Still, I think most of the post ideas that capture how I’ve been feeling since it happened would not really be in keeping with my usual tone. Some of the titles I’ve considered include: “How can you be so happy while I suffer?”, “I don’t want to hear about how alive your mother is”, “People older than 66 make me feel bitter” or, my personal favorite, “Someone you love is going to die too, just wait.”
There are things about being pregnant and having a baby that I couldn’t believe people didn’t warn you about: the dark nipples, the line down the belly, how precious showers and sleep are, how much babies cry (really, daily crying is part of your life for YEARS), and how lonely it is to be a stay-at-home mom. There you go, moms-to-be, becoming a mother means your body gets weird and your stress reaches levels you can’t even imagine yet. All the poop will be the least of your worries. (You’re welcome.)
There’s also the pictures. There will never be enough pictures. And here’s the thing about losing someone older: that’s not who we’re photographing. At least, I’m not. I take pictures of my kids, my pets, and, embarrassingly, myself.
And finally, the people who love you can really help pull you out of the dark sadness that comes with loss. Because, much as it doesn’t make sense, part of you wants to stay sad. When my mother died, I wanted to curl up in my grief and shut everything else out. It felt like I was closer to her there in the darkness, clinging to memories of her. Your people know that isn’t good for you. They want you back in the light where living takes place. They want you to keep going.
Ironically, it is the same thing when you have your first baby. Everyone who has been there knows how hard it is. They pool around you because they want to soften the blow and encourage you to hang in there. (Once you are on to your second baby, however, you’re on your own.)
You do that by showing them you love them as much as possible. You forgive easily. You say ‘yes’ to plans or make some. You remember birthdays. And when they are walking out the door, you give them a hug and tell them you love them because you really don’t know if, like me and my mom, that will be the last time you get to talk to them.
Unannounced, a stream of southern women came in carrying the predicted food. First, there was the biggest box of donuts I have ever seen. There was soup and chili and a meat and cheese tray and fried chicken and Pinterest inspired breakfast biscuit things. There was a basket of snacks for the eventual car ride north for my mom’s service. One woman, knowing how much food was coming, brought stacks of paper products so we wouldn’t have to worry about doing dishes. It was like an army of kindness came marching through my sister’s kitchen. Turns out southern hospitality is no myth, and its reputation as the pinnacle of graciousness is well deserved.
Death, like colic, happens. The same way you get through night after night of walking your screaming infant while patting him on the back, longing for sleep, is the same way you get through a loss. You keep moving knowing that this moment of pain won’t last forever, knowing that people who love you are depending on you to keep your shit together, knowing that, in the end, human connection is the whole point and sometimes you suffer the most for the people you love the most.