The plastic hospital fork felt slippery in my latex-covered hand as I fed my mother unpleasant mashed potatoes. She hated the taste and that she had to be fed and I hated having to do it, but neither of us had a choice in the matter. MS is a brutal disease and this most recent trip to the hospital was as enraging and scary for her as it was brutally sad and awful for me. But my presence made her feel better, and I would do anything I could to help her heal enough to get back home.
I ate alone that afternoon before I went in to see her and I could feel my sadness as a physical presence in my body. Silas's death was not an inoculation from grief. I learned many things from that experience but one of the most important was that the only way through it is straight ahead. I also learned that silence and aloneness and grief are utterly tied together for me.
Sitting in that restaurant yesterday it felt like an old familiar poison coursing through my veins. I felt more than just alone. I felt a complete Otherness, like an alien in my own skin, totally cut off and unlike anyone else in the establishment. I also knew I appeared absolutely normal and that no one there would ever suspect my blood had turned sluggish and thick, that my guts had a hole in them bored straight to Hell, that my heart was clenched like an angry, angry fist and that my soul was tattered and faint once again.
Silas's death was sudden and impossible. That perfect pregnancy shattered in an instant and I felt cut to pieces. My mother's sickness is a slow grind of failings and infections but the shock of a loved one in the hospital and in mortal peril is equally devastating in much the same way. I guess that is what happens when hope is revealed to be nothing more than a wish, and that health and life are revealed as fleeting and delicate.
My mother may yet heal enough to go back home, but she won't walk out of the hospital. She has not been able to walk in years. She may battle off this latest infection and be granted a few more years but it is impossible to know. It is terrible, but I cannot help but look at her and know that someday, someday sooner rather than later, she won't be here anymore. It turns out that despite the years of crying after losing Silas, that I have not used up my life's allotment of tears.
Sometimes my grief is all-encompassing, transforming the world around me into a pale, featureless void that echoes the endless blackness within. Sometimes it compresses into that angry knot gripping my heart so that I can breath and eat and live but only with great effort. Every now and then when things are particularly good, that sadness is reduced to a tiny, dense speck that I can almost overlook except that it is so small and compacted and ridiculously heavy that nothing can move it from the core of my being.
I can't make it be anything else than what it is, though, and the only way to endure is to breath as deeply as I can, let the pain wash through me as tears and shit and rage, and try to force another tasteless bite of food into my body before I go and help my mother do the same. Her incredible strength and will to live has kept her going for thirty-eight long years with MS. Her example was what gave me the strength to battle through the worst of my pain when Silas died, and now I have to be strong for her, too. I know I can do it because I've already done it, because she showed me how. I just hope I have enough for all of us.
How has the loss of your child or children altered your sense of sadness and grief? Have you had to deal with losing other people in your life since you lost your child? How was that grief different or similar? What does your grief feel like in your body?