Time moves at a bizarre pace. It’s hard to believe life was normal just a few weeks ago.The world is fractured and I am struggling to think.
The first night and day were surreal and confusing – just trying to understand the new reality. I called his sister from the hospital as soon as I could talk. Both of us cried, of course. She promised to come, family in tow. We’d get through this together. I sat with what remained of the boy afterward until I could convince myself that he was gone.
A friend collected me from the hospital and stayed the night. Another spent the day. They coaxed me to eat and helped with some calls. My sister and mother drove down and took over the next day. They said soothing things, and baked, and shared memories, and reminded me that I wasn’t alone. The boy’s sister’s family arrived next as I was beginning to surface. Neighbors brought food. It’s what you do, although nobody feels hungry. It helped having the empty corners filled with love and memories.
We planned a good bye. So many people sent messages or came in person – some from quite a distance. The boy didn’t want a fuss but I think he would have been pleased that so many of the people he loved and respected were there. It would have made him happy to see he mattered to them too.
My darling boy has been reduced to ashes now. He hated that there was an entire industry that encouraged families to pour their savings into elaborate memorials and monuments to their loved ones. ‘Ashes in a shoe box’ was what he wanted. I did my best – no fancy urn, just a plastic box. Ashes are surprisingly heavy. Even that much was a thousand dollars, not that it mattered, we could afford more. I wonder about families that can’t, though, especially the ones who believe what comes after is important. Do they mortgage their futures to honor the dead?
The medical gear at the house has been collected by the nice man who installed it only a few weeks before. He tried to convey his regret without intruding. He only knew the boy a few hours but was genuinely sad. The boy made friends easily.
The house is empty now. Friends tried to pull me out of it a little while longer but I needed some time on my own. I am functioning. Bills are being paid, chores are being done, food is being eaten on semi-regular intervals, and personal hygiene is under control.
Local friends and neighbors are keeping an eye on me, offering company and distractions and reminding me of prior offers of support. I have a few social commitments and activities lined up to get me out of the house.
I feel restless. I cry often but on shorter, more bearable intervals than the first week. Sleep is still elusive. Falling asleep is a challenge and I wake around 3 o’clock, most nights. Sometimes I get back to sleep an hour or two later. I will try the pills my doc prescribed tonight – not something I’d normally resort to but I have been sleepless for too long.
It’s time to start thinking about next steps. What do I need to focus on next?
- Extract myself from work. I’ve used every vacation day, personal day, sick day, bereavement day (I get three – what genius came up with that number?) and have already taken months of unpaid leave this year. Now I need more time for myself. Fortunately I’m not hurting for money so walking away is an option.
- Get new medical coverage lined up, because if there’s one thing I know about the U.S. medical system, it’s: “never let your insurance lapse”.
- Handle the legal stuff. It’s time to distribute those fancy death certificates.
- Start packing up. That will be hard. The boy had many interests, and so many toys and books to accompany them. I’m not quite ready to take that one on yet. Soon.
- Look into a grief counselor. I think I will get by on my own but it can’t hurt to have help.
That’s the plan. I have purpose. The trick will be to stay in motion.
I don’t want purpose, I want the boy. His absence is everywhere.