Below is a guest post by Jodi:
the one whose tears
will create another tsunami
-excerpt from Marcia Starck 2011
The sorrow and emptiness of Caemon’s absence has a crushing effect that gets heavier throughout the day, despite how well the day is going. Our last full day in Sedona we spent the day wandering around ancient ruins surrounded by the soaring red rocks, marveling at pictographs, petroglyphs, and crumbling cliff dwellings. It was magical. We went back to town dusty and tired, but so far maintaining our equilibrium as we sat down for Happy Hour at a local Mexican restaurant. Soon, however, we were seated for dinner and staring at our menus in silence. The hours between 4-7pm seem to be the heaviest. This is normally the time of day that both of us would be off work and ready to play as a family and get ready for our nighttime routine of dinner, bath, stories, and bedtime. It feels wrong to be out having drinks, just the two of us, lost in our own empty spaces.
This same feeling had hit me earlier in the day when we passed several senior citizens on the trail; in fact, most of our fellow hikers and travelers were retirees. Surely their own children were off to college and beyond, leaving them free to roam and explore. What horrible lie was I living? I have a job, a family, and responsibilities! I shouldn’t be here; I should be hurrying home after a morning of teaching to have tuna sandwiches with my family before Caemon’s nap. But I wasn’t. It was just the two of us again as it had been for 11 years.
The silence between us reached back to those years trying to find something to talk about, but of course talk of having a baby, wanting a family had dominated our conversations for years leading up to Caemon’s birth, so it’s natural for us to go to that familiar place. It’s a short-lived distraction to contemplate creating another family, though, and we drop the subject, knowing it is just too soon.
After dinner, we drove back to the ranch, and by the time we were parked, I was overcome with the need to escape the grief—two margaritas and a shot of tequila had not ameliorated the agony—if anything, it accentuated it. I walked in to the cottage and put down my pack, but the confines of the room set me into a panic. I turned and ran out the door, zigzagging up the trail behind the property. By this time, I was sobbing, panting, blinded by tears, kicking up dust and rocks. I collapsed on all fours and wept, gulping for air, hands in the dirt, tears dripping on the red earth. My heart, my life, my whole self-image of who I am in the world was shattered; my life’s purpose vanished.
I was aware of Timaree standing behind me, but I was lost in the vacuum of my grief, and I heard my soul call out “Caemon!” I tried to articulate the entreaty using my voice, but it got stuck in the hiccups and moans. This feeling has no language; it’s primal and scary and fills up every crevice of my being. I tried again to release it to the red rocks: “Caaaaemon!” Nothing came out but a moan. Timaree scooped me off the ground and dragged me a little ways further up the trail. I looked out at the setting sun. The whole valley glowed orange but even its beauty could not console me. Slowly, slowly I caught my breath and fell into my wife’s arms. She steadied me as we both cried, and we eventually made our way back down to the ranch. I lay on the bed and stared at his picture on the mantle until finally giving in to exhaustion. I was at the bottom. My psyche could take no more, so I shut down and went to sleep. Sometimes that’s how the day ends. Sometimes it’s how it begins.
Two days later I was on a train staring out the window watching the sunrise with silent tears flowing down my cheeks, once again unable to stave off the memory of my son. With nowhere to run, I sat with it, breathed through it, closed my eyes and let memories of his beautiful smile fill my heart. In my mind, I kissed every inch of his sweet face, remembering the slope of his nose, the softness of his ear lobe. I took my time, rubbing my cheek against his, caressing his neck with my forefinger. I do this many times a day, and it provides a bit of respite from the grinding pain.
Is there a bottom to grief when one has lost a child? I don’t know. I know that my soul is beginning to seek a way forward, and while Timaree and I brainstorm ways to carry on Caemon’s legacy, I know I must also search for my own path. Who am I without him? Am I still a mamma? What is my life’s purpose? How can I pick up the shards of my shattered life and piece them back together? Is it possible to fashion a beautiful mosaic—a new, but different, fulfilled life—out of the ruins of the old?
I don’t know. I don’t know.