“Are you ok?”
“No. No, I am really not.”
I answered honestly as I broke down in my friend’s kitchen in a fit of wracking sobs. And then I was literally surrounded by love as seven of my closest friends huddled around me and held me when I could not stand on my own. Then one of them in beautiful comedic timing said “Here, hit Sujata!” and we all broke out laughing. And I couldn’t help thinking, “laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
See for some reason (that I still am not sure of) this group of ladies who have seen each other through a lot of life’s up and downs decided to have a movie night and watch Steel Magnolias. I think it had been so long since I had seen the movie that I had forgotten how wonderful and funny and well-acted and heartbreaking it is.
The Sally Fields scene in the graveyard is a truly astounding performance. One that I don’t think I ever really understood until now. The rawness and vulnerability of her grief and her uncontrollable anger at the unimaginable injustice of losing a child cracked open a part of my heart that I have been trying very hard to keep closed.
Because grief is deep. It can feel like a giant pit that is too scary to look into because you can’t tell where the bottom is, or even if there is one.
I said for a long time about Mark’s death that I felt like there would be a time when it gets worse before it can get better. I have been swimming really fast and hard lately but I think maybe that time has finally caught up with me. It’s why I haven’t posted in so long…sitting down to write is a form of therapy for me. And as with much of therapy it doesn’t work unless you allow yourself to go to that deepest level.
And being there, dealing with that, feeling those feelings, just plain sucks. It is the fucking worst, and I have been doing everything I can not to have to.
But here I am… crying into my computer with a glass of red and a box of Kleenex. Waiting for the laundry to be done. Because one of the greatest proofs that life marches on despite the unimaginable is that there will always be more fucking laundry.
Yesterday I broke a little. And maybe that’s good. My spine of steel allows me to get through just about anything, I have excellent coping mechanisms that have kept me going despite the constant barrage of difficulties that have been hurled my way these last 6 years.
But that spine that holds so much is heavy to carry around. I have knots and back pain that I am working on releasing through medical massage and even Reiki. But my body is screaming at me that I cannot carry that weight for much longer.
So how do I lighten the load? I think I need to lean on the people in my life who can help me figure out how to make space for my grief. And my anger- which most of the time I am unwilling to admit that I even have.
Today I snapped at one of my girls for something dumb and got off the phone with a friend who was only trying to be helpful by rudely saying, “I need to end this conversation- you are just stressing me out and I can’t right now.”
I’m not mad at them or my husband who has chosen the worst possible time to come down with the dreaded man cold. I am mad at the fact that life is really fucking hard sometimes. And not fair. And that we loose amazing people we love and that we have absolutely no control over any of it.
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the death of my friend Amanda. And I loved that woman. She cared for her husband and sons with a fierceness that had her battle for every minute of the seven years she lived with cancer. We were instant friends who met waiting for blood results in a chemo room. She was kind and funny and stubborn and just a damn good person. And I am mad that she didn’t get to stay longer in this world and that the last months of her life were agony.
When I visited her just a week or so before she died she had wasted away to nothing and was in constant pain and in and out of consciousness. But she still held my hand, and laughed with me, and I got the chance to tell her I loved her and had the blessing of a moment in which the haze from her eyes cleared and she told me she loved me too.
So I weep for her. For the unimaginable- to know she was dying and having to leave her children. I weep for her husband who is a such a good man. And for her two boys who I think are destined to be spectacular people because of the heart of the woman who raised them, but who don’t get to grow up with her there.
And I prepare. Because I know that my grieving season is just beginning. We are almost at the first anniversary of my brother’s death. Then I go into my first Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years when I have to really begin to understand how to live with a giant hole in the fabric of my family. Then before I know it will be the one year anniversary of the death of my friend Annie (who was my reason for starting Mommies In Need.) And shortly after that the 30th birthday of my living brother and the reality that his twin will never hit that milestone.
So that’s a lot.
In a few weeks I will be gathering with my family to acknowledge the fact that it has been an entire year since Mark shared this earth with us.
That is so hard to comprehend because it seems both like it was just yesterday that we were learning he was gone and like it was a lifetime ago.
I have only recently been able to start looking at pictures of Mark as a child because for some reason it is those images of him as the sweet little baby that I welcomed home from the hospital, or as the little boy who would fall to the floor in fits of laughter at shows that he had already seen a million times that make me ache most profoundly.
November 1, 2018 will find me mourning the loss of Mark and also celebrating him with the things and people he loved. We are doing a small Day of the Dead gathering in his honor with my immediate family- after all he had a huge Sugar Skull Tattoo so that seems right. We will enjoy his favorite food (which happens to be Mexican), drinks (there will be much Jack Daniels,) and I might even try to cough my way through a Malboro Red. I am looking forward to the chance to gather with those who loved him most and talk about him. But I’m also on emotional overload.
Don’t get me wrong…there is a lot of good in my life right now. I am healthy for the first time in a long time, I haven’t needed blood or iron in almost 6 months (which means that horrible surgery worked!) My kids and husband are a constant source of joy in my life, and there are fantastic, game-changing things happening with Mommies In Need that I can’t wait to tell you all about.
And I have dear friends, so many of you, both in Dallas and all over the world, who I know love me, and pray for me, and who will show up for me time and time again.
But if you see me and I seem off, or not myself, or I don’t respond to your email/message/text/call, forgive me. I’m probably just trying to make my way through the unimaginable.
“There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable.
If you see him in the street walking by her side, talking by her side,
They are going through the unimaginable”
– “Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton