Beginning my story…
What is this day, Thursday, April 30, 2015?
Eight years—a lifetime!—without my Sam.
But he died on a Monday; so, Monday is mourning.
Today is the date, a number, but…
Thursday…Thursday is a funeral.
And Friday is Lunacy.
Saturday is his Life flashing before me.
And Sunday is dread, the worst fear that he’s…
And then Monday…the day of the moon.
The day he was born—and I was changed for good.
And then Tuesday…
Deafening silence and cries.
Until Wednesday, when…
I was ANGRY—and had something to say.
On that funeral day, when he was taken away.
That Thursday when I said “we are strong…”
And I said “I might write…”
Well, here I am, and here are my words.
His story—all that happened those days before May…
“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”
– The Buddha
Why am I sharing this sad story? And why now? I’ll try and explain.
I’ve worked very hard over these eight years to find some kind of balance between grieving and living. I sat for the first three or four years (2007-2011) after Sam died. Not moving much at all. I would get Joey off to school, come home, lie down on my side or sit on the patio and watch the wind move through the trees. Then, I’d pick up Joey from school, make dinner, take Joey to baseball practice, or a game, come home, watch TV, go to bed, wake up and begin again.
I was motionless on the outside, but I was working so hard inside. I might have appeared “stuck” or catatonic to someone who didn’t know. But I was moving urgently through thousands of memories, decisions, visions, solutions, failures, and the trauma, the scene that played over and over in my head. Traumatic scenes would need to be boxed up and packed away in my mind. Memories needed to be saved. Failures needed forgiveness. Decisions needed to be lived with. And solutions…my frantic brain scrambled to find them, even though there were none. But, there were visions, and voices—not the crazy kind, but the wise whispers that come from deep within. And, along with my memories of Sam, these images and conversations had to be saved.
The thing I feared most, after his death, was forgetting—losing memories, images, and conversations. If I forget, then what do I have left? But, memories do fade. They do. People say, when speaking about the dead, “We will never forget…” But, we do. Not the beloved person of course, but the little things that happened on the most insignificant days. And these are the most significant!
I was expending a tremendous amount of mental energy—the reason I didn’t move. And it only took a small amount of physical energy to write. Only my hands needed to move. So I wrote down everything I could find in my mind—memories, decisions, visions, solutions, failures, and the trauma, the scene that played over and over in my head. I began writing two weeks after Sam died; and continued for four years (2007-2011); just sitting, and writing.
In my fourth year of grief, I had accumulated a 90,000-piece word puzzle. The mass of muddled pages in my computer reflected what had been happening in my brain. Chaos. I needed to put the puzzle together, and create meaning where there was none. I needed a story. So, year five (2012) was spent arranging and rearranging words. I was reaching a point of exhaustion, but… You know those stories you hear about the parent who, full with adrenaline, lifts the two-ton truck off their little boy to save him? Well, I was trying to lift this truck. But it was time for reinforcements. I hired an editor to read my work and give me advice.
I won’t bore you with the editing details, only the most important things she said to me: “You need to rest. Put this manuscript away. Box it up and put it away. Maybe for six months? A year? Whatever it takes. You’ve got a book here. Excellent work. You’ll need to make some changes, but not now. Walk away from it. Talk to him. That’s where the power is. Then come back and finish it.”
I took a year away from the words. Not from him though. I was able to see things, and him, clearer without my face stuck in my laptop. I was able to rest and gain a better perspective. I created a blog (2013), which was a way to get back to writing in smaller steps. In this blog, I’d always planned to share the story that I’d created. In the beginning, what I’d wanted from this story more than anything, was to connect…with him. My imagination has allowed me this. But, I have come to realize that connecting with others in this world is equally important.
Today, April 30, 2015, is the anniversary of Sam’s death. These eight years without him have been grueling. I am just now beginning to step out into the world and live again. I am just now beginning to feel capable of changing my world. I am just now beginning to begin…
“And truth is made up of a beginning—joy and bitterness, a middle—increasing the power of insight into the mystery, and an ending—the final end of knowledge is not to know, but to perceive through the deepest meditation, through darkness, an awareness. And from that utter silence of meditation, to speak of the oneness between souls, and to ‘sweeten’ all reality.”
This lesson (above) was taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov, a mystical rabbi that lived during the eighteenth century. I’ve used these words to frame my story. The one I’ll be sharing with you over the coming months. Some chapters will be long and difficult, and some short and sweet. All chapters, as I write and post them, will be listed in the menu, My Story.
Through my grief, I needed to write…to keep my son alive within me, and in the air around me, so that I could breathe, and so that I could continue. Words do create worlds, after all. What we see, or imagine, can become real. My worst nightmare became real! So conjuring a way to turn my despair—my destiny, through my writing, into choice was what saved me…and my son, if only in my imagination. I believe in the power of story. And, because of my son, I believe in magic.
It has been eight years now, since my Sam died. And I have gone over and over the days of his life, the shards of memories, the details of his death, sifting through the debris in my mind. I have wandered aimlessly inside myself, up and down musty staircases of books, from my heart to my head and back again, studying, searching…for a way to put the pieces back together…to make him whole again, and alive inside here (my heart).
Though I’m not aligned with any particular religion or tradition, I chose to study Jewish Mysticism to process my loss and my grief. I read The Bahir or “Book of the Brightness,” and other mystically significant books, which fueled my imagination, and my hope, which, in hindsight, is what enabled me to endure.
I read about sixteenth century kabbalists who used the term, magid, to refer to celestial messengers that visited human beings. The magid acted as an advisor and could present itself to a person in the shape of a vision, or in dreams, or they communicated with individuals through automatic writing. So I wrote…needing an advisor, a messenger, and a means for realizing a magid. Writing became my way of coping, my meditation. And my nine-year-old son became my vision, my messenger in dreams—my magid. His old soul became my otherworldly advisor.
For years now, I’ve been trying to figure out how, and when, to tell you. I haven’t been ready until now. I’ve just been carrying this untold story inside me—or sometimes in a book bag as if it were a child, its thin arms clinging to my shoulder. Holding it, hiding it, guarding it… But it has grown and it’s weighing on me. And something inside here (my heart) is begging me to put down this heaviness, and share the pages I’ve written.
There is so much I need to tell you…about his heart…about his mind…his soul…his soldiering…his stories…his magic! And, I need to talk about the insanity of my grief. And, how I’ve been walking this wire between Life and Death, drifting between the real and unimaginable world out there, and the unreal or imagined world inside here; not quite in or out of either. And, how I’ve woven the threads of these worlds, the patterns, the connections, so you can see…
Look, I’m working now—as a Realtor, of all things! The complete opposite of cocooning and wandering aimlessly inside myself. I don’t know how…but I am. Just the other day I was in a house that was a replica of the home I’d lived in, photographed and sold, years ago. The one in which I’d started my family. A brick ranch with a large oak tree in the front yard. I was there, in this replica, to take marketing photographs. I already knew the layout before I started. I was already on the line between there and here—the past and the present.
I took pictures of the entrance…the remodeled kitchen—with the kids’ art hanging on the walls…the spacious family room—with the babies’ photos on the mantel…and I tried not to drift back in time, in memory, to when we were all alive, in this home. But how could I not?
I slipped into that world inside here as I snapped the photos.
I hear my boys laughing out in the backyard.
No, it was the sellers’ children; they were playing outside, laughing.
I listen for signs of alarm, or silence. The laughing continues. I am relieved. I move down the hall to the boys’ bedroom. I snap a picture of the blue walls, the airplanes, the cloud curtains in Sam’s room. He is before me, playing his guitar, smiling at my camera.
No. This was another boy’s bedroom. There were no airplanes on these blue walls. Sam was gone. I was out of my mind.
Wait…here, there’s a blue storage locker with a sticker on it, his name in red letters: “SAM.” But…this is not Sam’s locker.
It was not, but none of the sellers’ children were named Sam. I was thrown off. Where, and when, am I? My eyes burned, but I held back the tears, and covered my face with the camera as the seller explained the locker (a hand-me-down from her brother, whose name is Sam). I smiled and complimented her décor, and went on taking pictures in that real world out there.
But I swear, he’s here.
Nothing is ever as it seems. And, nothing…nothing…ever was. He was only a boy, but he was a sorcerer. An old soul—a dancing soul—in the body of a child. Bewitching. Brave. A soldier. But sensitive. Fragile, so fragile. Perfect in every way, but for that large mass hidden in the center of his heart.
No one knew…what he had been through…how much weight he’d carried in his heart…how statistically impossible it all was…how cruel and unjust life had been to him…but how courageous he’d been in spite of it all!
No one knew…how much dread and fear I’d carried in my heart…how desperate I’d been…how determined—but powerless—I was…and how badly I needed to talk…all that I needed to say…about him…to him!
I don’t think anyone realized who this old soul in the body of a boy really was. At his funeral I composed myself and held back tears when I spoke, and said I would try and write it all down one day, all that I needed to say.
The end of April is here, again, and the moon is becoming fuller. Trees are lush, bright and green. Raspberry-colored flowers have opened and sprung from the azaleas. The scent of jasmine has made the air sweet. Even the lizards are a brighter green—so noticeable when they make their way up the gray walls of the house, no longer camouflaged in the new foliage. The weather has changed from cool to warm to hot. Joey has swum in the pool already. (It is Florida, after all).
And I rode my bike last Sunday and saw things I needed to see. The carved heart cemented in the sidewalk. The boys playing on the basketball courts. The rabbit hiding at the edge of the woods, nibbling on greens under the only tree there is with those orange flowers. If only another Luna Moth had fallen at my feet—but that would’ve been over the top. (I’ll tell you about the Luna Moth later).
April seems perfect, full of green life and blue skies, warm-cool breezes and green bean lizards. But, no matter what I see…or how green it all is…or how well I manage my sadness (and I am managing), the hands on my clock will strike 12:00, and Living April will die and become May—my midnight. And I will have to go on again, finding my way through the dark.
A wise someone once told me, “You can remain stuck in your grief, or, you can rewrite.” That wise someone was right. There is no gray. It’s the blackest black…or it’s blindingly white. So…after remaining stuck in the black for a very long time, I began to rewrite.
And the story that I’ve written, my truth, is made up of “joy and bitterness,” and a touch of the mystical. It has given me “insight into the mystery,” and, the knowledge that I may never, ever, find the answers I seek.
A loving friend, a bereaved mother and writer, suggested I prepare myself for when my story was finished, that nothing would be different…and Sam would still not be here. I knew she was right.
But, what if…“through darkness…and from that utter silence…” I could “speak of the oneness between souls”—between his soul and mine, and sweeten my reality. And who knows, maybe, “sweeten” all reality.