I so love the Disney/Pixar movie “Up”. It’s probably my favorite animated film of them all.
Such a sweet,sweet and moving story.
As I type I realize there are many analogies I can draw from the movie and apply to what I’m thinking this morning. More than I ever thought. It’s funny how things rise up and connections are made when I least expect them to.
My mind is flooded and the emotions rise raw and ready to express themselves.
I woke up thinking about writing this post. And how I want to take a side road. Go off base a little. Make a detour.
A favorite scene from Up is how Dug the dog gets a new collar that allows him to speak his mind and will randomly find himself on a train of thought only to get easily sidetracked.
Mid thought he abruptly stops, turns his head and shouts, “Squirrel!”. The concentrated look on Dug’s face at that very moment is priceless. It’s as if there is absolutely nothing more important in that split second than that squirrel.
This scene has been so right on at describing how easy it is to be diverted that the word Squirrel! is defined in Urban Dictionary as “…being distracted by random nothingness”.
I will claim the distracted part…but not the nothingness.
I’ve been writing my story in sort of a chronological way…as it happened from beginning to well, the end. At least the end as it will continue on…for me. But I need to stop and tell you something.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
And yesterday was five months since my son died.
I swear I have no idea how I got this far. It has all gone by so very quickly. I can’t think of or tell you exactly what I’ve done these five months. I’ve been in a fog, yes, but something more.
I sort of feel like I have been inside one of those rock tumblers you might get for Christmas as a kid. I’ve been thumping around and around in some sort of barrel. Bouncing hard off of all sides of it. Spinning and knocking about not knowing when this thing will stop.
Wondering if I’ll come out all polished and shiny. Or chipped up and scarred.
(Well now, isn’t that a squirrel moment in itself? Actually, a squirrel in a squirrel…I wonder how that would be defined? I’ll think on that and let Urban Dictionary know someday.)
A year ago I was planning and packing to spend Thanksgiving with Michael and his family. Actually, we went out to spend the long weekend after Thanksgiving with him.
It’s the last time we talked face to face. The last time I saw him alive and well. The last time he put his arms around me to hug me and the last time I ever heard him say “I love you too, Mom” up close and personal and in person (oh! how I can hear that…literally and audibly hear it).
I want to tell you how I’m processing this.
A few days ago, I fell hard into it. Face first hard.
I actually didn’t connect the dots. Not completely. I knew that I’d have a tough time of it since it’s holiday season and all. I expected to get real, real emotional. But I didn’t think it would take me down.
And I mean…down.
The loss swept over me and took over. There are a few days I do not even remember. I don’t. Beside the fact that my eyes and face showed swollen signs of weeping and gnashing of teeth (figuratively about the teeth, here — but I have to say I’ve been biting on the inside of my cheek a lot)…I cannot tell you much about a day or two.
And I’m fine with that. It was part of my process. I don’t need to remember.
What I do know is that I can see this was my rock bottom. I really believe this is as low as it goes for me. Because I choose it to be.
To stay at the bottom would kill me.
I have come to see that grief has become some kind of label of sorts. There are silent expectations behind the idea. It describes. It defines. It trademarks the one who grieves.
To drive that home a little…let me tell you how most people will see me forevermore.
When I tell anyone that I’ve buried a child…they look so uncomfortable. I have literally had people physically back away from me as I’m talking to them. Cut the conversation short and walk away. I’ve had others try hard to brush it aside…try to encourage me with platitudes (and boy, some people say the darndest things…) and sometimes awkward silence takes over.
I know that I will always be thought of as someone who has suffered loss. It’s as if that’s one of the first thoughts that runs through the minds of others as they think of or talk about me. I am now lumped into some kind of secret society (not by my choosing…I will not pay the dues to join that club) and categorized as one who mourns.
This may pass as years go by…and I do hope so.
What these people don’t know is how sorry I FEEL FOR THEM. I sometimes want to put my arms around them and tell them that it’s alright to feel so uneasy. But listen, I’m not contagious.
I am still me.
Broken and bruised. But still me.
I also want to tell them that I will be different, too. I don’t even know what that looks like. But please allow me to iron this out for myself.
This is my journey and not yours to define.
I have had glimpses of joy throughout these five months. Joy does weave in and out of my hours and days at times. It sneaks up on me and catches me by surprise.
There are times when I feel joy is inappropriate. I know that’s silly. I do.
The gamut of emotions ride so high and low sometimes that my head spins round and round.
There is a part of me that desperately wants to shut the door. Lock it. Hide away until I’m ready to face the world. Much like the old man in Up, I want to escape in my own fantasy.
Attach some 10,000 balloons to my house and float away.
But there’s an annoying little distraction knocking at my door.
It’s called life.
And how, oh how! do I live it? How do I latch on to those glimpses of joy and allow that to steer this ship?
I know how. I do. Because all along these five months I’ve heard it in the depth of my heart. Silent but sure.
I’m not saying like the silly song, Count Your Blessings. And if you love that song, sorry, I really don’t. I never have. It’s too pretentious for me. Don’t tell me to count my blessings when I’m in so much pain! There’s no “one by one” in my mind as I’m deep in despair. What God has done is take away.
The gratitude I’m talking about is deeper than that.
I tell you this with the greatest of sincerity. I don’t tell things I don’t believe.
I am thankful for the pain.
Because the kind of pain I’m talking about comes up when I think of Mike. The very essence of him. When I remember the expressions on his face or his voice or the way he smelled or when he was little and when he sat in my lap or when he took his first steps or when he woke up on his birthday or when he shaved for the first time or learned to drive or when…
Every single thing he ever did. When all of it goes through my mind. The pain attached then becomes something of a treasure to me (and look, as I read this, maybe it is “one by one” that I am counting).
I now have a favorite word…
I’m on the front end of being able to think of this thing from the point of what I’ve gained.
I will always lament what I’ve lost. Always. I love my son with my entire being.
And the pain proves it. The pain I feel comes from the love. The gratitude I feel is for the enormity of it.
I thank God for this pain. Believe it or not, I do. I welcome it and embrace it. Because it’s all part of my journey. My adventure, if you will.
The Life and Times of Give and Take Away. Starring me.
I want to say “what do I have to lose?”
I have lost what I have feared most. I have and I’ve lived through it.
Yesterday as I sat on my front porch, I heard something in the wooded area beside my house. I walked to the side and leaned against the railing to see what it was. There were several squirrels scurrying around high up in the branches of the trees. Their tails are extra bushy this year, I noticed.
Maybe it’s going to be a long winter.
They seemed sort of hyper and aimless. Scattered. Going in all sorts of directions. But I know they have a set purpose in mind. It’s time to gather up all of the things spring and summer produced and hide them away. For survival. They are working hard to make sure they have a comfortable winter ahead.
So the same of all of these memories stored up in my head of my son. These are my survival. My food. My sustenance.
The irony of the idea that tomorrow is Thanksgiving is not lost on me. These dots I can connect.
In my mind I’ve determined to be ever so grateful for the pain of it all. Allow it to become part of me as much as my son. Right now they are one in the same. Oddly enough, it’s how he will live on inside of me.
So thank you, God, for the greatest pain you’ve ever given me. Thank you.
And if I can really, really grab hold of this…
there’s no way but Up from here.