Fall has arrived, the crisp fresh air ruffling through the tinted leaves, sometimes strong enough to force one to float softly to the ground. The sun rise delays in time, as if it is tired, and struggling to get up, but when it does, the colors it casts are somehow more brilliant than any season before it. The rays of light dance off the tint of the leaves, inviting you to breath in and soak it all in before the harrows of winter beat down on our quiet lives. Fall. It used to be one of my most favorite times of year, and in some ways the comfort of past falls attempt to fill in the holes in my heart fall has given me. Gentle reminders of life lived before, of how it used to be, which in turn makes the aches of my heart all the more.
It has been a tough month for me, actually a tough couple of months. Most already know that Sophie had a febrile seizure before school started, which was the catalyst for a resurgence of anxiety. When you have lived through the worst, the fear of losing what you have left is gut wrenching and paralyzing. The even more sickening feeling is that I know people who have lived out this horrific nightmare far worse than my own, it is then that I force myself to count my many blessings, and there are many, most importantly that my nightmare remains as it is, and my bright shining ray of hope and joy still stands besides me, snuggles into me, and has veins filled with life. You just somehow cannot escape the "could have beens".
And then there is September. My first of two dreaded months. The traumatic, unexpected loss of my rock. My dad. It is hard to believe that it has been two years since his soul moved on from us, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Where I was, what I was doing, the days before, the last interactions, the shock, all while my Charlotte struggled in the ICU. I cannot even put into words all the things I miss about him. There are so many, many things. He was a wise soul who taught me the gift of survival, appreciation of life, and the acceptance of the way things are. His large but quiet presence filled so many lives with so many irreplaceable gifts and attributes, which at the time most of us didn't even realize. These are the gifts he left behind for us, reminders of him, strength he has fed us through his kind and gentle personality, gifts that sometimes make me long for him so much it hurts.
Last year at this time we were coming down from the high of the marathon, and hiding behind the prep and anticipation for our trip to Hawaii. We were hiding because all these Joys were bandaids for how sick Charlotte really was at this point last year. It takes time, and an alternate presence to be able to look back and understand how sick she was, something more completely apparent to me when I scan through pictures. It is hard to find ones where she isn't seizing, or glazed over with medications to stop seizures. Our outings were cluttered with a wide array of medical equipment to keep her alive, sometimes visible in pictures sometimes not, but it was always there. I realize now I did a pretty good job at keeping these facts from the world, of hiding behind perfect pictures that represent a split second in time, that make life seem like it was perfect for us. But we were hiding, we were always hiding what it was really like. We were hiding the horrors of our daily life, and in grief I still do. Because if we don't spend some of our time hiding, I am not sure how one could carry on after such a loss.
Every day I walk through halls, see faces, and see ghosts of spots her soul left imprints in the world. Just a year ago I lived on the other side of the line, I was a frightened parent, an advocating parent, a fighting parent, and now today I am just a sad parent, wishing with all my heart I could leap back over to the other side of the line.
In the morning I open my eyes, and realize it is not a dream. I prep myself, I give myself pep talks, remind myself of my blessings the Joys in my life. I walk past her perfect pictures, each day focusing on a different piece of perfection that was her to get my daily cup of coffee. I put on my clothes like they are a costume, moving me into a different persona, a persona where all is ok. I am surprised at how easily that words that my daughter died sometimes roll off my tongue and lips while in my costume. I often wonder what people think when I am so easily able to verbalize "my daughter died" and then wonder why I am not on the floor curled up in a ball - I silently in my head tell them that that is where I wish I could be, but that is not an option, that is never an option, because then her life would have been a waste. That day carries on, the exhaustion of wearing my heavy costume of grief starts to set in, but the time I make it to my car, I am often unable to distract myself with senseless talk radio as I watch the suns pink rays glimmer as it goes to sleep, and no longer can the tears be bottled away. There are just enough there to last the ride home, so that the costume can be carried just a bit longer to love on my beautiful oldest love. To give her the gifts I dreamed motherhood would always be, and give. And then, I drag my exhausted body past an empty room that should be filled with life. An empty room filled with darkness, scary memories, a laundry basket full of dirty clothes I cannot bear to wash, hair bows and leg warmers tucked away in drawers, a crib that has not had its sheets changed in almost a year, and a room empty of medical equipment that kept my Charlotte alive.
I am learning quickly that grief ebbs and flows, that it is never gone, but catches you at varying degrees of punishment as you move a long in life. Sometimes you are given time to recover and breath, and others, like the past month the flows keep flowing, and there is little time to regroup, to recharge, to grab a hold of life's most precious Joys so that you can be sustained when the waves of grief force you under. Some may ask if I am ok after reading this, and in fact I am ok. I promise that. My response is that I can simultaneously be lost in grief and ok. You may wonder how I am standing, how I make it through the day when I have buried my child, and that is a question sometimes I have to ask myself, but the answer is you learn to wear your costume so that you feel like you are normal for a little while, but more easily that you would like, your costume slips away and you are returned to the reality of grief. Something that will always be apart of my story, something that never goes away, and something that never gets better with time, we just get better at living with it. I am currently stuck in a flow of grief, and all I can do is is hold on and patiently wait for my reprieve which will surely come with time. For now I accept and live with the sadness that is part of my story, I allow myself to feel it, and lots of times be lost in it, I accept that this is the way my life is supposed to be. I forever will grieve my beautiful Charlotte, and that will never change no matter how well I wear my costume, but I will never forget how much Joy exists not only in my life but in the world, no matter how deep the wave of grief sinks me.