks and burning tears. And walkers strolled by just feet away seeming oblivious to the grieving mother rocking above the earth, as they ranted their day's troubles. I longed to transform from body to the fine grain of sands the ants had successfully unearthed from the thick grasses. If I were sand, I wouldn't hear thoughtless chatter, and I could sprinkle myself about the sacred rectangle.

I went to the trunk, where I keep several toy frogs and other items to leave at her grave, so that I am prepared for any visit. I attached a new frog toy that makes sounds when you squeeze it--a similar toy she loved when she was alive. That helped. I stood for a while. At last I kissed her stone, and whispered my love.

Then I got in my car and turned the key. Nothing. Then every warning light went flashing, and the car tried to start. Seemed to start. I think it started. With lights flashing I put it into gear, thinking that I was just crazed from the emotionally charged visit. I traveled just a few feet. The emergency brake light was on. But the break wasn't pulled. Every square of the gas gauge was gone, but I'd left with three squares. The lights continued to flash, and I left my foot on the gas until the car refused to move. I shifted to park and sat at the exit of the cemetery, unable to leave.

I waited until the crazy thoughts subsided, and finally called DH. "I'm at the cemetery. The car died. And I can't leave." He arrived 40 minutes later with a couple of gallons of gas. We turned the key. A clean start. The tank was half-full. One indicator light glowed faintly--"So I didn't imagine it," I thought. The light signifying a problem with emissions remained on as I drove cautiously home.

Yes, there's a problem with emissions. I suppose I need to have some work done.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grief Invited In

I wrote this yesterday for Caitlin's birthday. 

Our daughter, Caitlin Anne, would be 5 today. Absence makes Herself present again with memories of what should be--Sending off an excited 5-year-old ready for numbers, songs, and ABCs to Day 1 Kindergarten fortified with Mama's hugs and kisses, and pink backpack with juice box and Crayola box of 8. 

Today's a day of reflection, of a bereaved mother's imaginings of an alternative universe where her child lives. 

Those who love us wish to take the sorrow away, but Grief is best invited in and Absence best honored with Love's tears.

I spent the day crying, texting and talking with family, and writing an article about nursery rhymes. I experienced another of those common sad, yet comforting ironies.While looking for a particular source, I encountered another scholar who had accessed the source I was looking for. The access date was Caitlin's death date. I interpreted it as a hug from beyond, her way of letting me know she's with me in all I do.