Earthquake

 photo by  K. Hiscock

photo by K. Hiscock

Living children are mentioned in this post.

It was less a gap, more a yawing chasm. As it opened beneath us, all the hope, optimism, excitement, joy poured down in an endless torrent, as tangible as a flood—an avalanche—of shifting, flowing matter.

It felt as though we teetered on the brink of this ravine, sometimes all together, united in tears and pain and shock, sometimes holding each other up by fingertips pressed together from opposite sides, sometimes lonely and clinging to the skittering ground. Sometimes trying to hold on, sometimes wishing for the relief a plunge into the drop would bring.

There is very little companionship in grief, even in a house full of people. We were not the same: tears, silence, withdrawal, rage, denial, confusion. Six people - reliant on one another - all untrained for the task of surviving the assault on the family fortress, all inadequate to the task.

Even now, when the mending that ever can happen has occurred, it seems incredible that the tremor which was Freddie, the fleeting movement of earth beneath our feet, wreaked such havoc. For feet which never touched the ground, fists that never pounded, voice that was never raised, he shattered us down to our foundations and opened up the ground beneath our feet so that there was no rebuilding on that place. We could never be the same.

Amid the guilt of loss, my failure to force life into him, my inability to do well the one thing I had always done well, I had to keep everyone else alive, alive in soul, alive in body. I saved my grief for the dark, huddled alone at night and bent my energy to these suddenly fragile people still in my care. Every breath they took without oxygen tube suddenly seemed a miracle, every morning they woke unaided remarkable, every ache, cough, injury, a potential killer. With each new twist and turn of grief they went through, I feared for their future, second guessing the effect and damage, so that I forgot to care for me.

Five years on, the gap has been pressed together, knitted back inch by inch to make a scarred but no longer sucking rent beneath our feet. For a while the silent space at the tail of our family seemed as tangible to me as if a glass ghost boy stood there. And then it became illustrated - painfully but beautifully, by the arrival of Freddie's brother who, while bringing joy, also brought the other side of the space, and so defined it. With him came all new markers of loss and pain; he grew, as babies should and his brother hadn't, he made noise as babies should and his brother hadn't, he filled the house, as babies should and his brother hadn't.

And gradually, inexorably, he has crept into the space, overlaid it, pinched at that gap where Freddie should be.

It's a pain all of its own to find his space diminished and feel us moving on. No one can live in heightened grief forever but I never expected to find that happiness was possible again. You wouldn't know to look at me now, save for the look in my eyes that I often see in pictures of bereaved mothers, that look you can always glimpse, even when they smile.

He changed the ground beneath my feet, my first and beloved little boy. I've found new shoes, ones that walk with ease on the rough and rugged ground of my new life, that feel a footing on loosened scree and rocks that would twist and tumble me. You wouldn't know to look at me that I feel each bump in the road, that I'm only ever one step away from falling.

But I know. And I still see the space. I keep walking even so.

I believe this may be my last post at Glow. I hope so. Even now I fear to try and say goodbye to loss, lest some new type assails us. Thank you for walking with me.

What are you wearing on your feet? Are they naked and cut from new grief? Are your boots well worn and comfortable? Do you ever take them off and try to find the sharpest stones to feel pain once again?