I can feel it starting – that restless feeling, that vague agitation that seems to rise from the depths about this time every year.
This is a hard time of year for me. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. They march toward me in rapid, unrelenting succession. Jason loved doing fun things on Halloween. Carving pumpkins. Christmas surprises. Thanksgiving and Christmas were fun, family holidays. Traditions. Hearth, home, family. So much has changed.
All holidays and “event” days (such as birthdays, March 3rd, etc.), to some degree, can trouble the water on which my boat of life sails and rock my boat in ways I may not expect. I used to feel like the waves of emotion and longing would capsize or sink my fragile little boat out there on the huge sea of grief. The waves aren’t as high and scary as they used to be, and I’ve learned to recognize why my boat is rocking and try to roll with the waves until smoother seas prevail. I’ve learned, however, that the potential for rough seas continues to lurk not too far below the surface.
When I was in junior high, our school had a living biology lab (pond included) out in back of the school that was surrounded by brand-new barbed wire. The site had a stile over the fence on the far right-hand side that we were supposed to use for access. Most kids, though, would separate the two rows of barbed wire and climb through at the most convenient location. The first time I climbed through the fence, as someone held the two rows apart for me, I didn’t get my left leg quite high enough and a barb on the lower wire sliced my left knee open diagonally from one side to the other. I ended up having nine stitches and still have a large, prominent scar on my knee cap. I also ended up being used as an example to the entire school of why we are supposed to obey school rules.
It surprises me that, even thirty-something years later, my left knee is still much more sensitive than my other one. When I bump it a good one, I cringe from the pain. It hurts! People notice the ugly scar; little kids ask what happened.
That’s similar to what happens the first time I see the Christmas displays go up in stores each year. I feel like someone just walked up and thumped me in the chest right where my broken heart resides. It hurts! It brings tears to my eyes. It brings front and center – smacks me right in my face – how much I miss Jason, all the things that were, and the things that might have been. All the things that could have been, should have been.
I take a deep breath and take a minute to recognize where my reaction is coming from. Sometimes just the recognition of why I hurt helps. Sometimes I have to leave the store and come back another time. Sometimes I just miss Jason too much to keep on shopping or going on like nothing happened. I need to stop, recognize what’s going on, and take time to think about Jason. Sometimes I need to cry. I need to take time to pay attention and carefully navigate the rough sea I’m on.
The impending approach of the ten year anniversary of Jason’s and Alina’s deaths, in addition to the approaching holidays, seems to be making me more reflective and emotional than usual. It looks huge to me. Ten years. How can it have been ten years? How can I have lived ten years without my precious boy? Have I lived them well? Have I made a difference? Have people forgotten him? Have I honored his memory adequately? Would he be proud of me? What can I do that’s meaningful to signify the loss that day represents? What can I do to bring something good and meaningful out of this terrible tragedy?
All I can do is the best that I can do. I’m taking the time now to realize there might be rough seas ahead and to think about how to navigate them to the best of my ability with the resources I have.
© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney