Day by day, it became clear to me that something was settling heavy over me. Little by little, the reality was trying to creep in, at first swirling around my feet, trying to trip me up. Trying to pull me down and make me fall on my face.
I was surprised at how all of the ordinary things remained.
I still had to rise out of bed in the morning, shower and brush my teeth.
There were dishes to wash, and laundry to do, and family that needed my normalcy.
I was actually doing very well. In fact, I surprised myself. I was toughing it out.
Michael would have been proud of me. I was soldiering on.
Those first weeks home, I think I was still in overdrive. I was running on adrenaline. I had just spent an entire month surrounded by people in Texas. Soldiers. Family. Friends of my son. There was something going on most every moment. Someone calling, or texting, or stopping by our room.
Most of that month, my son still lived.
Suddenly it all stopped — all of that distraction. It was strangely quiet.
The thing that surprised me about myself was the fact that I hadn’t had a meltdown. Oh, there was that time at the funeral…when they turned that casket around and started rolling it down the aisle away from me. Yes, there was that moment.
But somehow I had it in my head that I was strong. I needed to be strong. Breaking down was for the weak. I made a secret pact with myself that I would do my son proud and not succumb to the pain that was brewing right there under the surface of my skin. I would not allow this grief to pin me down. I would not.
All that month of June, Texas was particularly dry. Not a drop of rain that I can remember.
When I came home to Georgia, the weather was beautiful. Gorgeous, even. Clear and sunny.
It hurt my eyes. Made me ache all over.
I kept thinking I wish it would rain.
Yes. I look back on it now, and I clearly remember thinking to myself that it should rain. I thought that we needed it. The grass and the flowers needed to be watered. It had been too nice for too long.
A few days later, the sky became gray. That felt better to me. Much better.
A few drops of rain. There. Finally.
(I believe I wished this into reality. I do.)
The sky grew darker and the thunder began to crack and it all simply opened up.
The rain began to pour.
I decided I needed to be in that summer storm somehow. I wanted to smell it and breathe it into my dry and dusty lungs. I needed to soak it all in.
I went alone to my front porch and sat on one of the desperately needed to be painted rocking chairs that I love so much. Rocked myself gently in the promise of reprieve.
It started coming down hard then. Sheets of rain. It was the kind of rain that smelled long in coming. Stagnant and musty from the waiting to fall. All those months up there in the clouds kept it chilled and hungry. The water bounced up and around and off the street in front of our house like stinging bullets as it hit hard, hard on the dried out concrete. Steam began to smolder from the mixture of hot pavement and cold rain.
The heat of the day began to melt away and a cool took over. It didn’t feel like summer just then. It didn’t feel like any kind of day, really. It felt like night.
I remember rocking. Breathing in the damp and humid air around me. Trying to find the rhythm of the storm.
I felt them then. I didn’t realize it at first, no. They came down easy and without warning. It’s like they understood and felt at home and longed to break open. They found their way like water always does.
The thunder kept rolling, louder and louder and then lightening lit the sky.
As I sat there, I heard something I didn’t recognize. It was primal and guttural and so full of pain. Suffering.
What was that sound? Where was it coming from?
Mixed into the thunder and the lightning and the echoes of rain hitting the roof and the wind blowing angry in the trees was the cry of wild. I swear it sounded like an animal. An animal lost and wounded and trying to find help. There was a wailing and a painful, painful call for those lost to please, please come home.
Please come home.
That sound was coming from me.
The wailing would not stop. And I did not care. I couldn’t care. I was split open. Right in two. As if I’d been hit by lightning and all of that covered up and pseudo brave emotion had no choice but to break free.
I allowed my pain to become part of the storm. Let the weeping fall like the rain. I cried out painfully along with the thunder, feeling the sharp and jagged pain in my chest like lightning.
It was all as natural as I had ever known. It all blended together and felt so right. So right.
Soon, I felt the presence of two beside me, one on each side. My husband to my left, his hands on my shoulder, my son to the right, doing the best he could to hug my neck. I did not hear the front door open. I did not see them coming.
I felt a rush of embarrassment. A short feeling of annoyance at the interruption of my privacy. And a harsh draw back into reality.
I didn’t want to come out of this. I wanted to linger. I wanted to stay here. Forever.
I found the words to tell them that I was alright. Yes, I was OK. Please, give me a few minutes. I will come inside soon. Without a word they let me be and went back inside.
I don’t know how long I sat there. Minutes or hours. It didn’t really matter.
We sat there together, me and this storm. For as long as I felt I needed it.
As some of the pain began to lift, I started thinking about what had just happened. I get like that. I can analyze just about everything.
I knew what happened. Yes, I knew.
I believe it stems back as far as there has been sorrow. Way back to the time when that first separation took place. When man decided he wanted more and God turned His back. When what was loved and cherished was taken away.
When emotion became something negative and God had to cover all of that up somehow.
Beautiful animals had to be sacrificed to absolve the sin of Adam. Something had to die to pardon the shame. I imagine anything witnessing that felt the grip of all the pain. The shock of the loss. The brutality of death.
Imagine the sound of it. Imagine the animals surrounding and witnessing the sacrifice. Imagine Adam, seeing the very thing he so lovingly named being slaughtered. The surprise of the emotion rising up that had never been before.
It’s called Keening.
Yes. Just typing the word and hearing it in my mind sounds right.
All of that shock and all of that trauma has to go somewhere. It cannot remain all bottled up because the sheer force of it would literally rip the chest wide open on its own.
So for years and years since, the body does what it has to do in the face of all that pain.
It lets it out. Releases it.
Wails and cries and laments. Howls. Gales of horror. Torrents of Grief.
I have not felt that intense since that stormy day. Oh, I’ve felt the pain and loss and I’ve cried some hard, hard tears. But nothing compared to that.
That storm soon stopped and the sun came out again.
It’ll cycle like that. I’ll keep on. Walk forward and learn to manage the hurt.
Face it and stand against it.
Until it all breaks open once again.