I was dreading the one year anniversary. But not more than any other of the firsts. I was told to prepare myself for all the significant holidays and special events during the first year. I could only imagine what it would be like. How much worse could it be?? It caught me by surprise when Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July came and went without me feeling any more pain than the ‘insignificant’ days on the calendar. I think it was because my pain was already so deep that I couldn’t really tell the difference. Those of us that live in the valley say that once we hit triple digits in the summer, it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 or 109…It is still unbearable. That’s the way I would describe those “firsts”. It doesn’t really matter. The void is still there, the missing piece is still gone. The laughter in the room is quieter. The holiday seasons and the happiness my home once held was incomplete. No one day seemed to be worse than the other. Or at least I thought that. I can say that there ARE…2 firsts that hit me really hard and off guard. Two days that cut my soul to the core. The day he came into the world, and the day he left.
His birthday: January 16, 2017, I reached for my phone and sent him a birthday wish to his last phone number. Call it impulse or wishful thinking. It was something I felt I needed to do. ‘Happy birthday baby boy! I love you!! May you get everything your heart desires!’ That message is still out there in the great beyond. It continues to float around aimlessly. I don’t know. Maybe it did reach him…I can only hope. Thirty two years earlier, I had held this chubby little boy in my arms and fell in deep love with him. People say that the love you feel for your children supersedes all understanding. Truer words have not been spoken. It doesn’t matter if they are your first or your fifth. It is so grand that parents expecting their second child often worry that they will not love their second one as much as the first. It’s because they have yet to understand that with each child and as mommy’s tummy grows, so does the heart. It explodes with this feeling of bliss that you will never find elsewhere. You love your children with this all consuming love. Their life becomes your life. Their pain becomes your pain. Their wishes, joys and desires, become yours. You will move heaven and earth to protect them and give them all you have and so much more. You take on a new identity when you become a parent. I was no longer, Henry and Mercedes daughter, Rosie’s best friend, Joe’s wife…I took on a new role which was more important than any other role in my entire life. I became Joey’s mom. When Joey died, that part of me died with him.
July 16, 2017: The one year anniversary. I woke up that morning feeling queasy but no tears. Scott stayed home with me “just in case” he said. My morning started off as usual. Let dogs out, make coffee, read paper..no tears. I totally expected to be tangled up in a mess of tears and heartache, yet no tears. Only a feeling I couldn’t distinguish from the rest. I walked around the house aimlessly but still no tears. We decided to get out of the house. Maybe that would take my mind off of everything. We were planning on gathering at the church later that evening to release balloons in his honor. I let everyone know that I didn’t want anything else except that and I asked that they honor my wishes. If they wanted to do something else afterwards, they could but I would not be a part of it. I know people whose children have also passed away have had huge get together with food and music to honor their children. I didn’t want that. It seemed like more of a party atmosphere to me. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why they do it and admire them for having the courage to celebrate their lives instead of mourning that moment. If it was up to me, I would have preferred to stay home and skip right over this day. But what would others think of me? Why did I care?
As the day went on, I still couldn’t shake off that feeling. It was this immense feeling of heaviness in my heart. It felt as if I couldn’t breath. I kept taking deep breaths as if I was lacking oxygen. I tried to smile. I tried to seem interested in my husbands conversations but truth be told, I only heard every other word he spoke. I was lost in my own world. I stared off into space as if I was looking for something…anything. Yet, I knew that what I longed to see, would never come to be. I confessed to my husband that I just wasn’t enjoying our outing. I told him how I felt this ugly feeling. He told me it was OK to cry. I couldn’t. The feeling wasn’t one of sadness. It was something I couldn’t pinpoint. It wasn’t grief, or despair. All I could say was that I felt heavy. As we were getting the balloons, my mom called. I don’t recall what she said but whatever it was opened up the flood gates. I cried, well, more like wailed all the way to the church. My body heaved. I was doubled over in pain. I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn’t breath. Everything was going black. I couldn’t sit up. All I wanted to do was die. I knew I was dying that very moment from grief. Then, in the middle of my cries of angst, I remembered this feeling! The pain in my chest sensation that I had been experiencing all day. It was the same feeling I had the day my son passed. It was the same heaviness and the same emotions I had felt a year ago, right before we got the news. I knew what I was feeling…
I was feeling my son die