It’s almost over. I don’t know what the “it” is, but it feels like everything is coming to an end. The Medical Examiner is going to sign the death certificate. (Cause of death: inconclusive) Losing Alex has become a circumstance rather than the theme of our lives. At one time, losing Alex was the central theme that all our days revolved around. Now it is a fact, but not the only thing that matters.
I’m not even doing my grief rituals anymore. I haven’t visited Alex’s grave in months. I don’t listen to the same sad CD over and over. I don’t write in my journal until I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m just going through life. Insert all the clichés here that apply: “taking it one day at a time,” “time heals.” Whatever you say, the truth is that our family is okay and despite the sadness, we’re still here.
I am in the process of planning Benjamin’s third birthday party. Last year, I thought that we might want to start scaling things back. I thought that we should start to have smaller, easier gatherings to celebrate birthdays. I was wrong. Life is to be celebrated at every possible opportunity. There is never a guarantee that you will get to celebrate another birthday for yourself, or for your loved ones. Seize the moment. Go big. Forget small. Who cares if there is a “theme?” Gather everyone who loves you, put them in the same room, have some cake and say “we made it another year!”
While I can celebrate Benjamin’s birthday, I’m still sad that Alex doesn’t get a celebration. I have the strangest triggers. Someone can point to a baby and I can smile and coo, just like everyone else. But then I think about how big Alex would be right now if he had lived… I think about how much he would have looked like his brother. I think about how he would be sitting up by now. I think about all the clothes he’ll never wear… and the sadness returns.
The grief catches me off-guard because it occurs unexpectedly, and less frequently. I thought that life was harder when I was sad all the time. While I don’t want to go back to that place, there was a quiet predictability about feeling blue all day long. These days, I can have several great days in a row, and then be completely caught by surprise when I find Alex’s Halloween costume in the basement. He was going to be a hotdog. I’m not sure why a hotdog. Probably because the hotdog was on sale.
I know that I can’t have him back. At least in this lifetime. I accept it with a defeated sigh. I blink away tears and I try to think about something else.
Our closest friends planted us a tree with a bench and an engraved stone with his name on it. A beautiful testament to the life Alex lived, and a tribute to those who loved him. I love all the things the tree represents. The tree is an everyday celebration of the life we held in our arms that is no longer in our lives, but remains in our hearts. I look at the tree and imagine it growing big and strong- just like my boy.