I am a painter, an artist, a creative problem solver. I don’t remember thinking “I want to be an artist” I only remember drawing, painting, building – doing. How you establish credibility as an artist is another thing and like everything else the world measures it in its own way.
The measure of success and failure seem to shift with each generation. The parameters change for what constitutes a measure of success. Yet today it seems notoriety is a more popular way to gain attention. And we are if nothing else an attention seeking culture. Yet I have found – as I suspect many others have- that attention is not all it is cracked up to be. Attention brings with it a big bag of expectations that are imposed on us and some of the expectations can be outrageous and impossible.
When my son died we were at the center of a lot of attention. There were cards and phone calls and food brought by loving concerned people. Many had known our son, some knew only our daughter and some knew only my husband and me. Some had known us all our lives together as a family.
There was no avoiding the news about his accident. There was no avoiding a memorial service in his honor.
The cards came in waves for days and then they became a trickle and then they stopped. The house became very quiet. Those who came to the memorial hung their clothes back in their closets. They went to work on Monday.
Our daughter, his sister, went back to the house she had shared with her brother. She, like her father is obsessive and so she took on the task of sorting through her brother’s possessions. She boxed and she bagged and she waded through things that he loved and had expected to come back to after a 4th of July vacation. I could not bring myself to go there and help. If left to me they would still be there in that house probably. I am not sure how she made it through those days.
I felt as heavy as lead. I don’t remember when I started to paint again. I know that writing here became a thread I clung to. I dreaded nighttime. The end of day meant there would probably be the beginning of another and it would be just the same as the one before. He would not be in it.
I don’t remember when I began to be able to function a little. I took small bites. I set small goals. I kept my hands busy. I read every book on grief I could find. I participated in online chat with The Compassionate Friends group. I wrote, I painted, I read and I cried every day.
Friends who tolerated my moods before could not tolerate my state of mind. They were cordial and kind but they did not know what to say nor did they know how to handle how my tears made them feel. Even now, three years since his death you can see them close up when we speak of him, tell an anecdote concerning his life. But we do talk of him. He is still a part of our life.
Slowly here and there I met a few parents who had lost a child. Twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago they would say and their eyes would glaze with tears. With those words, naming the time we are rushed back and it is yesterday. When we read or hear in the news of another child’s death we feel a sympathetic pain. If the child who passed is the age of our child or passed in a similar fashion we relapse. Every part of our grief resurfaces.
There is nothing that we or anyone else can do that will change how we feel.
We may change what we do, where we live, how we do certain things but our feelings don’t change. We love our child, we miss our child and we grieve.
The thing we want most of all – is to have someone remember our child. That child is still a part of every day and friends and acquaintances fear “they are going to make us remember”. If they only knew how often we fear we might have something happen that will make us forget. We sometimes touch and pick at our feelings of loss to make sure it still hurts because now hurt/grief/loss is connected with our child. We don’t want to ever forget our child.
This Sunday, December 14th is a day of remembrance for children who have passed. When it is 7:00 p.m. where ever you are in the world candles will be lit in their memory. I light them for my son and other children I knew and for children I did not know. The first year I hesitated to honor this time on this day because I could not figure out how I felt. I did it in secret.
Last year I pulled out every candle I could find. And today I am going in search of candles to use.
The hard part. The horrible hardest part which I haven’t figured out – when the hour is past – do I let the candle burn down? Or do I blow the candle out?
I can handle the light part of it as representing my child – but the blowing out of the light – it’s symbolism is the hardest to bear. I don’t know who sees all the candles burning but if it is just you, in your home then I hope it feeds some need for you as your child is remembered.
Regardless of whether you participate in this worldwide event, I know as you know that your child still shines a light into your life.