My Calendar

imagesThese are my dates that never change…. many of which few but me know anymore or remember. They remain my touch stones …. at times for rest and focus, a couple holding all joy and others? I slam into them just when I was catching the flow of the water.

about January 31st I got pregnant with Tiger (My mother-in-law’s b’day)

February 12th Will’s b’day

February 13th Anniversary of Will’s death

May 22nd  Will’s memorial and tree dedication

May 23rd  My uterus gets separated from my small intestine in surgery while I’m pregnant with Tiger

June 1st Will’s due date (My best friend’s b’day)

June 13th Anniversary of Tiger’s death

June 15th My Love and My Wedding Anniversary

July 22nd Lucy’s birthday! (best day ever)

August 26th Anniversary of Tom’s mom’s passing

August 28th Tiger’s scheduled due date

October 28th  Tom and my first Kiss. About when I got pregnant with Lucy.

November 2nd Tom’s birthday

 

Clearly they didn’t all happen in one year. But now they are all held in 12 month cases. Year after year.

It’s all very LOUD right now. Janine my dear friend hung in a helicopter stretcher meditating over an audience watching Stephen Pentronio’s dancers in Like Lazarus Did at the Joyce. Still for 2 hours every night for a week, holding a light in one hand. She was in the space between, to me. And I was back in my paralyzed body aware of all that was around me but unable to speak or open my eyes and cry out, “My sweet boy is gone, was cut out of me but I am left here and I am somehow alive! Am I? “.

Janine’s hand holding a industrial construction light that’s hanging from an orange cord is pictures on the front of the holy card. The back reads:

Should I look  among the living/ Should I look among the dead/  if I’m searching for you?

 

I know the answer. I can’t say it in writing

 

 

Slides or Swings

 

snow dinos

I have the flu. I walked out with Tom and Lucy and Fletcher this morning for the first time in three days. Dropped off Lucy at school. Walked to Will’s tree. Feeling too sick, I left Tom and Fletch to their walk and went home… but on the way- not restricted by a furry friend- I did something crazy… really really strange actually: I walked through the playground.

Covered in melting snow, no children. No little boys. And that was it- all that I needed. That perfectly obvious reflection of my emptiness had me crying like I was in the hospital.

Time Schmime. Healer, my ass. Time is just the vehicle for the alternate route your life took.

How could it be 7 years? How could I miss him, my little boy who I barely met outside my womb, so deeply? Once a mother,….

So my goal this year is not to relive the trauma that was the hospital stay. This year I work to transform Will’s memory and purpose and being into LOVE. It will be work and I don’t know how yet but it is time. And it will be awesome.

Brave

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ” 
-Colette

And that is how I continue to grieve mostly. I honor the dates and moments as they come with dance and ritual and flowers and altars. Then, the curious moments arise unsuspected.  I hold them safe, in secret, inside,  I savor them like a piece of ice in my mouth… letting them melt slowly, as every part of me begs to absorb just a drop of the memory. I literally feel the tears in my throat as I continue listening to whomever is beside me. It’s playing a role on the outside while having a completely authentic intense experience on the inside. Who knows this kind of living?!?! Only the grieving I am sure- it is an alternate world forever, grief.

I picked up Lucy on the last day of 2nd grade, hugged her teacher, bought her ice cream, celebrated summer… with my eye on the kindergarten classes letting out… still (!) half wondering why we weren’t picking up Will. Similar moments for Tiger arise when I pass mini soccer groups, or when I don’t need a babysitter during the year until 3 and I don’t understand why I’m not figuring out my work schedule to have a day with him during the week next year.

Boy stuff. Spring weekends filled with practices, and pirate backpacks, and girl cooties. It’s just stuff. Stuff I’ll always wonder about.

We saw the movie Brave yesterday. Lucy hated that movie (her words). She didn’t like how the mom turned bear would have moments of actually turning into a bear and forgetting she was a mom. That’s scary in grieving too. When the Queen turned back into herself, her daughter looks at her and says, You have changed, you are different. It’s more than the grey stripe in her hair. My overnight grey stripe is exactly the same. It’s from the moments I almost stayed with my boys and just about let myself forget this world. My ‘bear moments’ you could say. 

6 years: less poetic, more integrated, just like yesterday

A year since my last post: a testament to healing and life happening and new intensities taking up space.

I was out with two of my favorite and oldest friends in ‘Brooklyn: the modern Paris of the 30s’ at a tapas bar to celebrate my birthday. My sweet Amy acknowledged Will’s name on her calendar. She was with me that day. She drove down and sat with my mom while I was on the phone with Tom and Will, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star through the tubes in my throat at a Brooklyn Hospital while Will’s father held him for his last breath in Manhattan.

The biggest blizzard in 100 years the night he was born. The warmest winter on record this year.

6 years since he was born and we are back to the same days of the week: Born just after midnight, 12:01am on February 12 a Sunday. Died 41 hours later on Monday evening…. I watched him leave in the sun setting over New York Harbor.

I was cloudy from the meds and clear from the love of a new mom.  Now I’m cloudy from late PTS and very clear from the love of a mom with one living child and two dead ones.

I was in complete unknown land- living in the shock of a world I never imagined possible. Today I am a seasoned traveler here yet my less frequent visits are nostalgic, wiser and less connected, more sweet than bitter.

I’ve learned that you never know how an anniversary will hit you. I think because I’m having neurological weirdness that is unexplained so I need to keep in check my fear of dying while Lucy is young, it is an excepted blow. I’m really just super sad.

If he had lived, February 12 shouldn’t have been his birthday. June 1st should have. Matty was born in those early weeks- premature and unexpected by most everyone but his mother. He is 25 now and getting his masters in contemplative psychology in Boulder. Thank god one of Tom’s sons lived. Thank god for Matty.

I am in a very different place than 6 years ago. I’m always surprised that despite that, I can slip right back into my old skin- the 30-something mom with eyes of a unsolicited depth, longing for shallower waters.

When Amy mentioned Will’s birthday and I said yes it would be his 6th, I uncharacteristically had little else to say. Amy and Kristin sat quiet with me, holding space for a little and we moved on. Just a it should be.

I miss you Will. I will always imagine you alive at your living age. I wish I was wrestling with sibling issues between you and your sister. I wish there were more stupid sports stuff around my house. I would play hooky with you today. I kind of am.

I love you sweet boy. 

I wonder about him

Will’s birthday is coming up. His 5th. The anniversary of his death too- his 5th. I can’t wrap my brain around time.

When I feel better about the boys- like my grief has been worked through and I’m generally happy- I have this small feeling of missing the mourning. Weird. But there is guilt attached to feeling better oddly…. and grieving is somehow closer to Will and Tiger. You miss it a little. Miss the deeper missing.

And then, although everytime you think you won’t go back to that intense place of sadness, it hits you and…. We’re Back! And you do feel closer, access to all of the complicated feelings is at your fingertips, you swim in the missing, in the longing, in the confusion. This is what I missed? Wow… death is always darker on the other side.

5 years is no time at all this week. He should be here. Lucy should have her brother. I should be planning a b’day party for my boy. I wonder about him.

I wonder about him every moment, every day.

Back to the space between

I found something that I had a written after Tiger died but had since forgotten about. So it must have been in November of 2009. I was super into transforming and sculpting the immediate raw grief after we lost Tiger. After Will it was just complete shock… which informed me the second time.

I have a fascination with the Hindu gods and goddesses. I’m particularly interested in Durga, who rides a Tiger into battle, carrying 8 weapons in her 8 different hands. A wrathful goddess fighting for good. She is one of the three main, but ultimately multiple manifestations of Pavarti (mother of Ganesh, consort of Shiva).

So I am particularly interested in The Space Between life and death. I hadn’t ever considered it until I was in it. And so it goes…

I’ve sat down with Durga at various intervals throughout our shared existence. It is rare for us to be in the same space or even the same realm for that matter.  So I took this unique opportunity to ask her and her manifestations some questions- related to motherhood, grief, the space between, her tools of battle and the edge of your world- over tiger-bone tea.

Pavarti the Seal (PS): I understand that this is an intense time for you. The nine-inch scar dripping down the center of your belly must carry quite a story. I wonder if you could share a bit about the space that you are in today? It has been a few months since you and your son decide to part?

Durga the Poet (DP): Well at the moment I am phosphorescent with this tea.. Am I glowing from inside? Yes, Tiger and I died…. -4 months 16 days and 2 hours ago- give or take. I believe that it was about this time of day, -4 months and 16 days since I was actually in the space between, waiting to come back to life. It’s a funny thing- this exactness for time. For the just-shy-of-three-years between our son Will’s death and Tiger’s conception I counted everything. If I have my serge today, I will ovulate in the next XX hours and then if the baby is conceived this month, the birth-day will be this date and Lucy will be this old and on and on. Then he was conceived around my birthday this year and there were more detailed dates- both the natural ones of pregnancy and the ones revolving around other battles within that creative time. And he died one a Saturday the 13th (as did Will) so I count backwards from that moment. What is interesting is that the counting doesn’t serve me at all. I’m not even interested. I suppose it serves to determine where others expect a wrathful goddess like me to be in her grieving. (Although that is highly variable between goddesses and gods, wrathful and peaceful). For me the time ‘since’ makes little difference. Grief- our grief- is a wily and sneaky and spiritual creature. Time actually is not the healer here.

PS:  I’m interested in your referral to the ‘space between’ as if it is actually a location that one can visit. You touch on this space when you discuss thresholds, rites of passage, and empty churches. Can you tell us what this place is like?

DP: It’s frightening.  And lonely. A relief. It holds everything and nothing. The memory of where you have been remains only as a perfume and it mixes with the nervous anticipation of where you are going. You are…not…as you know yourself. But there you are without the body that you love, without the voice that stands for you, without the warmth of the other who knows nothing of the space between. And yet, you are alive. So the short answer is No. I can’t tell you what it is like. You will have to find out for yourself. I can say this: It is not life or death that we are most afraid of- it is the space between. Interestingly, the environment is all water and you can swim there just fine.

PS:  Hm. I’ll have to think on that. Yikes. Well, why did you leave where you were- is that clearer to you?

DP: Definitely not clearer. However I will attempt to translate that journey as best as words allow. I was with my son. We are all so breakable- (particularly when we are stripped of our weapons). And our time together really should not have been cut so short. We mourned that a bit. I read him every children’s story he would ever need in a single kiss. He massaged my heart. He asked me not to count time, not to waste it, but to eat it like sushi. Called me mommy and anam cara.  I fussed over him, breast fed him, and embraced him as a man. And so we decided I should return to his sister and his father and his grandparents. I learned later in the dance actually that it was a lovely wonderful place to be. I suspect it was not easy to leave.  I swam back- a mermaid reborn with legs.

PS: No weapons you say?

DP: No weapons. But my vehicle: my Tiger, my water, my mortality, my loves were close enough to sense. Weapons are not so important out of battle you see. It’s not a fight or a struggle there (your tea is getting cold)- that is for life.

PS: So now that you are back Durga, how do you remain wrathful? How do you take up your weapons again?

DP: Hmm. I’m alive. We chose life for me you see? We are mothers remember. In all spaces we are mothers even before we are and so our weapons are like limbs, our movements our stories. My scars are horrendous and beautiful because they are thresholds. Wouldn’t you know, thresholds are never where you expected they would be. And even when they are bloody, it’s only on one side. What is blood to the space between- nothing more than cool-aid.

PS: You are crying.

DP: I am.

PS: More tea.

….. but through the body

Absolutely there is body memory.

My body conducts my tears, screens vivid visual memories in the theater of my brain, builds rituals on the anniversaries of the boys’ deaths, births, due dates, memorial dates (endless dates).

I am reminded of the pain leading up to Tiger’s death around my period. When the same adhesion pain is pronounced, I am thrown back emotionally to all the feelings around his death. It begins in the body.

I believe in the power of motion, the wisdom of gravity, the emptiness of true love, (and) the fact that there is no way out but through the body.”                             -Gabrielle Roth
Occasionally I’ll be dancing and my body will move a certain way- that connects somehow with my uterus and heart maybe- and suddenly tears are streaming down my face. My body was theirs, theirs were mine in this intensely synchronized way…. our bodies remember in a deeper way than our brains can.

“Your mind can deceive you and put all kinds of barriers between you and your nature; but your body does not lie. Your body tells you, if you attend to it, how your life is and whether you are living from your soul or from the labyrinths of your negativity. The body has a wonderful intelligence. – John O’Donahue

Because it isn’t from our consciousness, it is especially jarring and dense. It seems to produce longing and grief from- not just a visual memory or verbal memory- but from all memories, from all worlds at once that have been effected by the loss of my sons. It’s beyond the Grand Canyon- the depth and intensity…. it can’t be taken in all at once and yet somehow we do, we mothers. We have no choice really… it is all in there, of, connected.

It is my body that takes me back to moments, before Tiger was born, when I just sat with him. It is my body that dances with Will as a young man, strong and calm and steady. It is my body that didn’t hold out, hold on, contain, protect. It is my body that ages and misses and wishes it could safely carry a child again.

It is all written in the body.

Bitter sweet home.

interchangeable

The memories would slam against me like the waves of an incoming tide, sweeping my body along to some strange new place – a place where I lived with the dead. There Naoko lived, and I could speak with her and hold her in my arms. Death in that place was not a decisive element that brought life to an end. There, death was but one of many elements comprising life. There Naoko lived with death inside her. And to me she said, “Don’t worry, it’s only death. Don’t let it bother you.”

I felt no sadness in that strange place. Death was death, and Naoko was Naoko. “What’s the problem?” she asked me with a bashful smile, “I’m here, aren’t I?”…”If this is death,” I thought to myself, “then death is not so bad.” “It’s true, “ said Naoko, “death is nothing much. It’s just death…”

Eventually, though, the tide would pull back, and I would be left on the beach alone….sadness itself would envelop me in deep darkness until the tears came. I felt less that I was crying than that the tears were simply oozing out of me like perspiration.

I had learned one thing from Kizuki’s death, and I believed that I had made it a part of myself in the form of a philosophy: “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.”

By living our lives, we nurture death. True as this might be, it was only one of the truths we had to learn. What I learned from Naoko’s death was this: no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be (little) help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning.

Haruki Murakami Norwegian Wood

Same Love, Different Life (repost from Glow)

It wasn’t so bad really- no one remembers, or should I say, no one takes the chance to say anything anymore. A year and a half? They would be embarrassed or find their inquiry inappropriate so after the fact. But did he cross their minds when they saw me? Did they feel anything? This was mostly my sister’s extended family so many of them haven’t seen me but once if that since Tiger died. It’s not likely that they thought of him so much as the ‘sad situation’ maybe.

My sister doesn’t bring him up even. That’s her way. She lost her second child at birth 17 years ago. She didn’t talk to me about him after the funeral until years later- when I had my first loss. Until I was in the hospital with Will in the Nicu… then she was amazing. But now, well-how?They move on.

That’s ok. They are MY boys after all. Their memories are mine to hold. Their place in my family are mine to miss. They are the me that is so changed by their birth and death and spirits. By talking to me, they are forced to see my boys. They don’t have to know it. I do.

….. I just can’t help but wish they were ignoring them as little boys running and crawling under the Thanksgiving table instead of avoiding their memory. I’ll always wish these silly wishes.

All of this- it evolves and changes… but the core of it- the place that they created inside you- it stays. Everything else around it becomes more manageable, maybe more of a secret, forgiveness is found, friendships changed, even laughter rediscovered…. but that gorgeous depth of pure love unrealized by our 5 senses anymore … that we reach for in our souls because we can’t with our bodies…. it doesn’t die or fade or lessen. For me, 4+ years later, 1 1/2 years later…. not a bit ‘less’.

Such love.

grief expanded and compressed….. and expanded

I live in New York City. I lived in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. The feeling of shock and otherworldliness filled the streets. We all walked around silent, looking one another in the eyes for answers. None of course. The unthinkable, the impossible had happened. We passed MISSING signs, we check on friends who worked in the towers, we stood on Houston St with the military vehicles, then days later on Canal closer to the tower’s remains, wanting to DO something… but like the hospital ERs – prepped and aching to help there was little to nothing to be done. It was over. That is all.

After Will died and after Tiger died there is was again- that familiar emptiness ….. the depth of knowledge of the unknowable spreading before you. The loss of something so great you would never wrap your brain or your heart around it. But the eyes to link with around me? The communal understand that put no demands on the bereaved, that knew exactly what had been lost and didn’t fumble with words, or Pollianna the hell out of loss, the beautiful silence that sang so loudly in unison?…. that was missing. Lucky for everyone else that was missing. Related but so very different.

And then there was the beauty that sprang from the devastation of 9/11. On the streets, in email boxes, in newly formed non-for-profits, in expression and art. Loving kindness. And while different too, that was also related. Those that were silent with me, that helped me to plant Will’s tree and spread his ashes, those that danced for me and Tiger in the hospital and cared for my daughter, glow, the pregnancy loss support group. That is not to be forgotten either.

Anger and endings and even ugliness sadly also have their say around 9/11. Maybe in some ways for our own tragedies too. But today the tragedies can be linked, the beauty and love remembered: in honor of ALL who we have loved and lost. There is at least nothing to lose in that. The emotion, the shared space, the loss of dreams.