I was talking to a friend who lost her son, she was having difficulty with the pain of the holiday, I told her that it was normal to feel all of those feelings of loss and guilt and depression, the tug of war between being in the moment with your living children and being drawn to that dark grief spot to spend time with your dead child can be excruciating.
I told her that even ten years out, I still struggle with those feelings of denial, sadness, anger, longing, guilt. Angry that people are so happy, sad that my son is gone, guilty for feeling both because I have three wonderful living sons that need me to be present in the moment and not stuck in the depths of grief.
I told her that it gets better, but you never give it up, it’s just not possible, but it moves off of excruciating eventually, when you learn to let go just a fraction.
Thinking about it after she hung up, I looked into my heart to see why I have trouble letting go, why I seize at the first strains of “Santa Claus is coming to town” and switch the channel if I happen to see a Christmas special, how I do all my shopping online so that I can deny the season, “it’s just another month.”
I think the answer is in the fact that when you lose a child the possibilities end. Since my son died early in life, his life stopped, he never had a girlfriend, never enjoyed sex, never procreated, left nothing of himself to carry forward. It felt like a leg had been lopped off of my own immortality.
When my father died, I was sad, but his genes, his impact on my personality, lived on. All I had of my son was his impact on me, no genetic code, not immortality. Good and bad, it just is, he lives on in me and also my sons after me.
When my son died I knew in my soul, that his ability to shape the future to be immortal was frozen shortly after he died, all the people he would touch were measured, counted and tallied. They were not a small number, but it was what it was. I think that I feel that to honor his memory and his impact, though not genetic, I would need to keep him alive in my heart, which means that grief stays as well.
I feel the need to be the man he would have been and touch the people he would’ve touched in a meaningful and immortal way. I would be his water bearer to the world. It is not such a big burden really, but even a light burden over a long journey is weary.
When I grow tired or sad, I think about how it will end when I die, I wouldn’t care. Then I wish he were still here like my living sons and carry my water forward. If I’m lucky I will fall asleep and dream it is so, and when the morning comes, I pick up his water along with my own and carry it forward. Try to touch people’s hearts the way he did.
So in a way he is still making a positive impact on this world by me bearing his water, it gives my life purpose, sharing hope.
It’s not so heavy a burden…bearing water, bearing hope.
©The Autobiography of Mr. Perfect, 2016