April arrived in full bloom. Now some ten days into the month we are being threatened with frost and freezing temperatures at night. There is a threat of freezing weather for the next few nights. The plants that should be covered are too large to cover. I hate that we are just going to have to take our chances.
But taking chances is a part of life. Every day, if it dawns for us is fraught with possibility for both good and bad things to happen. What am I supposed to do about it?
It is tempting to stay home, avoid contact with people and become a hermit of sorts. If anyone wants to have dealings with me they can come see me. I felt that way most of July and August of 2011. I wanted the door of life to close. I thought it had anyway and I wanted everyone else to close shop too.
I remember the initial frustration I had with the fact that life was going to continue on as if nothing had happened. People who had expressed their sorrow concerning our son’s death one minute were out on vacation the next. Didn’t they realize our world had come to a screeching halt? How dare they have a good time!
I remember the first time I had a good belly laugh. I felt very guilty afterwards. How could I possibly be happy? I remember after a time of not thinking about my son the feeling of shock that such a thing was possible. How could I not think of him every moment of every day? A rational part of me knew that it was okay but the emotional part of me felt incredibly guilty.
I am so glad the photographer for our daughter’s wedding took so many pictures. It has helped me remember the joy of that occasion. Four months after the death of her brother, our daughter got married. The preparation work kept her busy. It took all the energy I could muster to wander along behind trying to keep up. Those days are difficult to keep in sharp focus in hindsight. November and December seem to have disappeared without memory.
I have probably pushed myself more than some people and less than others to get out and do things. Some parents went to work very quickly after the death of their child. They had a job to return to and I have had some tell me they felt like it saved them from severe depression. I have been working from home for years. I had no particular place to go to, except my studio and routine.
Since I had been painting the day he died, the moment he died, it was hard to jump the hurdle and return to that work. I painted on my own at first. Now I have friends who join me some weeks. I am thankful for their willingness to face their own fear of facing me. They allow me to talk or not to talk about my son. It helps.
I have been making pottery at a local potters studio. Clay therapy. The owners have been friends of mine for years and now they are teaching classes. I retreat there some days to escape the difficult thoughts and emotions that flood in sometimes, unexpectedly. They are encouraging concerning the making of items from clay. They grant me space to relax my mind. In talking with other students as we have come to know each other I find I am not the only one to have experienced pain and loss. It is a common thread that binds us together.
In February my husband and I ran away to Savannah. It was our son’s 30th birthday. We enjoyed our time there with friends. March presented itself with mild weather. That is the month of my husband’s birthday and I knew it would not be easy, but we managed. Now April, fickle – extolled as the “cruelest month” according to Shakespeare.
The cruelty is life itself. Built in from the moment of birth, that it will end eventually in death. The buds may freeze tonight, having bloomed so early this year. The colors are brilliant, the green foliage lush and vibrant but by Friday it may be brown. By October if it is not nipped by the freeze those leaves will turn brown and fall regardless. It is the progression of what we are a part of.
The possibility of frost in April is just that, a possibility. The possibility that you or someone you know may end up in an accident today exists. People will die today and people will be born today and for some both will happen. They may be born into this world and die this same day. That is the chance we take.
I had met grief at other times in my life. When my dad died. When my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. When my husbands mother died, and then my own mother. I did not accept it as a constant companion then. It has given me no choice now.
When my babies were born I carried them in my arms. As they grew I shifted them to my hip and later as they learned to walk I held their hand. That is how I picture grief. I have not welcomed it as I have my children but it lives with me now. Sometimes I still carry it close, sometimes I shift it loosely to my hip. I have even put it down at times to let it walk beside me.
Near Rumbling Bald on Frosted Flake my son took his chances. He was a good climber and he knew the risks. He faced his fears to push himself to become a better climber so that he might be able to climb in other places. He climbed well that day. It was in the descent that the accident happened. Statistically it is thought that 25% of climbing deaths occur while rappelling. I hate that my son is part of that statistic. He choose the chances he would take because whether chosen or not, taking chances is what life seems to require.
Loving others is a risky business. I’ll take my chances.