These will always be the hardest days of the year – his birthday, his anniversary and the short days in between. A curtain is lifted. Those days, my head space, the evocative smells and sounds belonging to this time of year, all conspire to draw him closer. The memories coming rushing back, clear and raw. My thoughts are once again full of him. And even as my heart breaks, I am thankful for the deeper connection these days bring.
It is a precious thing, this connection with my son. A considered thing, a nurtured thing.
When Xavier first left, I knew I could not relate to him as a newborn. He had become something else and I had to find a differently shaped relationship. The newborn baby on the television, the billboard for a maternity hospital, the tiny little boy being held by his mother – those things were too hard to bear. They brought me pain and I desperately wanted to sustain a relationship that was based on more than hurt. Grief tied me to my son, but something else, something stronger, needed to connect us.
I feel him in dozens of ways, and most strongly in the sunshine’s rays. It has helped me enormously to have something so constant in my life that feels like it belongs to him. To have something family and friends can hold to and let me know they felt him near. Something accessible and relatable and hopeful. I have taken dozens of photos over these past days, often intentionally of sunny rays of light. Then there are the photos that I never intended to be filled with light, but rays of sunshine still made their way in. There are the beautiful signs that friends have shared that seem too coincidental to be anything but Xavier reaching out.
We are taught to doubt the things we cannot see. We are taught to be skeptical and to close our minds to that which we do understand. But when something happens that defies explanation, when the impossible becomes your reality, new possibilities open up. When life, brand new life, is proved fallible, you have to wonder what is beyond it. If a baby can die for no reason, then is it such a stretch that their spirit stays near? If medicine cannot explain what happened to my son, why not accept the inexplicable signs and coincidences that have occurred as being from him? If I am asked to have faith that nothing could have saved him and that his brain was fundamentally flawed, why not have faith that he still lives around and in us? I have had to accept so much that seems doubtful and unreal, that accepting the things I once would have scoffed does not seem a great stretch. I do believe that Xavier’s spirit is near and real. Whether the manifestations of that are real or imagined matters little. Whether he lives on within me or external to me, he still lives on. Whether my beautiful friends remember him because they are moved by his spirit, or their compassion for me, it matters not – there is still loved expressed because he was here. I hear his voice sometimes – whether it’s my imagination or truly his spirit speaking is irrelevant – I still hear his voice. The nature of the connection does not matter, the existence of a connection is what is important. And for those whose scientific minds do not allow such flights of fancy, I leave you with the beautifully comforting words of Aaron Freeman:
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly