Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain,--
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane,
This has neither wax nor wane,
Neither stop nor start.
People dress and go to town;
I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
Or what shoes I wear.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Mourning is a strange state. There are times, quite often actually, when I feel happy, contented and at peace. Some of those times I can think about Jon and still feel peace. At others, however, the thought of losing him swallows me whole. Sometimes I feel guilty because I feel happy--a strange state of joy mixed with wondering if I should feel this way when only so recently I lost my son. Then I am left in confusion, trying to sort out how I really feel.
Because how I really feel is something more complex than simply being happy or sad. I've learned that it is possible to be both, even to be both at the same time. As my daughter-in-law and I discussed a gravestone for Jon, we were laughing because her name will also be on the stone, and she's only in her middle thirties. Planning ahead we said, and laughed. Even as we fought off tears, considering which pictures would be cast in the bronze plaque that would define his life on this earth, the too-short years so filled with activity and vibrancy.
I still try to protect myself from those who just have to hug me and tell me how sorry they are. I appreciate their concern, but I am never really prepared for these encounters so I mumble "thank you" and get away as quickly as I can, avoiding eye contact.
Those who know me well simply let me be me. These friends come to talk, make an effort to make time, don't ask me how I'm doing, and make me laugh. They don't expect me to cry but are comfortable if I do. Since I'm not much of one to cry in public, they're usually spared the wet shoulder.
Comforting others seems to be one of my roles, trying to find words to help others deal with the loss they have experienced while my own loss weighs heavily on my heart. Each person who knew Jon lost him in a different way, and each grieves in a different way--but all feel the loss keenly.
Each passing day is a little better; it's a two steps forward one step back routine. Each day we get up and go about our lives and I puzzle over how this can be when one so loved is not here to do the same. There is comfort in knowing that even when they are far away, your family is carrying on as usual. Now one is missing and yet the rest of us must keep on going. Finding reasons and the enthusiasm to do so is a challenge that I meet better some days than others.
The thing is, this sorrow will never go away. It will be there, the river beneath all the happy occasions, the laughter and family get-togethers. It is not terrible--rather, it provides depths darker than any we've known to our lives, highlighting with bright light all that is good.
It will run quietly most of the time, murmuring his name. We ride the river together, and each trip will find us holding on to each other and safely on the shore. That's what families are for.