I feel like I'm in the hospital after major surgery, too sick and too tired to have visitors. And maybe that is true.
Let's face it: I have never been good at letting go. I don't like parting with those I love; I don't like leaving places where I've been happy. So now, since Katie's passing, it seems as if I've had "major surgery," as Father Rohr says, and I am not liking the way I feel. I don't like parting with someone I love, and with a life that I enjoyed fully.
I'm mad. I'm sad. I don't like hurting every day. I don't want to let bitterness creep in. I don't want to turn into someone I don't like or recognize. That's a lot of negativity, right there in one short paragraph. Pretty shocking from a positive, cheerful woman.
Listen: can you imagine, for even a moment, how it feels to be one of the "different" ones? We are different from everyone else whose children are all alive. Different, because we have what I call "the big owie." The booby prize, the one that every parent fears, the one that will never go away. We have had to say goodbye, permanently, and my friends, she is not ever coming back here. Not for Thanksgiving, for prom, for graduation, for college, for marriage, for birthdays, for Christmas, for babies, for vacation, for growing together. "Never in this life" is a very long time. You might call it "a life sentence." That is how it feels to me.
Back a couple of hundred, or even one hundred years ago, having a child die before she reached adulthood was not all that uncommon. People had stillbirths, miscarriages and the so-called childhood diseases to contend with. Many of the drugs that we have nowadays didn't exist, nor vaccinations to protect children against illnesses that we rarely even hear named anymore. We wouldn't have been so very "different" then. But now, it's rare to have a child die, at 12 years of age, in America.
Maybe some of you also have a feeling of being different, with suffering due to death, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, abuse, alcohol or something else that makes you feel "other" than those around you. If so, you have my deep empathy and compassion. Maybe we are not as much alone as we think, since I can sense your presence as I write this. Our humanity, our brokenness, links us together, but we spend so much time hiding our wounds that we forget that we are brothers and sisters to all.
The paradox is that I want, I choose, to wrap myself in solitude right now, instead of surrounding myself with people. Here is why I choose it:
I don't want to dump on you.
I don't want to infect you with our sorrow.
I don't want to deal with your fear of our reality, your shock and your dismay. I have plenty of my own.
I don't want you to pity me.
I don't want to horrify and frighten you with what really can, does, and did happen.
I don't want to risk trusting you.
I don't want to place the steaming, flaming icy/hot brick of my grief into your hands and watch you drop it.
I don't want any more loss or goodbyes.
I'm not as tolerant, patient or compassionate as I used to be.
I'm not willing to deal with bullsh*t anymore. NOT. WILLING.
It's easier to be alone, these days, than it is to deal with the emotions of others, and frankly, my boundaries are not as strong as they need to be. So if I avoid you, it's not about YOU; it's what I need. And because of Katie's instructions to me, I am not going to apologize for it. It's just the way things are.
My husband and I (and our son) are closer than ever. We laugh harder, and more often; we enjoy the small things in life more. But we live every single day with a pain that is shocking in its intensity, shocking in its tenacity and in its reality. It is draining, because it is there every day when we wake up and every night when we go to sleep.
I wish I was nicer & sweeter. I liked that about myself, before the sh*tstorm hit us. But I am tougher, stronger, and - paradoxically - more loving now, than I ever was before; I know it. So I will just have to accept what this is, and what it makes of me, as I ask God to help me through it every day.
The photos are of me (the littlest one), my brother and sister, on Bainbridge Island.