Today

 

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Xavier’s birthday prayer flag

Of all the days, he chose today.  Today to wake in his own bed. It’s something to be celebrated. Something we’ve been encouraging. But this morning, of all mornings, I wanted him beside me. To breathe in his still faintly baby smell and to have his pudgy little hands grasp my cheeks.

His older brother didn’t come in either.  Deeply asleep in his room. There was no bounce to greet the day. If their middle brother had lived, there would be bounce. There would be presents and laughter and wrapping paper strewn every which way.

Instead, I go into the boys rooms. Hand softly on hearts. Checking that they are still breathing. Because today, of all days, I don’t presume a thing.

I have a shower and my thoughts unravel for the day. The cleaners are coming and my white, middle class guilt about that kicks in. Today I won’t tidy. Today they will have to manage around discarded train tracks. I think about the cost and then the cost of daycare that ostensibly allows me to work.  And whether any of it is worth it. I stop short of calculating my hourly wage. Fallen so far from corporate high flying. It’s dangerous territory when I’m feeling useless. When my thoughts are skating around the inevitable. I haven’t bought him a present yet. What sort of mother leaves it until her son’s birthday to buy a present? I try to tell myself to stop but my heart isn’t in it. There is a strong part of me that welcomes self destruction. Today, of all days.

I choose my clothes carefully. Which would seem odd to most people. But clothes have always been armour. I wear jewellery laden with meaning.  A necklace with his initial and foot print.  A butterfly brooch. I look in the mirror and I am old.  Tired and sallow.

My phone sits on the counter and I reach for it out of habit.  Today the tide of routine is what will keep me going.  There are so many messages. So many people remembering him. Tears fall. Not drought breaking but enough to give some relief. This day that has all the grief rolled onto it. So far from my everyday reality. There are only a handful of days I let myself cry. Birthday, Anniversary, Mother’s Day. I let the grief build and build and build and then the calendar demands its release. Today of all days.

This day. His birthday. Four years old and forever newborn.

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The Weight of June

My heart knows the dates are coming.  Before I turn my mind to them, my heart is already aching.   The unbearable weight of June.  Suddenly, I am carrying a heaviness I thought I had banished.   In the very thick of grief, I felt like I was surrounded by a viscose tide.  Everything was an effort.   Every little thing met with resistance.  I pushed through it, hoping that the other side would be easier.  I pushed against the heaviness that weighed against my heart.  And I remember being so very tired from the effort of it all.  

It eventually lifted – that thick fog of grief.  But I can feel it, insidiously and un-beckoned, sliding itself back into my life.   The 24th June will mark two years since Xavier came into this world.  The 7th July, two years since he left it.  

My life is in a happy place right now.  I am blessed and continue to be blessed, but it is not enough to guard against the dates.  The violent grief comes unbidden.   That is the thing about grief – it is not a choice.   You can choose, to a degree, how you deal with it.  But the grief itself – that has a life of its own.   I have come to know it now – I can recognise it and I can feel the pull.  Yet, being forewarned is not enough to banish it.   It is at this juncture that I am faced with a choice – do I try desperately to turn the grief away, to turn my back on the tide, or do I accept it – let it wash over me and hope there is catharsis in doing so?  To be honest, I am fearful of either option.   I am not sure I want to sit with my grief – in all honesty, I want to be done with grief.  But, it seems, grief is not done with me.  

There is confusion and fear in the thick of grief.  I have sought solace and peace in a whirlwind life and when I finally eek out that time, I feel lost and alone without my boys nearby.  I want to push out at those who love me most, and I want to embrace them and never let them go.  I want to un-know what I have learned and I want to make the most of lessons hard-earned.   I want to go back to the innocent girl I was, I want to embrace the better woman I have become.  I want Xavier back in my arms, but not at the expense of his youngest brother.   I want to feel Xavier near and real, but I do not want the hurt that inevitably brings.  I want two years to mean that I can experience his birthday without pain.  I want to still feel close to him, even though it has been two years.

Xavier’s first birthday was peaceful – I was so very sad, but the tension was less.  I was filled with the hope pregnancy brings and I had the time, inclination and inspiration to do beautiful things for him.   This year, it feels like the tide of my life washes me further away from Xavier.  Which wave do I ride?  The grief, dark and insistent, lapping at my feet but with the promise of bringing Xavier nearer?  Or the current of a life that continues to take me further away from a much loved little boy?